3M is enjoying growth again after struggling in 2016 and early 2017 with a global industrial slowdown.
3M saw revenue grow across all of its units in the first quarter, led by its safety supplies business, the company reported Tuesday.
The Maplewood-based multinational giant recorded sales of $8.3 billion, up 7.7 percent over the same period last year. Net income was $606 million, or 98 cents a share, down from $1.3 billion, or $2.16 a share. However, adjusted for one-time expenses because of tax-law changes, income was $2.50 a share.
On average, Wall Street analysts expected adjusted earnings of $2.51 per share and $8.25 billion in revenue for the first quarter that ended March 31.
"Coming off a strong 2017, our team opened the new year with broad-based organic growth of 3 percent, with positive growth across all business groups," said CEO Inge Thulin in a release. "Going forward, we will continue to execute the 3M Playbook, and leverage the world-class capabilities of our people and our enterprise, and I am confident we will produce strong results in 2018."
The company recorded 15 percent growth in sales for the Safety and Graphics unit, and 7.1 percent growth for the Industrial unit, its largest business.
The company tightened its guidance for the year, now saying adjusted net income will be between $10.20 and $10.55 a share. The prior guidance was $10.20 to $10.70 a share.
Edward Jones Equity analyst Matt Arnold issued a note to investors Tuesday that recommended holding 3M shares.
"3M has one of the more appealing business models that tends to deliver more consistent growth than much of our industrial coverage," Arnold said. He added that 3M's profitability was "above average" thanks to a strong research-and-development program, quick product development and emphasis on efficient operations. Arnold said such "positives" were already adequately reflected in the share price.
3M's stock fell nearly 7 percent Tuesday to close at $201.13 after a day of heavy Wall Street trading and declines across indexes.
Arnold said 3M investors may have reacted specifically to 3M's news that its profitability had "weakened slightly in 3M's consumer business" and to the company's decision to tighten the ranges in its guidance for 2018.
Jim Corridore of CFRA Research noted that 3M beat his firm's profit estimate for the quarter. He sees 3M's stock drop as an investment opportunity.
"Given the recent pullback in the shares, we see the stock as attractively valued," said Corridore, who upgraded his stock recommendation to "buy." He said 3M is seeing stronger revenue growth outside of the United States and expects a tax-rate decrease from around 35.5 percent to possibly 24 percent.
"Overall, we see 3M as a well-run company with leading positions in many of its sectors, and likely to see improved revenue and EPS momentum over the next two years," he said.
Thulin told analysts during a conference call that 3M continues to post strong global results, invest in new products and research and return "significant cash to our shareholders."
During previous interviews, Thulin and 3M chief technology officer John Banovetz said 3M has accelerated its R&D investments in a number of fields and now sees significant growth opportunities in auto electrification, respiration/filtration and coolant technologies. They also see growth opportunity in safety products, after executing two massive acquisitions in August 2015 and October 2017.
3M's stock has benefited. One year ago, it traded at $195 a share.
The stock, one of only two Minnesota-based firms on the Dow Jones industrial average, hit a record $259.77 per share in January before succumbing to uncertainty on Wall Street as investors grappled with concerns about a potential trade war with China, new steel and aluminum tariffs and U.S. airstrikes in Syria.