3M posts sharp rise in 4th quarter profit

/ Source: The Associated Press

3M Co., said Tuesday that earnings grew 16.3 percent in the fourth quarter on broad-based strength of the company's business and geographic portfolio.

The maker of Scotch Tape and Post-It notes earned $720 million, or 91 cents per share, up from $619 million, or 77 cents per share, a year ago. Sales rose 7.9 percent to $5.09 billion from $4.72 billion.

Analysts polled by Thomson First Call expected earnings of 91 cents per share on sales of $5.02 billion.

International sales were up 9.5 percent to $3.1 billion in the latest quarter, and U.S. sales totaled $2 billion, a 5.4 percent increase.

"The broad-based strength of the 3M business and geographic portfolio drove our excellent performance this quarter," said W. James McNerney, Jr., 3M chairman and CEO. "This strong finish positions us well for continued growth and operational success in 2005."

The company posted full-year earnings of $2.99 billion, or $3.75 per share, on $20 billion in sales. For 2003, 3M earned $2.4 billion, or $3.02 a share, on sales of $18.23 billion. Analysts forecast a profit of $3.75 per share on sales of $20 billion.

For the first quarter of 2005, the company forecasts earnings per share will range between $1 and $1.02, on volume growth of between 5 percent and 7 percent. 3M expects 2005 profit to range between $4.15 and $4.25 per share, on volume growth of 5 percent to 8 percent. Included in this 2005 estimate is a 2-cent charge resulting from an accounting change related to convertible debt.

Analysts are expecting the company to earn, on average, $1 and $4.16 per share for the first quarter and full-year, respectively.