Net sales in the products segment were up 8.1% at $570m, from $527m last year. Margins also increased in the segment, up from 30.2% to 31.3%. Products segment sales accounted for 90.4% of consolidated sales. The company said that products segment sales growth included significant contributions from Columbus McKinnon Europe operations as well as solid demand from the US hoist, crane and rigging businesses.

Product segment backlog remained relatively stable, at $55.8m at the end of the fourth quarter compared with backlog of $54.9m at the end of the third quarter and $58.4m at the end of the second quarter. The time to convert the majority of products segment backlog to sales averages from one day to a few weeks, and backlog for this segment normally represents four to five weeks of shipments.

However, the strong results in the products segment were offset by mounting losses in the solutions segment. Columbus McKinnon aims to tackle this problem by divesting itself of the Univeyor conveyor business. Net sales in the segment fell 15%, from $62.75m in full year 2007 to $53.32 this year.

The Univeyor material handling conveyor business made a net loss in the fourth quarter of $5.2m, widening losses from $2m in the same period last year. The company reported that the Univeyor losses reduced consolidated company earnings per share by $0.27 over the fourth quarter. The company confirmed earlier announcements that it expects to divest itself of Univeyor this summer.