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3M (NYSE:MMM)
Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call
Jan. 29, 2019 9:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the 3M fourth-quarter earnings conference call. [Operator instructions] As a reminder, this conference is being recorded, Tuesday, January 29, 2019. I would now like to turn the call over to Bruce Jermeland, director of investor relations at 3M.

Bruce Jermeland -- Director of Investor Relations

Thank you and good morning, everyone. Welcome to our fourth-quarter 2018 business review. With me today are Mike Roman, 3M's chief executive officer; and Nick Gangestad, our chief financial officer. Mike and Nick will make some formal comments and then we'll take your questions.

Please note that today's earnings release and slide presentation accompanying this call are posted on our Investor Relations website at 3m.com under the heading quarterly earnings. Please turn to Slide 2. Before we begin, let me remind you of the dates for our 2019 quarterly earnings conference calls, which will be held on April 25th, July 25th, and October 24th. Please take a moment to read the forward-looking statement on Slide 3.

During today's conference call, we will make certain predictive statements that reflect our current views about 3M's future performance and financial results. These statements are based on certain assumptions and expectations of future events that are subject to risks and uncertainties. Item 1A of our most recent Form 10-K lists some of the most important risk factors that could cause actual results to differ from our predictions. Finally, please note that throughout today's presentation, we'll be making references to a certain non-GAAP financial measures.

Reconciliations of the non-GAAP measures can be found in the appendix of today's presentation and press release. Please turn to Slide 4, and I'll hand it off to Mike. Mike?

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Bruce. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us. I will open with a brief summary of our fourth quarter and later in the call, I will come back to discuss our full-year performance, along with our outlook for 2019. 3M executed well in the fourth quarter with results that were in line with our expectations.

We delivered organic growth across all business groups and geographic areas, along with a double-digit increase in both cash flow and adjusted earnings. Looking at the numbers, total sales in the quarter were $7.9 billion. We posted organic growth of 3%, which is on top of 6% growth in last year's fourth quarter. Growth was led by our healthcare business group, which grew 5% organically, along with electronics and energy, which grew 4%.

With respect to EPS, our team delivered adjusted earnings of $2.31 per share, up 10% year over year. This includes a $0.2 net benefit from a divestiture, which Nick will cover in more detail. The strength of our value model is in enabling us to consistently generate premium margins and healthy cash flow. Margins in the quarter were more than 22% with all of our business groups above 21%.

Cash flow increased by 23% year over year with a conversion rate of 128%. Finally, in the fourth quarter, we returned $2.1 billion to our shareholders through both dividends and share repurchases. That concludes my opening comments. I will now turn the call over to Nick, who will take us through the details of the quarter.

Nick?

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Mike, and good morning, everyone. Please turn to Slide 5. Organic sales growth in the fourth quarter was 3%, with volumes up 160 basis points and selling prices up 140 basis points. The communication market's divestiture reduced sales by 1.3 percentage points while foreign currency translation was an additional 2.3 percentage point headwind to sales.

All in, fourth-quarter sales in U.S. dollars declined 60 basis points versus last year. Geographically, the U.S. grew 4.4% organically with broad-based growth across all business groups.

Latin America, Canada was up 5% organically with broad-based growth across Canada, Mexico, and Brazil. Asia Pacific grew organically 2% in Q4, led by double-digit increase in healthcare and mid-single-digit growth in electronics and energy. Organic growth was up 1% in China, Hong Kong versus 18% a year ago. China, Hong Kong organic growth was led by healthcare and electronics and energy while Safety and Graphics and Consumer declined.

Finally, organic growth was up 1.3% in EMEA with West Europe flat. EMEA was led by mid-single-digit growth in both healthcare and Safety and Graphics while Consumer and Electronics and Energy declined. Please turn to Slide 6 for the fourth-quarter P&L highlights. Companywide, fourth-quarter sales were $7.9 billion with operating income of $1.8 billion and operating margins of $22.4 %.

On the right-hand side of this slide, you can see the components of our margin performance in the fourth quarter. Organic volume, productivity, and lower year-on-year portfolio and footprint actions added 100 basis points to margins. Lower year-on-year divestiture gains, net of actions, reduced margins by 130 basis points. Higher selling prices continued to more than offset raw material inflation, contributing 20 basis points to fourth-quarter margins.

Finally, foreign currency net of hedging impacts increased margins by an additional 10 basis points. Let's now turn to Slide 7 for a closer look at earnings per share. Fourth-quarter GAAP earnings were $2.27 per share. Please note that this result included a couple items that were not included in our guidance.

First, during the quarter, we recorded a net $0.04 tax charge. This charge relates to the transition tax and the deductibility of our Q1 2018 legal settlement associated with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Secondly, we completed the final piece of the communication market divestiture, resulting in a net $0.02 earnings benefit. Taking into account these items, fourth-quarter underlying earnings were $2.29 per share.

As you see, a number of factors impacted fourth-quarter earnings. The benefits of organic growth, productivity, and lower year-on-year portfolio and footprint actions added a combined $0.18 to per share earnings in the quarter. Lower year-on-year divestiture gains net of related actions reduced fourth-quarter earnings by $0.13 per share versus last year. Foreign currency net of hedging was an additional $0.03 per share earnings headwind in the quarter.

Other expense contributed $0.06 cents to earnings year on year as higher Q4 2018 retirement expense and underlying net interest expense was more than offset by last year's fourth quarter repurchase of high coupon debt. Our underlying tax rate was lower year on year, which added $0.05 to Q4 earnings. And finally, average diluted shares outstanding declined by over 3% versus Q4 last year, adding an additional $0.08 to per share earnings.Please turn to Slide 8 for a look at our cash flow performance. Fourth-quarter free cash flow was $1.7 billion, up 23% year on year with a free cash flow conversion rate of 128%.

