Harley-Davidson shifts to electronic annual report

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Rick Barrett
Mar 19, 2013 (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --

Harley-Davidson Inc. has discontinued its printed annual report in favor of a new annual review that's electronic and doesn't have as many financial numbers in it.

The review was published online Monday, along with download links to the company's Securities and Exchange Commission form 10-K, the annual proxy statement, a letter to shareholders and the company environmental sustainability report.

In the mail, shareholders will receive a printed ballot for the board of directors election and directions for accessing other investor information on Harley's website.

The new format saves Harley a lot of money in printing costs.

The company says it's also an improvement because people who want just the detailed financial numbers can find them in the 10-K, while others more interested in motorcycles and the business strategy can get that information in the annual review.

It's the first time Harley hasn't had a traditional annual report.

The review includes some numbers, such as sales figures and growth in various markets, and all of the numbers required by the SEC are in the 10-K report.

The review is more of a narrative, with rider stories and a look into the company's manufacturing plants, said Harley spokeswoman Maripat Blankenheim.

The company will have its annual shareholders meeting April 27 at the Harley-Davidson Museum.

Printed annual reports are rapidly becoming extinct as investors turn to the Internet for information on companies, including quarterly earnings and regulatory filings.

Most people want the basics, such as sales figures, net income, earnings per share, executive compensation, and how the numbers compared with the year-ago period.

"It doesn't take a lot of writing to do that," said Paul Lapides, a business school professor who directs the Corporate Governance Center at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

Most annual reports aren't read from cover to cover by investors or anyone else, according to Lapides.

"The most important thing is that it's easy to get to the numbers. You can't understand a business without the information about the finances," he said.