April 24, 2012 / 11:55 AM / 6 years ago

3M profit exceeds expectations; graphics unit sags

(Reuters) - 3M Co (MMM.N) reported an increase in quarterly profit and slightly lifted its full-year outlook on Tuesday, exceeding analyst expectations even as the closely watched display and graphics business continued to struggle and Asia sales declined.

Major U.S. manufacturer 3M Co Chief Executive Officer George Buckley attends a news conference in Tokyo August 23, 2010. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao (JAPAN - Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT)

The maker of Post-It notes, Scotch tape and components for consumer electronics reported net earnings of $1.12 billion, or $1.59 per share, compared with $1.08 billion, or $1.49 per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average were expecting a profit of $1.49 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. The 2012 results included a 4 cent per share charge related to a voluntary retirement program.

The earnings report represents the first financial update since Inge Thulin, formerly 3M’s chief operating officer, took over for George Buckley as the company’s chief executive earlier this year.

“We are off to a very good start in 2012 with record first-quarter sales and strong earnings,” Thulin said in a press release. “I am confident in our ability to improve every aspect of our company.”

GRAPHICS STRUGGLES CONTINUE

Thulin took over following a record 2011 for 3M in terms of sales and earnings per share. The company has been growing through a string of acquisitions and strength in key business segments.

3M has seen weakness in Europe and Asia, however, and its graphics business has been a drag on its sales performance.

3M’s sales rose 2.4 percent to $7.5 billion during the first quarter, the company said. The revenue performance was in line with analyst expectations.

The company increased its forecast for 2012 earnings to a range of $6.35 and $6.50 per share, up from its prior range of $6.25 and $6.50 per share.

3M maintained its expectation for growth in organic sales of between 2 percent and 5 percent, and operating margins in a range of 21 percent to 22.5 percent.

The company reported increases in three of the five business segments it operates, including an transportation, safety and security services, office supplies and health care.

However, the company reported a 12 percent decline in its display and graphics business, and a 3.4 percent decline in its electro/communications business.

Sales increased in Latin America, Canada and the United States, and were flat in Europe. 3M reported a 2 percent sales decline in Asia.

Reporting By John D. Stoll; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick

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