Fourth-quarter capital expenditures were $531 million with the full year totaling $1.6 billion. Also, during the fourth quarter, we returned $2.1 billion to shareholders via dividends and gross share repurchases. Let's now review our business group performance, starting with industrial on Slide 9. The industrial business delivered organic growth of 2.5% in Q4 and 3.2% for the year with growth across all geographic areas for the quarter and full year.

Growth was led by advanced materials up double digit, followed by low-single-digit growth in industrial adhesives and tapes, separation and purification, abrasives, and automotive aftermarket. Our automotive OEM business was down 1% year on year versus a 5% decline in fourth quarter global car and light-truck builds. For both the quarter and the full year, our auto OEM business outperformed global car and light-truck build by 400 basis points, continuing our long track record of outperformance. On a geographic basis, industrials organic growth was led by a 4% increase in the U.S.

while the other three geographic areas each grew low single digits. Industrial delivered fourth-quarter operating income of $627 million with an operating margin of 21.2%. Underlying margins were up 40 basis points year on year, adjusting for last year's portfolio and footprint actions. Please turn to Slide 10.

Fourth-quarter safety and graphic sales grew 3.3% organically versus an 11% comparison a year ago. For the full year, Safety and Graphics was up 5.1%. Growth was led by our personal safety business, up 7% organically. Scott Safety continues to do well with strong double-digit growth in Q4.

Commercial Solutions grew low single digits while Transportation Safety declined mid-single digits. Finally, our roofing granules business declined low teens as shingle manufacturers continued with lower production volumes in the quarter. Geographically, organic growth was led by a 7% increase in Latin America, Canada, followed by the U.S. and EMEA, which were each up 5%.

Operating income in the fourth quarter was $345 million with operating margins of 22%. Underlying margins were down 110 basis points year on year due to the sales decline in roofing granules, along with some additional fourth-quarter actions. Please turn to Slide 11. Our healthcare business generated fourth-quarter sales of $1.5 billion, up 4.8% organically.

In Q4, our Medical Solutions business posted mid-single-digit organic growth with particular strength in vascular access and securement solutions. Oral care grew 4% in the quarter with positive growth in both the U.S. and international. Our 3M Clarity Clear Tray Aligners launch continues to build momentum.

Fourth-quarter organic growth was led by a high-single-digit increase in food safety, followed by mid-single-digit growth in health information systems. On a geographic basis, healthcare grew across all areas with continued strength in developing markets, led by China, Hong Kong, up 18% in the quarter. Healthcare's fourth-quarter operating income was $458 million with margins of 30.2%. We continue to focus on investing in our priority growth platforms in advanced wound care, population health, and custom orthodontics.

Next, let's cover electronics and energy on Slide 12. Electronics and energy finished the year with solid fourth-quarter organic sales growth of 4.1%. The electronics side of the business delivered fourth-quarter organic growth of 3% with similar growth in both electronic materials and display solutions. On the energy side of the business, sales were up 5% organically with strong growth in both grid modernization and renewable energy.

On a geographic basis, organic growth was led by a 7% increase in Latin America, Canada while both the U.S. and Asia Pacific were up mid-single digits. Fourth-quarter operating income for electronics and energy was $396 million with operating margins of 29.5%.Please turn to Slide 13. Fourth-quarter sales in Consumer were $1.2 billion with organic growth of 1.9% year on year.

Growth was led by our home improvement business, up mid-single digits, and stationery and office was up low single digits while Home Care and Consumer Healthcare declined. Looking at consumer geographically, organic growth was led by a 6% increase in Latin America, Canada with the U.S. up 5%. EMEA declined 7% as we continue to adjust our product portfolio in this region.

Lastly, Asia Pacific declined 5% as we continue to experience lower year-on-year demand for our consumer respiratory solutions, particularly in China, Hong Kong due to improved air quality. Finally, fourth-quarter operating income was $257 million with operating margins of 21.3%. That wraps up our review of fourth-quarter results. Please turn to Slide 14 and I'll hand it back over to Mike.

Mike?

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Nick. The fourth-quarter capped an important year for 3M as we posted good results and continued to transform for the future. We delivered organic growth of more than 3% with growth across all business groups and geographic areas. We expanded GAAP earnings per share by more than 12% to $8.89 or $9.96 on an underlying basis.

We posted free cash flow conversion of 91%, along with a return on invested capital of more than 22%. In 2018, we also delivered record sales of $33 billion while returning significant cash to our shareholders. All in, we returned $8.1 billion to shareholders through both dividends and share repurchases, and last year was our 60th consecutive year of dividend increases. Please turn to Slide 15.

Beyond financial results, in 2018, we continue to position 3M for long-term growth and value creation. This includes executing our four priorities, which I laid out at our Investor Day in November. I'll comment briefly on the impact of each priority, starting with portfolio. The ongoing review and reshaping of our portfolio is critical to maximizing value for our customers and shareholders.

In 2018, for example, we sold our communication markets business. This builds on the portfolio work we've done over the last several years in electronics and energy, which has led to improved growth and margins. Last month, we also announced the acquisition of M*Modal'stechnology business, which is a leading provider of AI-powered healthcare solutions. As you recall, two years ago we decided to retain and further invest in our health information systems business.

This acquisition builds on that commitment and will expand our ability to improve outcomes for both patients and providers. We expect this transaction to close in the first quarter and its impact is reflected in our updated guidance for 2019, which I'll cover shortly. Turning now to transformation, which is fundamentally improving how we serve our customers, how we work, and how we compete. 2018 was an important year in our transformation journey.

Our team executed our ERP deployment across all five business groups in the United States, which accounts for nearly 40% of our global sales. This was a significant undertaking. I commend our people for successfully rolling out our new systems. And I thank our customers for working closely with us through this change.

With the U.S. rollout, we have deployed approximately 70% of our global revenue on the new ERP system. We are now stepping up our efforts to fully leverage this progress and accelerate value realization for our customers and our company. Ultimately, transformation is making 3M a more agile, more efficient, and more competitive enterprise.

