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3M reported double-digit declines in second-quarter sales and profits, falling short of Wall Street forecasts, as coronavirus-induced economic distress continued to dog the giant manufacturer.

Still, Maplewood-based 3M on Tuesday posted a nice increase in sales for personal protective equipment — a small silver lining from the coronavirus outbreak — while the company's overall revenue trends have been improving so far in the third quarter.


July sales have risen in the low single digits over the same time last year, and the improvements are "broad-based," the company said.

Investors reacted to 3M's results Tuesday by pushing its stock down $7.91 or nearly 5%. It closed at $155.33.

"While our results were significantly impacted by the global economic slowdown, we executed well, managed our costs and delivered another quarter of robust cash flow," said CEO Mike Roman in a statement. "We are taking actions to navigate near-term challenges."

3M posted second-quarter adjusted earnings of $1 billion, or $1.78 per share, down 16% from the same time last year. Stock analysts on average were forecasting profits of $1.80 per share.

3M's second-quarter sales tallied $7.2 billion, down 12% year-over-year, and a notch below Wall Street expectations of $7.3 billion.

With its array of industrial products, 3M is often seen as bellwether for the U.S. economy and an indicator of global economic trends, too.

For instance, as global auto production has fallen by 45% this year; 3M's sales to that industry dropped by 44%.

Meanwhile, the COVID-caused surge in elective surgery and dental cancellations have socked 3M's health care sales; the company's "oral solutions" business was down nearly 60% in the second quarter.

Some 3M businesses were helped by COVID-19 — biopharma, cleaning products and particularly N95 respirators. N95 masks are the gold standard for filtering out particles — like viruses — and 3M is the leading U.S. producer.

3M's global production of N95s and other respirators hit nearly 800 million in the first half of 2020. About half of that was distributed in the U.S., primarily to health care providers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 3M said.

The company reiterated that it's on track to meet its U.S. and global goals for N95 production. Yet for U.S. health care providers, that won't be enough as the COVID-19 menace keeps rolling. "Demand continues to far outpace what the industry can supply," Roman told stock analysts in a conference call Tuesday.

3M expects that respirator sales will add 3 to 3.5% to organic revenue growth during the third quarter.

The company's third quarter has started out decently, with sales picking up in several business sectors and regions, notably China.

"It's adding up everywhere a little bit and that is making a difference," Roman told stock analysts. "I am encouraged by what I see," though he cautioned it's "still early days in the third quarter."

Indeed, 3M said Tuesday that it "continues to believe it is prudent not to provide guidance." The company earlier this year withdrew financial guidance due to uncertainties caused by COVID-19.

Not surprisingly given the auto-manufacturing slump, 3M's transportation and electronics business was hit hardest during the second quarter. Its sales of $1.9 billion were down 21% over the same time last year, while its operating income fell 35% to $382 million.

While sales of 3M's N95 masks boomed, the company's overall safety and industrial business saw a 9.2% decline in revenue to $2.7 billion. Still, the division's operating income was down only 1.6% to $636 million.

In health care, 3M posted sales of $1.8 billion, down less than 1%, though the segment's operating income fell 37% to $306 million.

3M's fourth major business segment, consumer, experienced a 6.2% decline in sales to $1.2 billion, while its operating profits fell 4.8% to $287 million.

In the call with analysts, Roman noted George Floyd's recent death at the hands of Minneapolis police, saying it "was jarring for all 3Mers, especially our African American employees." The company plans to "accelerate inclusion and diversity."

"While we have made good progress in recent years, we have much more to do," he said. "At the same time, we are working with other companies on actions that will make a difference here in Minnesota, and we have made initial investments as part of these efforts."

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003