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Columbus McKinnon’s third-quarter profits tumbled by 30 percent, falling short of analyst forecasts, as the Amherst material handling equipment maker’s sales dipped by 5 percent.

Columbus McKinnon executives blamed more than half of the drop in revenues on the timing of certain projects, and said the company’s efforts to improve productivity were making the overall business more profitable.

The lower sales, however, took a toll on the company’s earnings during the quarter that ended in December. Columbus McKinnon’s profits dropped to $6.7 million, or 34 cents per share, from $9.6 million, or 49 cents per share, a year earlier. Analysts had expected the company to earn 38 cents per share, and the earnings came in below even the lowest analyst forecast of 33 cents per share.

The company’s sales slid to $145.1 million from $153.2 million, as its foreign and domestic markets both weakened. While the company was able to raise prices slightly and benefitted from a quarter that had one extra shipping day than last year, that wasn’t enough to overcome a 10 percent drop in sales volume.

Columbus McKinnon’s U.S. sales dropped by 6 percent to $79 million, while foreign revenues were down by 5 percent to $66.1 million.

The company’s backlog of orders grew by 7 percent to $98.4 million at the end of December, and Tevens said order levels during the final three months of 2013 were the strongest of the last three quarters.

email: drobinson@buffnews.com