Our next priority is innovation. Innovation is fundamental to our organic growth and is key to our long track record of delivering premium margins and return on invested capital. It allows us to create unique differentiated solutions for our customers, which leads to superior returns for our shareholders. In 2018, we continued to invest in both research and development and CAPEX, with accelerated investments in our priority growth platforms, focused around healthcare, transportation, safety, and infrastructure.

Technology is advancing rapidly in these market spaces, and 3M will continue to capitalize on these opportunities as we move ahead. This brings me to people and culture, which is foundational to each of the other priorities. Everything that differentiates 3M: our technologies, our manufacturing, our global reach, our brand, starts with our people. In 2018, we expanded development opportunities for 3Mers while launching initiatives to deepen our commitment to sustainability, diversity, and inclusion.

We also earned a number of external recognitions, including being named one of the World's Most Ethical Companies for the fifth straight year. In summary, our team made good progress on each of our priorities in 2018 and we are positioned for a successful 2019. Please turn to Slide 16. As you recall, at our Investor Day in November, we laid out our guidance framework for 2019.

Since then, there has been slowing in key end markets with the biggest impact coming from China, automotive, and electronics. Therefore, we are widening our range for expected organic growth to 1% to 4% against the prior range of 2% to 4%. We now anticipate EPS as of $10.45 to $10.90, which includes a $0.10 earnings headwind from the M*Modal acquisition against a previous range of $10.60 to $11.05. Please note that the prior range did not include the M*Modal impact.

We continue to expect a return on invested capital of 22% to 25%, along with a free cash flow conversion rate of 95% to 105%.Please turn to Slide 17. Here you see a breakdown of our expectations for organic growth, starting with our business groups. We expect organic growth to be led by healthcare with a range of 3% to 5%, followed by Safety and Graphics at 2% to 5%. Organic growth in industrial is expected in the range of 1% to 4% with electronics and energy at 0 to 4% and consumer at 1% to 3%.

Looking by geographic area, we expect organic growth in the United States of 2% to 4%, followed by EMEA at 1% to 3%. Organic growth in Asia Pacific is expected in the range of 1% to 5% with Latin America, Canada at 3% to 5%. I'll now turn it back to Nick, who will provide some color on our 2019 outlook. Nick?

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Mike. Please turn to Slide 18. Here are our key planning assumptions in 2019. Most of our key assumptions remain unchanged from what we discussed at our November Investor Day with the exception of three items.

First is the expanded full-year organic growth range that Mike just discussed. Second is in regards to our global pension expense. December's market volatility lowered our 2019 earnings benefit versus our expectation in November. And lastly, we are now including the estimated full-year growth and earnings impact from the pending M*Modal acquisition.

Other items to note, we are forecasting full-year foreign currency translation to be a 1% headwind to sales but neutral to earnings. Turning to raw materials, we do anticipate higher year-on-year costs, including tariff impacts. However, we continue to expect our selling prices, along with our global sourcing team's ongoing productivity efforts to more than offset the expected raw material headwinds. We estimate the 2019 impact from the pending M*Modal acquisition, net of the communication market's divestiture, to be neutral to sales and an earnings headwind of $0.15 per share.

We continue to increase our efforts to accelerate benefits from transformation, portfolio, and footprint optimization, along with our manufacturing and SG&A productivity. Lastly, we forecast our full-year tax rate to be 20% to 22% versus our 2018 underlying rate of 20%. I'll now move to our 2019 capital allocation plan on Slide 19. Our strong operational cash flow fuels our capital allocation plan.

We expect another year of strong cash flow from operations with 2019 estimated to be between $9.5 billion and $10.5 billion prior to our investments in R&D and our global pension plans. All in, including cash, marketable securities, and added leverage, our 2019 plan calls for $14.5 billion to $16.5 billion of available capital. Our first priority for capital deployment remains investing in our business, which includes research and development and CAPEX, supplemented with acquisitions while at the same time returning cash to shareholders. Please turn to Slide 20.

Here you can see our 2019 earnings roadmap based on the key assumptions I just laid out. For 2019, we expect per share earnings in the range of $10.45 to $10.90, including a negative $0.10 impact from the M*Modal acquisition. This earnings range represents an increase of 5% to 9% year on year compared to our 2018 underlying EPS of $9.96.To wrap up, fourth quarter was a good finish to 2018. We are focused on executing our four priorities along with delivering on our financial objectives in 2019.

With that, we thank you for your attention and we'll now take your questions. 

Questions and Answers:

Operator

[Operator instructions] Our first question comes from the line of Andrew Obin, Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Please go ahead.

Andrew Obin -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Good morning.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Andrew.

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Good morning, Andrew.

Andrew Obin -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Just a question on Asia. You guys clearly seem to have a better handle on your customers than a lot of other folks. But as we think about 2019, do you have a sense when Asia growth bottoms ex whatever contingency you have on the tariff negotiations? How should we think about the pace of growth in Asia throughout 2019?

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes, Andrew, if you look at the guidance we have for Asia in our outlook, we see it pretty balanced across the year within those ranges and within that range of guidance. Now, the caution as we start the year is really focused on not so much trade and tariff, but on the impact in end markets that we talked about. Automotive and electronics are the focus for the slower, more cautious view as we look to 2019. So, I think as we get a better view of what's going to go on in those end markets, that would change where we are in the range, but I think that balance across the year is the way I'd have you think about it.

Andrew Obin -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

And just a follow-up question. A couple of people asked this about R&D spend. Your longer term framework, 6%. For the year, I think in '18 it was 5.6%; for the quarter, 5.5%.

Any timing on R&D in 2018 and how should we think about R&D in 2019?

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

This is -- as you said, Andrew, this is still a priority and it's -- we're committed to this. It's what drives our differentiation, our innovation in 3M. And if you look at where we are in the quarter, we saw some impact from the contract R&D work that we do for customers and I would say the divestiture of the communication markets, so those are a few of the things that kept us a little lower in the quarter. We are committed to driving that model, that 6% R&D and the investment in CAPEX that goes along with it.

