3M's annual meeting was routine, except for the place

  • Article by: DEE DEPASS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 14, 2014 - 5:59 AM

For the first time, 3M executives left St. Paul to meet shareholders. The event was in Austin, Texas, home of a company division.

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3M Co.'s top executives weren't here today. They went to Austin, Texas, for the company's first annual meeting outside of St. Paul.

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For the first time in its 112-year history, 3M Co.’s annual meeting started with the words “Hello, Austin.”

Little but routine business happened at the meeting in the Texas capital Tuesday morning, but the meeting itself marked a new chapter for 3M — it was the first held someplace other than St. Paul.

Executives of Maplewood-based 3M earlier said they picked Austin for the meeting because it is home to the company’s electronics and energy business. And last week, 3M announced that it had donated $100,000 in grants in April to various Austin community and charity organizations. It donated over $1 million to Austin groups in 2013.

In St. Paul, attendance at 3M’s annual meetings had dropped by nearly half from the glory days in which 3M used to cater to thousands with lunch, gifts and a company store created just for the event. The attendance figure for Tuesday’s meeting in Austin wasn’t available.

3M CEO Inge Thulin acknowledged several Austin-based employees at the event, shared financial results and spoke about innovation, portfolio management and “staying relevant” to customers.

“Last year we gained momentum and continued building the company,” Thulin told shareholders. Revenue grew 3 percent last year while profits grew 4.8 percent.

Meanwhile, 3M’s spending on R&D rose last year and should approach 6 percent of sales by 2017. “Research and development is the heartbeat of 3M and ensures that we will continue to create value for our customers and shareholders,” Thulin said.

Shareholders re-elected nine board members and gave its advisory approval of 3M’s executive pay packages. Thulin, 3M’s highest-paid executive, took home $9 million in total compensation last year, roughly the same as in 2012.

Shareholders rejected the lone shareholder proposal. It sought to give shareholders the ability to take corporate “action” by merely signing a “written consent” statement. If approved, the written consent would have eliminated the need for a shareholder meeting or shareholder notice. Management voted against the measure and urged shareholders to do the same.

3M’s Austin-based electronics and energy business generated $5.4 billion in sales and $954 million in operating profits last year, slight declines as it grappled with price erosion and slowing growth in products like cellphones that use its parts.

The division, which makes electrical tapes, flexible circuits, data processing coolants and other electronics products, is one of five businesses that jointly formed 3M’s nearly $31 billion in 2013 revenue. Months ago, rumors had swirled that 3M might consider spinning off the unit. At the time, officials declined to discuss the idea, saying 3M does not comment on speculation.

3M’s stock closed at $142.43 a share, down 39 cents a share, on Tuesday.

 

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725

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