Vancouver-based Nautilus lost $34.1 million in the three months ended Sept. 30, widening 154 percent from the year-earlier loss and bringing...

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VANCOUVER, Wash. — Vancouver-based Nautilus lost $34.1 million in the three months ended Sept. 30, widening 154 percent from the year-earlier loss and bringing to $101.4 million the company’s losses in the past five quarters.

“We are not satisfied with our sales and earnings performance,” Bill Meadowcroft, chief financial officer, told investors in a conference call Tuesday afternoon.

But the slow bleed could continue through March or beyond before a costly turnaround plan begins to yield profits, said Edward Bramson, chief executive officer.

The maker of Bowflex, StairMaster and Schwinn Fitness machines has pinned its revenue hopes on direct sales — which, in the third quarter, were down 34.2 percent, to $38.7 million, compared with third-quarter 2007. Total quarterly sales of $93.7 million were down 18.7 percent from the year-earlier period

On the bright side, cost-cutting initiatives have saved more than expected. Operating costs dropped 40 percent from a year ago.

And the bulk of Nautilus’ loss for the quarter, about $26.8 million, resulted from tax accounting changes that will save the company down the road, Bramson said.

Still, turnaround plans for the business have not gone as smoothly as investors hoped.

Bramson took the wheel at Nautilus in January after a takeover of the company’s board by activist shareholders. At the time, the business had lost $52 million in its two previous quarters and was struggling with debt.

Bramson slashed debt and mapped a new direction for the company, which employs about 450 people at its Vancouver headquarters. Three months ago, he forecast that the company could be profitable by the start of 2009. Faced with slower sales and an economic slowdown, Bramson on Tuesday suggested that profits might have to wait until March or beyond.

Nautilus stock closed down 25 cents, or 10.8 percent, at $2.06 today. Its financial results were announced after the close of trading Tuesday.