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3M earnings up as the global pandemic provides mixed results

By Martin Moylan and John Enger

Shares of Maplewood-based 3M are up about 2.5 percent after the company reported first-quarter earnings Monday.

The company, a leading maker of N95 masks that can block viruses, says the global COVID-19 pandemic has hurt its business in some ways and helped it in others.

Sales of 3M’s N95 masks helped prop up the company’s first-quarter earnings as the coronavirus pandemic hurt other aspects of its business. Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

The aerospace, automotive, oral care, stationery and office and other markets have been weak, said 3M CEO Mike Roman in a conference call. But those losses were balanced out by massive demand for personal protective gear, and respirators.

“Beginning in January, 3M doubled our global output of N95 respirators, to 1.1 billion per year,” Roman said. “We’ve made additional investments and are also working with the Department of Defense to double our output once again, to 2 billion by the end of this year.”

3M earned $1.3 billion on sales of $8.1 billion in the quarter. Sales were up about 3 percent over the same quarter a year ago. Profits rose 45 percent, reflecting decreased operating expenses and hundreds of millions of dollars in litigation-related charges a year ago.

3M plans to cut costs by up $400 million in the current quarter, while “minimizing employee impact.” But it said some employees will be furloughed.

The company withdrew its previous financial guidance for the year, saying it cannot estimate the duration, magnitude and pace of recovery for its many end markets with reasonable accuracy.