And If you look at 2018, we actually did have an increase in headcount. So it's a better reflection maybe of our commitment to that ongoing investment.

Andrew Obin -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Terrific. Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Joe Ritchie of Goldman Sachs. Please proceed with your question.

Joe Ritchie -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Thanks. Good morning, guys.

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Hey, Joe.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Joe.

Joe Ritchie -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

So, maybe just kind of following up on Andrew's question on China, and more specifically auto and electronics, you took the guide down by a point at the low end, not really surprising, given what we're seeing across the value chain. I guess the question, though, is it seemed like those end markets were generally OK for the quarter. How did things progress during the quarter, and what are you actually seeing in your core business that makes you feel like growth will be slower in those end markets for 2019?

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes, Joe, we talked about this a bit at the third quarter call, that we saw some slowing in China as we went into Q4, and automotive was one of the things that we talked about. That said, we saw additional slowing as we exited the quarter, and you see it in the projection for build rates. The updated view of the build rates in the quarter and then the projection for where things are going in 2019, there's just caution. There's a revision down.

It's not a huge step down, but it's a revision down in the first half of the year really driven by China, so I would say some additional slowing in the outlook for build rates in automotive. Electronics, it held up well in the quarter. We had a good solid finish for that business. In fact, if you look at 2018, we were right in the range for what we were expecting in the electronics markets, and we had a cautious outlook as we went through the year.

I think you see it with the OEMs in that market, they're signalling a cautious view, and it's more for first quarter than it was necessarily impacting Q4 of '18.

Joe Ritchie -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

OK. Fair enough, Mike. If I could follow up, Nick, just on price costs. We've seen commodities come in a little bit as we ended the year, saw the raw mat headwind on the bridge, but maybe just talk a little bit about how much price do you think you'll be able to get in 2019, and are the pricing actions already in place for those benefits?

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. Joe, I would say much of 2018 as well as Q4 has played out exactly how we expected, that we expected fairly significant raw material headwinds that we've been more than offsetting throughout the year with our selling price increases, so as I look backwards on '18, very much how we saw that happening. As we look forward into 2019, we do see raw material and tariff headwinds continuing, just not at the same level of what we saw in 2018. So, you see in our earnings bridge, we're expecting $0.10 to $0.20 of headwinds, and that's inclusive of tariffs.

In November, when you were with us, we laid out that I -- I laid out that expected that to be about $100 million headwind from tariffs. Right now, we'd put that at about $70 million year-on-year headwind from tariffs and that's built into that $0.10 to $0.20, and we remain optimistic that selling prices will more than offset. The last part of that question, the vast majority of our price increases have already been enacted, either late in the second half of 2018 or ones that have already been announced that go into effect early this year. So, much of it, if not all of it has already been auctioned.

Joe Ritchie -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

OK. Thanks, guys.

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Joe.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Andrew Kaplowitz of Citi. Please proceed with your question.

Andrew Kaplowitz -- Citi -- Analyst

Hey. Good morning, guys.

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Good morning, Andie.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Morning, Andie.

Andrew Kaplowitz -- Citi -- Analyst

Nick, can you talk about what happened in safety and graphics in terms of the 22% margin you report in the quarter? You mentioned some fourth-quarter actions and weakness in roofing granules impacting margin, but the margin was obviously lower than last year's Q4 despite now lapping Scott Safety, so was there -- how much of the fourth quarter actions were unusual and would you expect margin going forward to be up significantly in '19 versus '18?

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, Andy, one of the first things you should do is just look at -- we had a noticeable gain in fourth quarter last year on the sale of our electronic monitoring business within safety and graphics. That's why we're explaining that the underlying margin, once we pull that gain out, is down 110 basis points. The two primary things driving that 110-basis-point margin contraction, one is that decline in roofing granules. And then we've also -- as you know, we acquired the Scott Safety business.

We continue to take actions to integrate that. We've been taking a number of actions, and that's -- that continued integration of Scott Safety is the second contributing factor to the margin contraction. Overall, we're extremely pleased with Scott Safety's performance, high growth in the quarter, and very pleased with the contribution it's making to our safety and graphics business.

Andrew Kaplowitz -- Citi -- Analyst

OK. And then maybe shifting gears to healthcare, 4% growth in oral care is the best you've recorded in some time there, and China growth is obviously strong in healthcare. So do easier comps in drug delivery mean that the lumpiness really that we saw in '18 is probably behind 3M and the confidence level in your 3 to 5% organic growth in healthcare for '19 is reasonably high?

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, Andy, I think it's still going to be lumpy in 2019, and that's primarily going to be driven by comps to what we saw in 2018. For the full year, we're not anticipating that drug delivery in total is going to have a noticeable impact on healthcare's growth. But as I look at the seasonality of what we're staring into of comps in drug delivery, we will see it being negative in the first half of the year and likely positive in the second half of the year.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Andy, let me clarify negative comps from drug delivery. We're not seeing the healthcare business negative in the first half.

Andrew Kaplowitz -- Citi -- Analyst

Right, but overall the rest of the business does seem reasonably solid. And you would say you have pretty good visibility into the rest of the business, including the new product intros that you've got in oral care starting to impact that business?

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Correct, yes.

Andrew Kaplowitz -- Citi -- Analyst

All right. Thanks, guys.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of John Walsh of Credit Suisse. Please proceed with your question.

John Walsh -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Hi, good morning.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Morning, John.

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Morning, John.

John Walsh -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

I guess, maybe a quick one on what you're seeing in terms of channel inventory levels and if we're all still normal, or if you're seeing anything different across any of your businesses.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

John, I would say we came out of Q4 pretty balanced across the businesses in channel. It's something we watch very closely. We're watching sell-in, sell-out, and it looks to be pretty balanced. I would say with a word of caution around the end markets that are slowing, that always puts a focus on channel.

