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3M Earnings Jump on Tepid Sales Growth

By Travis Hoium – Jan 30, 2014 at 10:30AM

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Fourth-quarter organic growth was in the range 3M expected, but currency headwinds hit overall growth.

3M (MMM -2.33%) 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.

Travis Hoium manages an account that owns shares of 3M. The Motley Fool recommends 3M. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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