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Columbus McKinnon's profits soar, but its stock takes a big hit

Columbus McKinnon Corp.'s fiscal first-quarter profits shot up 71 percent, while the company considers possible acquisitions and weighs the fate of one of its businesses.

The Amherst-based maker of material handling equipment on Tuesday reported net income of $9.5 million for the quarter ended July 1, compared to $5.6 million a year earlier. Its diluted earnings per share of 50 cents matched the expectations of analysts surveyed by Thomson/First Call, and topped diluted earnings per share of 29 cents a year ago.

Columbus McKinnon, which employs 3,230 people, including about 130 locally, reported its sales rose less than 1 percent to $148 million from $147 million last year.

The company's stock tumbled almost 10 percent, or $3.03, on Tuesday to close at $27.97.

In the most recent quarter, sales in Columbus McKinnon's products segment increased 7 percent from the year before, to $137 million. The segment, which includes crane building, accounted for 92 percent of all company sales.

"We continue experience a very strong global industrial economy," said Timothy Tevens, president and chief executive officer. "It's very helpful in our bookings right now." International sales in its products segment rose 15 percent from a year ago.

Much of the demand in its products segment is being generated by oil-related industries, such as drilling, as well commercial construction, including bridges and roadways, Tevens said. And the products segment's backlog at quarter's end was a healthy $63 million, generating a robust flow of work, he said.

Columbus McKinnon's total sales growth was dampened somewhat by a 39 percent drop in sales in its solutions segment, to $11.3 million. The segment's largest business, Univeyor, a rolled conveyor business in Denmark, is shifting its focus to packaged products and away from custom-engineered solutions for customers. Some revenue was held back as part of the transition.

Analysts on a conference call Tuesday pressed Columbus McKinnon officials on their long-term plans for Univeyor, in light of Univeyor's weak performance.

Tevens said the company will continue to work on restructuring Univeyor and will decide by the end of 2007 whether to keep or sell it.

Meanwhile, Tevens said the company is exploring possible acquisitions that would complement its product lines or extend the company's reach into new markets.

e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com

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