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Apr 28, 2020

3M relies on more than just face masks to get through pandemic

Ross Healy discusses 3M

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3M Co. jumped after the maker of personal protective equipment reported strength in more than just its face-mask business.

Rising demand for cleaning supplies, food-safety products and even home-improvement items helped propel sales and profit above Wall Street’s expectations for the first quarter. While many industries have been decimated by the coronavirus outbreak, 3M reported Tuesday that its revenue rose 2.7 per cent.

“These quarterly results were better than feared and indicated that there were still pockets of growth in personal safety, food safety, general cleaning and biopharma filtration,” Deane Dray, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, said in a note. Virus-driven demand for respirators, meanwhile, added 1.3 percentage points of organic growth, he said.

The results underscore the dramatic economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic. While demand has tailed off in industries such as air travel and restaurants, other companies are seeing soaring interest in products to fight disease, work from home or simply stay occupied while much of society stays indoors.

For 3M, whose vast array of products spans Post-it notes to dental tools to electronics components, the sales boost was countered by declines in areas such as automotive parts and office supplies. Total net sales of US$8.08 billion topped the US$7.88 billion average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Adjusted profit rose to US$2.16 a share, while analysts’ expected US$2.03.

“Given the diversity of our businesses, the financial impact of COVID-19 is mixed across 3M,” Chief Executive Officer Mike Roman said on a conference call with analysts. “Some areas of our portfolio are experiencing high demand, while others are facing steep declines.”

The shares climbed 4.7 per cent to US$160.84 at 9:35 a.m. in New York, marking the sharpest gain on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. 3M fell 13 per cent this year through Monday, while a Standard & Poor’s index of industrial companies dropped 22 per cent.