N95s, other health care products continue to buoy 3M as economy recovers

By Mike Hughlett, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Business News

Strong sales to the health care industry helped 3M beat Wall Street's third quarter profit and sales forecasts.

Maplewood-based 3M Tuesday announced profits of $1.41 billion or $2.43 per share, down 11% over a year ago but nicely above the $2.26 consensus estimate by stock analysts.

3M's third quarter sales tallied $8.4 billion, increasing 4.6% over a year ago and topping estimates of $8.29 billion.

3M's sales in the health care sector have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as its N95 respirator mask is considered critical for worker protection. But much of the rest of 3M had been battered by the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and the company posted a double-digit sales decline during its second quarter.

However, the situation mostly turned around during the third quarter, at least from a sales perspective. Only one of its four main divisions — transportation and electronics — posted a revenue decline.

"Though economic uncertainty and challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic remain, we returned to positive organic sales growth with sequential improvement across businesses and geographies," 3M CEO Mike Roman said in a press statement.

"We posted another quarter of robust cash flow, aggressively managed costs and further strengthened our balance sheet."


Sales in 3M's health care business rose 25% over a year ago to $2.2 billion. In the company's largest unit, safety and industrial, sales rose 6.9% to $3 billion.

3M's consumer business tallied $1.4 billion in sales, up 5.6% and boosted by home care and home-improvement products. The home improvement sector generally has gotten a boost from COVID-19 as more people are working on home projects.

Sales for 3M's health care, consumer and safety and industrial divisions rose in the Americas and Europe and the Middle East and Africa, but fell in Asia. All three sectors posted double-digit increases in operating profits during the third quarter.

With the global auto industry still in the dumps, sales at 3M's transportation and electronics business fell 7.4% during the quarter across all geographies, settling at $2.3 billion. Worse, the segment posted a $823 million operating loss.

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