As a result of reduced debt levels, interest and debt expense for the first quarter was down $0.3 million, or 7.4%, compared with the prior year’s quarter reflecting the company’s efforts to strengthen its capital structure by eliminating or efficiently refinancing higher cost debt.

At the end of the fiscal 2008 first quarter, funded debt was $174.7 million, or 40.8% of total capitalization, a $2.6 million increase from $172.1 million, or 41.6% of total capitalization, at the end of last quarter and a reduction of $8.7 million from $183.4 million, or 46.1% of total capitalization a year ago.

Karen Howard, vice president – finance and chief financial officer, Columbus McKinnon Corporation, told Hoist that it would target firms around the $50 million size standard that meet specific strategic geographic and product criteria.

Debt even as recently as a year ago ruled out such activity. Debt reduction remains a focus but “we’re getting closer to where we want to be,” said Howard.

It’s bolt-ons that CMCO is interested in with the hoist and crane divisions booming. Domestic hoist business was up 8% while globally it rose 15%. “We’re still very much focused on the North American market though,” Howard insisted. CES, meanwhile, reported its biggest ever order backlog – up 40% on the end of March. “This did come as something of a surprise,” she admitted.

With the diverse range of end user markets demanding products strong, the lack of clear indicators in this flourishing economic environment can be problematic. While there is no reliance on a particular industry or sector, it does make forecasting more challenging.

Tim Tevens, president and CEO, added: “We continue to achieve robust performance from our products segment as it experiences strong demand for material handling products around the world, successfully penetrates new markets and benefits from continuous improvement in productivity, leveraging the higher volume.”

Net income for the fiscal 2008 first quarter was $9.5m compared with fiscal 2007 first quarter net income of $5.6m.  On a per diluted share basis, first quarter fiscal 2008 net income was $0.50 compared with $0.29 in the same period last year.

Tim Tevens, CMCO president and CEO Tim Tevens, president and CEO