So, when you look at what's going on automotive and electronics, we're watching that closely and making sure that we have a good view of what's going on there. But as we exited '18, it looked to be a pretty good balance, and that's not just true of those specific end markets but across broader industrial and even across the consumer business as well.

John Walsh -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Gotcha. And then maybe just drilling down into one of those specifically, because every once in a while it kind of does get called out, is on the automotive repair and refinish. Obviously, there was some channel consolidation there that all seems to be behind the business. I just wanted to kind of confirm that.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes, I think what I said about the broader industrial is true for automotive aftermarket as we come out of '18 as well-pretty balanced across the channel. That said, what we called out there, the consolidation, that's something that is ongoing. We saw a significant impact as we went through the first part of the year. I think that's something that can continue, so that's another one of those impacts on channel inventory that we watch as we see consolidation.

But coming out of the year, pretty balanced in automotive aftermarket as well.

John Walsh -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Gotcha. And then maybe one more specific to the businesses here. I mean, with the acquisitions you've done, personal safety now by sub-business is one of your larger exposures. Obviously I think you said organic was up seven.

Can you just kind of talk a little bit about what's happening there and if you think that kind of momentum can continue to carry on?

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes, if you look at -- if you think about personal safety, it's been a leader for us in growth over the last two years. '17 and '18, both strong growth, and that's really, I think, a testament to the organic priorities that we put there and the leading position that we've been able to develop organically, and then also the acquisitions that have complemented that portfolio well. It positions us well in the marketplace where the growth is happening, and so we continue to see leading growth for the company and we are -- we have a very strong portfolio and position for our customers. So, I expect -- it's a larger business and it's a very strong contributor to our growth as we move ahead.

So, I expect it to continue to lead in its market.

John Walsh -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Great. Thank you.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, John.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Julian Mitchell of Barclays. Please proceed with your question.

Julian Mitchell -- Barclays -- Analyst

Hi, good morning.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Hey, Julian.

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Good morning, Julian.

Julian Mitchell -- Barclays -- Analyst

Hey. Good morning. Just wanted to follow up if there was any extra color you'd give on how the year is starting out in Q1 versus either sales ranges laid out on the Slide 17 or else the earnings bridge items on Slide 20 -- things like FX, hedging. I'm not sure how that plays out through the year.

And on the revenue side in particular, just wondering how confident you are in Q1 that APAC and the EMEA regions can both see positive growth.

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Julian, so far what we're seeing as a start to this year is very much in line with the guidance that we've laid out. And just in terms of how we ended 2018, I'd say as we went through the quarter, things were very much in line with what we were expecting. The only color I'd put is we probably saw some weakening in China as the quarter went on. Now in terms of 2019 and our guidance and what we're expecting there, things that can impact quarter by quarter, foreign exchange, and I'll talk this on an EPS basis, we think that's going to be neutral for the year given where the currencies are, if they stay there, and given our hedging position.

I will note that it will be a headwind in the first half of the year, particularly in Q1, and then a tailwind to us in the second half of 2019.Other things to note, we expect margin expansion throughout the year, full year. Based on our guidance, it pencils out to about 100% -- 100 basis point margin expansion. And tax rate, the tax rates we expect by quarter, we're guiding 20% to 22%. I'd expect to see 20 -- the first quarter closer to the low end of that range and then the other quarters closer to the midpoint or high end of that range.

And then as far as growth that you were asking about, right now our view is we see pretty much all the areas lining up with the ranges that we've laid out. I think in the case of China and Asia, where we're guiding low to mid single digits, we -- if anything I'd expect the first quarter to be the more challenged of those and then progressively better, but I don't think it's too much out of the range that we've just laid out here, quarter by quarter.

Julian Mitchell -- Barclays -- Analyst

Thank you, Nick. And then, my follow-up question would just be around some of the various cost levers in the P&L. You'd stated that operating margins should be up about 100 points -- basis points for 2019 overall. I'm guessing R&D may be a slight headwind, R&D to sales coming up.

So, how do we think about the delta on gross margin versus SG&A? And I ask particularly because you had very, very good SG&A control in the second half of the year. In particular. Is that a one-time but then needs to step back up in SG&A to sales in '19 or is it a function of productivity and business mix changes so it's sustainable?

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Julian, if I break it into the three components you're asking about, we do see our R&D expense as a percent of revenue going up in 2019. We see our gross margin improving and we see our SG&A percent to revenue going down, so that margin expansion is going to be coming from both gross margin improvements and SG&A productivity. The gross margin improvements, some of that has been going through our -- from our transformation, some of it is coming from our footprint actions that we've been actioning over the last couple of years, and then on the SG&A front it's our continued leverage of the productivity through our transformation efforts, that we'll be continuing to expand margin on that front.

Julian Mitchell -- Barclays -- Analyst

Great. Thanks very much.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Julian.

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Julian.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Scott Davis of Melius Research. Please proceed with your question.

Scott Davis -- Melius Research -- Analyst

Hey. Good morning, guys.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Hey, Scott.

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Good morning, Scott.

Scott Davis -- Melius Research -- Analyst

A couple small questions here. First one, I'm just curious, how do you get Scott Safety to grow 10%? I mean, Tyco tried for a long time and I don't think they ever had a quarter anywhere close to that type of growth. Is it as simple as just plugging into your distribution system, or is there something more to it?

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. I think the Scott Safety, it goes back to what I was talking about with the safety business in general. When we're bringing together those complementary portfolios, it's been a really, I think, a win-win for us as we've integrated the teams together, that we can go out with leading solutions and combine those, and that's having a noticeable impact. It's certainly energized the teams and it's had some impact on the business.

I think we had a number of projects come together in Q4. That was part of it as well, so we certainly saw positive timing impacting it, but we are seeing a lift from having our leading personal safety portfolio combining with Scott Safety and Capital Safety, for that matter, and bringing those into the marketplace together.

