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Acquisition costs lead to loss at Columbus McKinnon

Columbus McKinnon lost $4.7 million during its fourth quarter as expenses related to a German acquisition and the retirement of its former CEO offset earnings from its operations that were stronger than analysts expected.

Columbus McKinnon's loss of 22 cents per share, compared with a profit of $5.9 million, or 29 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago, stemmed from nearly $18 million in expenses related to its acquisition of Stahl CraneSystems and the retirement of former CEO Timothy T. Tevens.

Excluding those expenses, the Amherst material handling equipment maker's earnings improved by 13 percent to $8.9 million, or 40 cents per share, from $7.9 million, or 39 cents per share, a year ago. Analysts expected the company to earn 34 cents per share.

Columbus McKinnon's sales rose by 18 percent to $184 million from $155 million, mainly because of the Stahl acquisition. Revenues from its existing businesses grew by 2.5 percent. The sales were stronger than the $176 million that analysts expected, and it was the first time in 2 1/2 years that the company's quarterly organic sales increased.

"While the organic growth was encouraging, we are hesitant to call it the beginning of a trend," said Mark D. Morelli, Columbus McKinnon's president and CEO, said during a conference call Wednesday.

The company, which borrowed heavily to finance the Stahl acquisition, said it plans to pay down its debt by $45 million to $50 million during the fiscal year that began in April. Columbus McKinnon paid down nearly $13 million of its debt during the fourth quarter.

"Our goal is to continue to pay down debt ahead of schedule," Morelli said.

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