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Instant Analysis: 3M Raises Its Dividend by 8%, Launches New Share Buybacks

By Eric Volkman – Feb 4, 2016 at 10:00AM

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The new payout is $1.11 per share, while the company has authorized up to $10 billion in stock repurchases, with no time limit.

What happened?
3M (MMM 0.81%) has theoretically made its shares more sticky by lifting its dividend and launching a new stock buyback program.

The former will amount to $1.11 per share, an 8% increase over its predecessor. That's entirely in character for the company, which has not only paid out consistently for almost a century but is also a dividend aristocrat (one of the small group of stocks that has raised its distribution at least once annually for a minimum of 25 years running). At the current share price, the new dividend yields 2.9%. It will be paid on March 12 to shareholders of record as of Feb. 12.

3M also initiated a stock buyback program, authorizing up to $10 billion for the purpose. This replaces an existing buyback initiative, and has no termination date.

Does it matter?
3M aims to have its cake and eat it, too. In announcing the new dividend and repurchase scheme, the company quoted its CEO Inge Thulin as saying that "[i]nvesting in our business remains priority one, while at the same time our strong and consistent cash generation also allows 3M to return significant cash to shareholders."

This has pretty much always been true of 3M, as it's a consistently profitable, cash generating behemoth of a company. For investors, the issue these days is growth; even though revenue and net profit beat expectations in the latest quarter, both metrics were down on a year-over-year basis. Declines in 3M's core industrials product category, plus steeper falls in the electronics and energy division, contributed to the overall drops.

Yet it should be kept in mind that over the many years it's been in business, 3M has proved to be an excellent performer. Its dividend, as always, is well within its financial means, and should continue to be so for the foreseeable future. It's sure to return to growth, and in the meanwhile these latest investor morale-boosting measures should inject some confidence in the stock.

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