Scott Davis -- Melius Research -- Analyst

That makes sense. And, guys, as a follow-up, I'm just curious on the cadence of cost-out on the ERP. I mean, when you deploy -- when you get 70% done, I mean, how long do you -- how long before you can cut the cord on the duplicate spend? There's obviously some duplicate spend for a while until you are 100% comfortable going with that new ERP system. Is there -- is that a material change in cadence through the year of cost-out into 2020?

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Scott, I wouldn't call it a material change throughout the year. I'd call it a continued progression of what we were seeing in '18 into '19. So, there's not going to be one significant triggering event. But every quarter, additional productivity as we realize those benefits, as we ensure that our supply chain is functioning as we expected, as we're meeting our customers' requirements, as we continue to work through those things, we continue to see more and more SG&A opportunity for benefits, but not a cliff.

It will just continue to evolve over the next couple years.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

And, Scott, maybe to add to that, we have a value realization map. And as we deploy and we stabilize, we get benefits from that as we take better advantage of our service models that we put in place, we get benefit. But we're also -- we talked about this in the investor day, really doubling down on leveraging the new capabilities we have, and that gives you a steady opportunity to drive productivity. And that's what I think you'll see, and that's the next point -- it's going to be a steady progression as we take full advantage of the capabilities that we're putting in place.

Scott Davis -- Melius Research -- Analyst

Fair enough. Good luck and thank you, fellows.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. Thanks, Scott.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Deane Dray of RBC Capital Markets. Please proceed with your question.

Deane Dray -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Thank you. Good morning, everyone.

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Good morning, Deane.

Deane Dray -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Hey, a little chilly for you guys this morning, I see still.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

A little bit.

Deane Dray -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Glad everyone made it in. For Nick, it looks like free cash flow -- yes, you're above 100% for the fourth quarter, but it did lag your historical fourth quarter conversion pretty significantly. Can you just walk us through the puts and takes there, please?

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. As part of what I've shared before, we in 2018 built inventory in anticipation of some of our go-lives for our business transformation ERP deployments. And as we've progressed throughout the year, one of the more significant things is that that extra inventory that we're seeing that's been impacting our cash flow, it's one of the things that we are starting to see change in the fourth quarter. And our expectation as we guide 95% to 105% free cash flow conversion in 2019, the expectation that we make even more significant improvements on that going through '19.

So working capital is the biggest thing I'll call out there that we see that it's one of our biggest places for opportunity in our free cash flow conversion.

Deane Dray -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Got it. And then one of the businesses that had a soft spot in the third quarter was office retail, but I see it swung into one of the growth areas this quarter. Could we just drill down for a bit on office retail, maybe address e-commerce and expectations in 2019?

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. Deane, this has been an evolving story and we've talked a lot about the channel and the restructuring that's going on there. And it ends up -- and we see it as a sell-in, sell-out kind of story. Even through that transformation, we were seeing sell-out for our portfolio still being positive.

We were seeing negative sell-in as we saw the restructuring of the channel and inventory coming out. There's certainly -- e-commerce is another growth platform for that portfolio and we continue to do very well there in that category. It's a strong growth driver for that business. So, as we came through '18, we started to see the balance between sell-out and sell-in come a little closer.

And so we saw some positive growth on the sell-in, and again the sell-out remaining still strong. So, as we get into '19, the story will be what additional structure or changes will happen in the channel, how does that shift. We're going to continue to be focused on the end user and driving that demand and driving that sell-out, and I think we'll continue to drive a positive growth from that over the long run.

Deane Dray -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Got it. And just the last quick question, your comment on the air quality improvement in China caught me a little bit by surprise, but I see news reports now real significant improvement, especially in Beijing. Is that going to be a recurring theme, because you've got some tough comps in that business throughout that you'll be looking at in 2019.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. Deane, we saw -- we certainly had some tough comps as we came through the second half of '18. And with an improvement in air quality you saw that play out as part of the slowing that we saw in China in the second half of the year and impacted those businesses related to it as well. When we go into '19, we still see some comp in the first half of the year, but it gets a little more normalized and it will depend on what happens to air quality as we move ahead.

Is there -- does it continue to see an improvement? But our -- the base for it gets more in line with what we saw in '18 as we go through '19.

Deane Dray -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Thank you.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Deane.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Steve Tusa of JPMorgan. Please proceed with your question.

Steve Tusa -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Hi, guys. Good morning.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Steve.

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Good morning, Steve.

Steve Tusa -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Can we just maybe just help kind of calibrate, perhaps with some numbers, what could happen here in the first quarter? I mean, I hear a lot of commentary about -- from you guys and from everybody. Obviously, it's kind of more of a macro thing, about things slowing toward the end of the quarter, and then into the first quarter you had a couple electronics guys who really saw a fall-off toward kind of the end of the quarter and into the first. And you said it's not going to be too different but kind of sounding like it's toward the low end of the range year over year. I mean, are we talking about basically like kind of a -- will you grow organically in the first quarter kind of at the low end of that range? I mean, is that kind of what you're saying?

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer -- Analyst

Steve, I would not be surprised if in the first half of the year, partially based on comps, we're in the lower half of the range, and in the second half of the year, we're in the upper half of the range.

Steve Tusa -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

OK.

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer -- Analyst

Much of what we have is lined up that way. I don't see us in negative growth territory in any quarter. And I -- and the second quarter, the only reason I say that, Steve, is we noted in second quarter last year that we felt there was some pull ahead of revenue from third quarter into second quarter, so we'll be facing into that comp second quarter of this year.

Steve Tusa -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

That makes a lot of sense. And then your kind of normal seasonality is up low double digit from 4Q to 1Q. Should we think about that as kind of a little bit lower organic offset by lower tax? Or is the organic enough to kind of make first quarter a bit less of a seasonal performance?

