3M (NYSE: MMM ) reported fourth-quarter earnings this morning that continued the company's slow and steady growth trajectory. Revenue was up 2.4% to $7.57 billion and net income was up 12.6% to $1.1 billion, or $1.62 per share, a penny ahead of expectations.
Management also reiterated 2014 guidance of earnings in the range of $7.30-$7.55 per share and organic local currency sales growth of 3%-6%.
Progress continues to be made on translating research and development dollars into sales growth. Organic local-currency sales growth was 3.4% in the fourth quarter, which was down from 5.8% a quarter earlier but was still a solid growth clip. CEO Inge Thulin has been pouring money into R&D, growing fourth-quarter spending for that segment at 4.8%, double revenue growth. That has translated into higher organic growth.
The downside of a highly international company like 3M is that a rising dollar has a negative impact on sales. Foreign exchange headwinds actually pulled 1.7% from 3M's growth, so had the dollar fallen this could have been an outstanding quarter.
3M is a steady manufacturer and a rock-solid dividend. Now that organic growth has reached a level in excess of 3% I think investors can be more comfortable with the company's future. This was another solid, if not spectacular, quarter for 3M.