Before the Call: 3M's Q1

Grab a Post-It (tm) and post it on your computer monitor: Tomorrow's the day that 3M (NYSE: MMM  ) reports its first-quarter 2007 numbers.

After the news comes out, we'll have time aplenty to dissect it. But in these few hours before we begin obsessing over 3M's short-term progress, let's take a moment to review what investors think about it as a long-term investment. Our tool in this endeavor: Motley Fool CAPS, where we poll more than 26,000 investors for their views on well over 4,000 companies, 3M among them. Here's what Fools have to say about the company.

Up or down?
Well over 1,400 investors have submitted opinions on 3M. The verdict: Stick with this one.

96% of CAPS investors think 3M will outperform the market, a sentiment mirrored among the ranks of our very best investors, the CAPS All-Stars, who give 3M a 97% approval rating. Pour those results together, shake well, and 3M scores a perfect five CAPS stars.

Then again, most of 3M's peer conglomerates score similarly well:

Diversified Conglomerate Group

CAPS Rating (out of five)

3M

*****

Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A  )

*****

United Technologies (NYSE: UTX  )

*****

Unilever (NYSE: UL  )

*****

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  )

*****

Tyco (NYSE: TYC  )

****

General Electric (NYSE: GE  )

***

Wall Street vs. Main Street
Over on Wall Street, the enthusiasm is more muted, as 3M gets nine buy ratings to just two sells -- about 82% approval. Given that the stock has underperformed the S&P 500 by 23 percentage points over the last 52 weeks, though, I can see why analysts are jaded.

Bull pitch
One of my all-time favorite Fools (and a CAPS All-Star to boot) recently penned such a level-headed assessment of 3M that I want to quote it at length here: "Why make a huge fuss over one quarter of a company that has been around for more than 100 years, shown great results over that time, and for maybe 3-6 months a little slow-down in sales, the stock gets hammered. 3M won't be affected by this in the long-term, which is the thing to look at."

And long-term, what does 3M have going for it? Another of our All-Stars gives us a list: "Low risk, wide moat, making increasing investments in research and technology, well-run, ethical, in strategic acquisition mode, good discount to fair value."

Bear pitch
Apologies to PETA for any bear-trap mental pictures this engenders -- but it looks like bears don't have a leg to stand on. Within CAPS, the sole All-Star who's panned the company ... appears to have done so by mistake, attaching an "underperform" rating to this comment: "Even though the stock price is down, they will come back because they're a well-run company with good ethics." Aside from that pitch, every single pitch written against 3M comes from a player with a sub-20 CAPS rating (the lowest rating we publish, so as not to embarrass the owner).

Who said that?
To learn the identities of the wise Fools who penned these thoughts, and explore the plethora of additional financial data we've put together on the company, just click here.

3M, Berkshire Hathaway, and Tyco are Inside Value picks. You can find out why, and see which other stocks made the cut, with a 30-day free trial of the newsletter. Unilever and Johnson & Johnson are Income Investor selections.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked 192nd out of nearly 28,000 raters. The Fool's disclosure policy is little, yellow, and square.


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