3M's profit slipped 20% in its first-quarter results posted Tuesday as the company faces lower demand for some products and higher costs due to inflation.
The Maplewood-based company also announced it will now report the impact of litigation-related expenses on its performance. Chief Executive Mike Roman said 3M was doing this "in response to feedback from our shareholders and to provide additional clarity on the strength of our underlying business performance."
3M still beat Wall Street expectations in reporting a $1.29 billion profit for the first three months of 2022, compared with $1.62 billion at the start of 2021.
Sales were essentially flat at $8.8 billion, a drop of 0.3% from the first quarter of 2021. Organic sales — a measure that does not include acquisitions, divestitures or foreign exchange — rose 2%.
"We had a strong start to 2022, despite some of the macroeconomic and supply chain challenges," Roman said in an interview. "We're still navigating the impact on supply chains from increased demand and some of the logistics challenges and COVID and geopolitical pressures."
Adjusted for PFAS-related commitments at the company's Belgium plant, earplug trial and other one-time legal expenses, 3M's earnings per share were $2.65, beating analyst expectations by 33 cents. The total litigation adjustments amounted to 39 cents a share in the first quarter.
Demand for 3M's personal protective gear, like its N95 respirators, is waning as the COVID-19 pandemic slows. The safety and industrial segment posted a $50 million decline in disposable respirator sales for the January-to-March period after hitting a peak in the first quarter of 2021. The business unit overall saw sales decline 1.4% to about $3 billion.
Respirator sales could drop as much as $200 million this year compared with 2021, chief financial officer Monish Patolawala told investors.
Higher costs for raw materials and supply chain constraints added $215 million in expenses in the quarter. The company continues to raise prices to meet increased costs.
"We called out inflation as on the horizon a year ago, February of 2021, and we've been managing it ever since," Roman said. "You work with your customers and channel partners and make sure you understand your competitive value in the marketplace. And you leverage price as an important tool to help offset that inflation."
But Colin Scarola, an analyst at CFRA, an independent investment research firm, said 3M has "very little pricing power given intense global competition for most of its products."
Scarola, who rates 3M stock a hold, said its recent price is "much closer to fair value in a high inflation and energy cost environment."
3M's transportation and electronics business dipped slightly to $2.3 billion in sales. It was buoyed by continued growth in automotive electrification, now a $400 million business. The company announced Monday it had acquired the technology assets of LeanTec to build on 3M's "connected bodyshop" products.
The consumer segment rose 1.8% to $1.3 billion. The company, seeking to capitalize on continued growth in online shopping and shipping needs, recently unveiled Scotch Cushion Lock, a recycled-paper alternative to plastic packaging cushion-wrap now available at major retailers.
Health care saw the largest gain in sales, up 2.6% to more than $2.1 billion. Roman said the business has ample room to keep growing as elective procedures continue to rebound to pre-pandemic levels.
The company's stock closed down nearly 3% Tuesday and is down about 19% for the year so far.
3M lowered its full-year earnings per share estimate to fall between $9.89 to $10.39 compared with its previous guidance of $10.15 to $10.65.
Excluding the $164 million it is spending on PFAS contamination in Belgium, executives said the outlook for the year remains unchanged.
"There's still a strong economic backdrop for the year despite all the challenges we're facing," Roman said. "We still see opportunity, and we're well-positioned for growth."