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Local firm surpasses analysts' projections; Columbus McKinnon quarterly profits jump

Columbus McKinnon is shaking off the recession.

The Amherst-based maker of material handling equipment reported its strongest quarterly profits in three years Friday, with surging international sales, coupled with improved profitability from its restructuring efforts, helping its second-quarter profits more than triple.

Columbus McKinnon's profits jumped to $6.7 million, or 34 cents per share, from $1.9 million, or 10 cents per share, a year ago. The profits were Columbus McKinnon's highest since the summer of 2008, and its earnings of 32 cents per share from continuing operations easily outpaced the 27 cents that analysts were expecting.

Columbus McKinnon's sales, which grew by 13 percent to $149.9 million during the quarter that ended in September from $132.3 million a year earlier, also topped analyst forecasts of $140.5 million.

"We continue to see increasing global economic activity," said Timothy T. Tevens, Columbus McKinnon's president and chief executive officer, during a conference call Friday.

Tevens said he's not seeing any signs of an impending recession, based on Columbus McKinnon's business. "We do believe the recovery continues to be pointed in a very positive direction."

While Tevens does not expect a robust economic expansion, he said the company should be able to keep gaining market share across the globe, especially in developing countries, such as China.

The company's international sales grew by 23 percent, buoyed by Columbus McKinnon's expansion in Latin American and Asia. U.S. sales increased by 6 percent. Higher pricing and favorable currency exchange rates accounted for half of the 13 percent increase in the company's total sales.

"We've invested heavily in our Chinese operations," which include eight sales offices and expanded engineering and manufacturing capabilities, Tevens said. ""We're seeing some big wins in that part of the world."

Foreign sales now account for 47 percent of Columbus McKinnon's total revenues, and Tevens said he expects international sales to continue growing faster than its U.S. revenues.

Columbus McKinnon's troubled forging operations in Chattanooga, Tenn., continued to struggle, losing $400,000 during the quarter, although Tevens said the company has made progress in turning that business around, even if progress has been slower than expected. The second quarter loss from the forging business was less than half of its loss in the first quarter.

"We're planning on it being much more positive in the next couple of quarters," said Tevens, who is hoping for a return to profitability in the next quarter or two.

Columbus McKinnon's recently completed restructuring program is expected to yield about $15 million a year in savings across all of Columbus McKinnon's operations. Those cuts, which have eliminated a half-million square feet of manufacturing space, generated about $1.5 million in savings during the quarter, Tevens said.

email: drobinson@buffnews.com

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