3M is cutting 1,500 jobs and further restructuring the company, as it reported fourth-quarter earnings that plunged 27%.
The results reported Tuesday, which included nearly $350 million in new charges related to litigation and the restructuring, were driven by a weakness in Europe and Asia, especially China, and in key automotive, electrical and industrial markets.
The stock lost nearly 6% of its value to close at $165.58.
But with its health care business seeing a lift and U.S. and Canadian sales growth, CEO Mike Roman said the quarter "delivered a solid result in line with our expectations."
Officials at the Maplewood-based international industrial giant said they remained hopeful for 2020.
"We delivered solid margins and strong cash flow, delivering for the year a record $5.4 billion in cash flow," Roman said in a phone interview. "So that positions us well as we come into 2020 and what we are calling a return to growth."
3M is predicting sales will grow 0 to 2% this year and earnings will increase about 19%.
The restructuring, what the company said is the next step of its "transformation journey," pulls all functions — from strategic planning to sales — under business units instead of having separate international units. The changes, including the job cuts, will take place globally between the fourth quarter of 2019 and 2021, Roman said.
The new streamlined business model — which includes an earlier move of narrowing reporting units from five to four — should produce continued efficiencies, including those from a new integrated "enterprise resource planning" software system that is now widely installed, he said.
Roman declined to give specifics about where 3M's newly announced 1,500 job cuts will come from beyond saying they could come from every division or geography across 3M. The company has roughly 93,000 employees. The job cuts announced Tuesday come on top of cuts announced in April that amounted to 2% of the workforce.
All the "transformation" changes will ultimately save 3M $110 million to $120 million, including $40 million to $50 million this year, officials said.
CFRA research analyst Jim Corridore trimmed his 3M stock-price guidance but maintained his "hold" rating on the stock.
"We think MMM is pulling all the levers it can to offset weak fundamental demand [but] we expect this weakness to persist in 2020, and see no near-term catalysts for the shares to outperform the S&P 500 over the next year," he said in a research note.
Edward Jones analyst Matt Arnold said the restructuring should drive "a modest positive impact on profitability," but worried about the soft automotive, electronics and industrial markets and possible litigation costs.
The $348 million in new charges, which were not part of prior forecasts, included $134 million related to restructuring costs.
The company took another charge of $214 million related to "significant litigation-related" issues surrounding a class of chemicals known as PFAS.
"The charges related to restructuring and litigation were not expected, but were not surprising at the same time. Both restructuring and environmental litigation have been ongoing themes associated with the 3M story," Arnold said.
In a statement, 3M noted that it "updated its evaluation of customer-related PFAS [per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances] litigation based on continued, productive settlement discussions with multiple parties," the release said. "As previously disclosed, 3M has been engaged in mediation and resolution negotiations in multiple cases."
3M, along with other companies, is facing water-contamination lawsuits from states, cities and individuals around the country.
In a conference call with analysts Tuesday morning, Roman said 3M is in talks regarding PFAS contamination issues near its Cordova, Ill., chemicals plant and another lawsuit against 3M by its longtime customer, the Hush Puppies shoe maker Wolverine Worldwide in Michigan.
In addition to those lawsuits, 3M faces another 186 PFAS-related lawsuits. The complaints follow the historic $850 million PFAS settlement 3M made with the state of Minnesota in February 2018. Last year, 3M settled PFAS contamination lawsuits with the city of Lake Elmo in Minnesota for $2.7 million and with a two-county Alabama water authority for $35 million.
3M continues to work with Alabama authorities on chemical leaks related to its Decatur plant and disposal sites and is in the early stages of evaluating the full pollution issues in Illinois, Roman said.
Excluding the effect of the restructuring litigation-related charges, fourth-quarter 2019 adjusted earnings were $1.95 per share, below analysts expectations of $2.10 per share.
For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 3M reported that "same-currency" or organic sales fell 2.6%.
Including foreign-currency exchanges, fourth-quarter sales grew 2.1% to $8.1 billion, which were in line with the $8.12 billion forecast by analysts.
Profit results, however, fell below expectations, which displeased investors. 3M's stock fell 5% to $166.05 a share in afternoon trading Tuesday.
3M's fourth-quarter net income fell to $970 million, or $1.66 a share, from $1.35 billion in the same period a year ago.
While the company's health care business saw blockbuster results of 25% sales growth for the three months ended Dec. 31, sales for its largest business — Safety & Industrial — fell 4.8%. Its consumer sales were flat, and the Transportation and Electronics unit saw a sales decrease of 6.2%.
3M noted that its health care business is expected to grow in the future and will benefit from two key acquisitions 3M made in 2019.
3M, which announced in December that it would sell a good chunk of its drug-delivery unit, bought the wound-care products firm Acelity in October for $6.7 billion and the health care information giant M*Modal for $1 billion in January 2019.
The Acelity deal alone is expected to boost sales by roughly 3% this year. "Acelity is off to a good start with results better than expected," Chief Financial Officer Nick Gangestad told analysts Tuesday.
Given economic conditions around the globe, analysts said that more cost-cutting was expected by many industrial firms.
Like many multinational industrial companies, 3M has been under pressure as overseas growth has slowed in such areas as China and Europe. Also, the worldwide automotive, aerospace and electrical sectors have seen a slide.
3M said it specifically saw product sales declines during the fourth quarter in electrical markets, industrial adhesives and tapes, automotive aftermarket, abrasives, and closure and masking product orders. Its Transportation and Electronics business saw decreases in demand for advanced materials, electronics, and automotive and aerospace products during the quarter.
For full-year 2019, 3M reported sales that slid 1.9% to $32.1 billion, while earnings fell 14% to $4.57 billion, or $7.81 per share.
3M also announced the April retirement of Julie Bushman, executive vice president of international operations.
Dee DePass • 612-673-7725