Sinking electronics and lackluster industrial sales growth again hamstrung 3M Co., prompting flat sales for the third quarter and narrowed profit expectations for the full year.
In a conference call with Wall Street analysts Tuesday, CEO Inge Thulin said 3M's third quarter was marked by increased earnings, robust cash flow and strong margins that were 22 percent or greater for each of 3M's five business groups.
However, Thulin also noted that the quarter continued to show "a challenging macro environment at the moment, but we are well-positioned … for when the market improves."
The Maplewood-based maker of products from Scotch tape to respirator masks and cellphone films reported on Tuesday that net income rose 2.5 percent to $1.3 billion, or $2.15 per share. Sales fell 0.3 percent to $7.709 billion. On average, analysts expected earnings of $2.14 per share and sales of $7.71 billion.
3M's stock closed the day at $166.23, down 3 percent.
For the third quarter, 3M reported revenue increases for four of its five business groups. But it noted continued struggles with its weary electronics and energy business, which saw revenue fall 8 percent to $1.3 billion during the quarter.
Energy-related sales dropped 9 percent, with declines in telecommunications, electrical markets and renewable energy, officials said.
3M's industrial division, its largest, saw sales grow 1 percent to $2.6 billion when foreign currency exchange rates were factored in. On a local currency basis, however, 3M industrial sales slid 1.1 percent.
Still, Chief Financial Officer Nick Gangestad and Thulin said the division was stronger and expected to grow more during the fourth quarter and next year. Like all multinational manufacturers, 3M has wrestled this year with global industrial weakness in the oil, gas, agricultural equipment and mining sectors.
Aside from electronics and industrial, 3M's health care, safety and graphics and consumer businesses saw sales rise 1 to 4 percent during the quarter.
Analysts said 3M's health care results were tepid and in stark contrast to the robust growth they had come to expect of the unit.
"Health care has been such a great business," said Joe Ritchie, an equity analyst at Goldman Sachs & Co. "But the growth we saw this quarter is the slowest we have seen since 2009."
Thulin acknowledged that health care demand was weaker than expected in the United States, Turkey and Brazil but said he was "not concerned" about a stray quarter. 3M is investing heavily in health care, he said, adding that he expects solid growth as a result of 3M's purchases of a Membrana medical filtration business, a medical coding business in Switzerland and through new partnerships related to 3M's fast-growing health-information systems business.
Worldwide, 3M plans to invest $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion in capital expenditures this year. It spent $347 million on factories, equipment and computers in the third quarter, down from $354 million a year ago.
For full-year 2016, 3M forecast earnings per share of $8.15 to $8.20. That's down from the prior range of $8.15 to $8.30. The company expects flat organic local-currency sales, compared with the prior forecast for 0 to 1 percent growth.