3M’s 4Q profit climbs, but revenue misses estimates and shares fall

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MINNEAPOLIS – 3M posted a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit, although volatile exchange rates on foreign currency and weak growth in South America caused revenue to come in lower than Wall Street expected.

3M makes Post-it notes, health care products, and a wide range of industrial coatings and ceramics, and it gets some two-thirds of its revenue from outside the U.S., making it particularly susceptible to currency swings.

All five of its major divisions saw sales rise as measured in local currencies, but those gains were wiped out by foreign exchange rates in its consumer and its electronics and energy businesses. Revenue growth in its industrial, health care, and safety and graphics unit was dampened by the impact of currency issues.

At the same time, sales in the territory that covers Latin America and Canada fell 3.7 per cent, despite a price hike of 6.5 per cent. The main decline was in Venezuela, where political unrest and uncertainty about exchange rates have been a factor for many U.S. companies.

Revenue in its industrial business climbed 6.1 per cent to $2.6 billion, driven by gains for advanced materials, aerospace and automotive aftermarket products.

But revenue from consumer goods — perhaps 3M’s best-known category — fell almost 1 per cent to $1.1 billion. Operating income fell 3.4 per cent to $226 million.

Sales fell 1 per cent in its electronics and energy unit because foreign currency fluctuations eliminated what would have been a small revenue increase. Sales for energy products rose, but sales of electronics-related products fell.

The Maplewood, Minn., company said it earned $1.1 billion, or $1.62 per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, up from $991 million, or $1.41 per share, a year ago. The results were a penny per share better than expected by analysts surveyed by FactSet.

Revenue rose 2.5 per cent to $7.57 billion from $7.38 billion, but analysts had been expecting $7.73 billion.

For the full year, net income rose almost 5 per cent to $4.66 billion, or $6.72 per share. Revenue rose 3 per cent to $30.87 billion.

3M Co. shares fell $2.20, or 1.7 per cent, to close at $128.05 on Wednesday. Its shares are up 27 per cent for the past year.

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