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

I think taxes typically are lowest -- our first quarter is typically our lowest tax expense. I do see it a bit more normalized of tax expense if you look quarter by quarter. If you look at 2018, our tax expense in the first quarter was noticeably below the range. I don't see that happening in first quarter of '19.

I think it will be in the range, but closer to the low end. And then the other piece, Steve, as I mentioned, FX will be a bit of an abnormal pattern throughout the year, that it will be a headwind to us in the first half and in particular in the first quarter, and then it will be offsetting and flipping. And that's primarily driven by hedging that we're seeing that we had hedging losses in 2018. And if currencies stay where they are, they'll be flipping to hedging gains in 2019.

Steve Tusa -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

And how big are those gains for '19?

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

We were hedging losses of approximately a little over $80 million in 2018. And if currencies stayed where they are, they'd be in the $50 million, $60 million, $70 million of gains right now.

Steve Tusa -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

One last quick one for you guys on portfolio management. This year, you're kind of flipping the portfolio around a little bit. It seems like it's a bit of a headwind, this kind of $0.15 headwind. I mean, is that -- I know some of it is temporary, but is that kind of -- should we be ready for a bit of kind of year one dilution as you work through -- as you continue to work through the portfolio on an annual basis, or does it all kind of -- does it catch up toward the end because I know that you've guided to positive, ultimately positive benefits over the long term, but obviously this year is a bit of a negative.

How should we think about that in the context of the long-term guide on portfolio management?

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer -- Analyst

Yes. If I use M*Modal as an example, that one we see as a $0.10 headwind this year. That's driven by some of our transaction costs one time, some of our integration costs at the beginning of the -- of our time of owning it as well as some ongoing amortization. This particular one, we guided that we think by year three it will be about 10 times -- this would equate to a 10 times EBITDA, so it will be generating $100 million-plus of EBITDA by year three.

I'd say that's not uncommon of what to expect, that often in the first year we want to aggressively integrate whatever we buy into the company to be fully realizing the value model that we can create by having it part of 3M.

Steve Tusa -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

OK.Thanks a lot.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Josh Pokrzywinski of Morgan Stanley. Please proceed with your question.

Josh Pokrzywinski -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Hi. Good morning, guys.

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Good morning, Josh.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Josh.

Josh Pokrzywinski -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Just maybe to start out, can -- Nick, can you talk about what some of the offsetting factors are in guidance? I guess, if I add up pension, the M*Modal, and then the lower organic growth, it seems like a bit more than what you've tweaked the range by. You mentioned that the tariff headwind was a little lower. Is there anything else in the bridge that we should be aware of as being kind of an offsetting item?

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

In terms of what we were anticipating back in November, those three things you just called out, Josh, those would all be tweaks down. As far as tweaks up since November, we're seeing a less negative environment for raw material prices, that if I had called out specifically in -- back in November what we were expecting for raw material headwinds, I would have been quoting a higher number there. And that's partially offsetting some of these tweaks down that we've -- that I've laid out. That's the single biggest one that's changed.

Josh Pokrzywinski -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Got it. That's helpful. Then just as an exporter, did you see any of your customers in the fourth quarter do any pre-buy work when January was still kind of a target date for tariffs? We've seen some of that in some other short cycle guys, curious if that impacted you at all.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes, Josh, we watch that closely and it's part of what we look at in the channel, that we see -- when we see these macro changes, are they impacting the pre-buy? We didn't see that as we came through the quarter. And as Nick said, the quarter progressed the way we expected. We're -- it's not just watching from a distance. We're close with those partners, and we don't -- we didn't have any indication of that happening, certainly not at any significant level.

Josh Pokrzywinski -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Got it. Appreciate it. Thanks Mike.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of John Inch of Gordon Haskett. Please proceed with your question.

John Inch -- Gordon Haskett -- Analyst

Good morning, everybody.

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Good morning, John.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, John.

John Inch -- Gordon Haskett -- Analyst

Good morning, guys. Hey. So Europe, Western Europe flat, how much of that was self-inflicted by your own actions to withdraw from certain product lines and markets versus the actual market? And what kind of -- I don't know if there's a way to quantify it, but what -- how does that sort of spill into kind of the 2019 outlook as well? Is there a way to quantify that?

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

John, I'd estimate that there's about 200 basis points of us taking specific actions of adjusting our portfolio, of product lines that we're choosing to exit that are built into that. There will be some carry-forward of that into '19, but not on as a significant level as what we saw in 2018.

John Inch -- Gordon Haskett -- Analyst

And, Nick, are you still on track to get to the 20% margins in Europe? I forget exactly what you said in November, what your timeline was, but how is that tracking? Is that ahead of schedule, or just on track?

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, we're on track to do that, John. 2019 will be a noticeable year, where we've done a number of things in '17 and '18 to set us up for that. '19 will be a year of seeing noticeable margin improvement to get us on track to that 20% by 2020.

John Inch -- Gordon Haskett -- Analyst

20% by 2020. OK. And then there's a lot of moving parts here to this guide. I understand why you took the lower end of the range down a point, but the midpoint if you adjust for M*Modal really only declines by $0.05, right, which I guess you could argue that's the impact of half a point, but there must be some other things.

I'm curious, specifically on raw materials, I don't -- I get what you're saying. On the other hand, Nick, didn't you say that tariffs would be fully offset? And versus November, this raw material productivity, the minus $0.20 to minus $0.10, is that actually lower? Because obviously things like oil and other things have actually declined, so just trying to calibrate why, even though you lowered the guide, where only the midpoint is $0.05 lower? And is any of this being offset because raw materials are, while still a headwind, slightly better? If that makes sense.

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer -- Analyst

Yes, we -- if I had shown this, what we expected it look like in November, I would have been showing a higher raw material headwind there as we've seen with oil and some of the things that we were expecting on tariffs haven't turned out quite as bad as what we were estimating. Back in November, we -- I said we were confident that we could more than offset whatever we see with raw materials and tariffs with our selling prices, and we remain, I'd say, even more confident on that front.

