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Columbus McKinnon Corp. has adopted a poison pill anti-takeover defense to guard against hostile acquisition bids, the Amherst-based chain and hoist manufacturer said Monday.

Herbert P. Ladds Jr., Columbus McKinnon's president and chief executive officer, said the company adopted the anti-takeover defense in step with its goal of building long-term value for its shareholders. Ladds said the company is not aware of any bids to acquire Columbus McKinnon.

Poison pill defenses are designed to force hostile suitors to negotiate a friendly deal by making those bids prohibitively expensive.

Under the shareholder rights plan, Columbus McKinnon shareholders will receive one preferred stock purchase right as a dividend for every share of common stock they own on Nov. 10. Each right allows the holder to buy 1/1 00th of a newly issued share of preferred stock at an exercise price of $80.

The rights will become exercisable if a suitor acquires a 15 percent stake in the company's common stock or launches a tender or exchange offer that would result in the accumulation of a stake of that size. The rights would not become exercisable if Columbus McKinnon's board decides the offer is fair and in the best interest of shareholders.

Bell Atlantic unveils customer service plans

Bell Atlantic unveiled a series of customer service programs Monday that combines several initiatives that Nynex Corp. or Bell Atlantic had in place before their merger.

The "customer care" program offers customers a 60-day money back guarantee on calling features, such as caller ID, call waiting or voice mail. Bell Atlantic crews also won't stop working on an installation or repair job until the customer is satisfied with the job.

Bell Atlantic also promises to automatically provide credit if service is disrupted and not restored within 24 hours. The firm also will give credits for misdialed calls or calls with poor transmission.

Bell Atlantic also will allow customers to have their calls forwarded to another number during a service outage.

Cliff Lee, a Bell Atlantic spokesman, said these initiatives were in place at either Nynex or Bell Atlantic before their merger. "We've brought all these together and we're using the best practices from each," he said.

New travel agency offers tours of Arizona

A new local travel service, The Best of Arizona, has opened in South Wales.

The new business, owned by former Arizonan Rob Jankowski, specializes in escorted tours to various regions of Arizona, including the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Tombstone.

The inaugural tours are slated to begin in January.

Canisius Center plans paralegal program

The Canisius College Center for Professional Development will offer a nationally acclaimed paralegal certificate program beginning Saturday.

Classes will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 14.

For registration information, contact the college at 862-4600.

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