John Inch -- Gordon Haskett -- Analyst

AndThen just lastly, Nick, how did the semicon piece of 3M do specifically? I think that's -- remind us, is that about $1 billion dollars? I know consumer electronics is around $2 billion. Did semicon -- was it seeing the weakness, particularly in Asia, that a lot of these companies are calling out? Or did you do better, and if you did better actually, why do you think that's the case?

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

John, maybe -- yes, I'll take that. If you look at the business, our electronic materials business has got the semiconductor piece of it. It's not the largest piece of that. And when you look at that, we've got other businesses in there.

We've got materials into consumer electronics, we have assembly solutions, but a big portion of it goes into semicon. We certainly expected to see some slowing as we went through the quarter. They -- as Nick talked about, they were in line. That business was in line with the overall 3% growth that we saw in the quarter.

Going forward, there's more caution in that marketplace and the semiconductor manufacturers are part of that. So, I would say it was less of an impact on Q4 but more of part of the caution as we guide going into '19.

John Inch -- Gordon Haskett -- Analyst

Understood. Got it. Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, John.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Laurence Alexander of Jefferies & Company. Please proceed with your question.

Laurence Alexander -- Jefferies & Company -- Analyst

Hi, two quick ones. Could you characterize what you're seeing in Latin America in a little bit more detail, like where the pockets of strength are? And can you speak a little bit more broadly about in 2019, 2020 what kind of impact you may see on 3M from emerging market customers realigning their supply chains to work around the current tariff disputes?

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Laurence, talking about Latin America first, we saw broader-based growth in Latin America across our portfolio. And both Brazil and Mexico, the largest countries there, performing well as we came through Q4. So, it was pretty balanced and pretty broad-based in portfolio and growth, and we're -- we have that same kind of outlook as we look to 2019. And I -- to your question about the supply chain and are we seeing changes there, it's certainly something we watch for.

We expect the supply chain to react over time as tariffs come into play. We haven't seen a significant impact to that at this point. It just hasn't shown up that way. We watch it closely with the customer and we're connected with them on the design and specification of our products, and that includes pretty good visibility on the supply chain.

We just haven't seen it react that strongly to this point.

Laurence Alexander -- Jefferies & Company -- Analyst

Thank you.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes.

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Laurence.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Nigel Coe of Wolfe Research. Please proceed with your question.

Nigel Coe -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Thanks. Good morning, and thanks for going long here. Can you hear me OK?

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes.

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes.

Nigel Coe -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Good. I'm having some problems with the phone here, so I'm on a cellphone. Just want to go back to the electronics outlook for zero to 4%. And obviously, you've provided some comments in terms of quarterly cadence.

If we dig into the businesses, electronics business, energy, are you seeing any appreciable difference in the two sub-segments for '19?

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

In -- Nigel, you're talking about the sub-segments of energy, or the -- you're talking about energy versus electronics?

Nigel Coe -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Energy versus electronics. I'm looking at that 2% midpoint, how would that break out between the two sub-segments?

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes, yes. We highlighted the good performance from energy markets in Q4, and we have an outlook for that to continue as we go into 2019. So, I would say that is more of the same. The electronics, we've been coloring that all morning based on the outlook in the end markets, so I would say that's the one that we're a little more cautious about.

Energy looks pretty stable as we go into the year, but both of them contributing, I would say, kind of evenly across the year, with that kind of caution on the end markets in play.

Nigel Coe -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

OK. And is there any appreciable difference in the margin profile between energy and electronics? I've always assumed electronics was higher margins, but could you clarify that?

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, Nigel, there's really not a discernible difference between the margins in the different components there, between our electronics and our energy. They're very similar, Nigel.

OK. And then, Nick, if you could just quickly clarify the comments you made on safety and graphics margins for 4Q. You called out Scott Safety integration headwinds, but then we're comping against some of the purchase accounting headwinds in 4Q of '17, so I'm just wondering why we wouldn't have seen a benefit from Scott Safety in 4Q '18.

Yes. When I'm backing out last year, there were one-time costs with Scott, bringing them in, as well as the gain that we had on the sale of our electronic monitoring business. When I go and say it's 110 basis -- underlying margin contraction, that's already discounting for that piece. Now that we've taken that out and as part of our ongoing business, we are continuing to take actions in Scott and other parts of our safety and graphics business, but Scott's the largest one that we're taking actions on.

That's one of the things that's behind that.The other piece that I maybe didn't highlight clearly enough for you, Nigel, is the sales decline that we're seeing in roofing granules, that is creating a year-on-year margin contraction in safety and graphics. That's impacting that total.

Nigel Coe -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Understood. Thanks Nick.

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer -- Analyst

Yes.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Nigel.

Operator

That concludes the question-and-answer portion of our conference call. I will now turn the call back over to Mike Roman for some closing comments.

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you. In summary, the fourth quarter capped another year of significant accomplishments for 3M as we posted good results while strengthening our company for the long term. Moving ahead, we are focused on executing our four priorities and delivering for our customers and shareholders in 2019. Thank you again for joining us this morning, and have a good day.

Operator

[Operator signoff]

Duration: 70 minutes

Call Participants:

Bruce Jermeland -- Director of Investor Relations

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer

Andrew Obin -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Joe Ritchie -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Andrew Kaplowitz -- Citi -- Analyst

John Walsh -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Mike Roman -- Chief Executive Officer

Julian Mitchell -- Barclays -- Analyst

Scott Davis -- Melius Research -- Analyst

Deane Dray -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Steve Tusa -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Steve Tusa -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Nick Gangestad -- Chief Financial Officer -- Analyst

Josh Pokrzywinski -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

John Inch -- Gordon Haskett -- Analyst

Laurence Alexander -- Jefferies & Company -- Analyst

Nigel Coe -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

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