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Earnings Suggest the Worst is Behind 3M, but is MMM a Buy?

3M logo on building representing 3M stock

Tech stocks were supposed to be the focus of investors this week. But in mid-day trading on July 25, 3M (NYSE: MMM) stole the spotlight. MMM stock is up 5.7% after reporting a double beat in its second-quarter earnings report. 

The report shows that the company's price hike strategy is working, but whether the company can hold these gains remains to be seen.

One reason is that the company doesn't show in its adjusted earnings per share (EPS). That is, the company's adjusted EPS excluded a $14.19 per share charge that the company will pay to clean up "forever chemicals" found in water supplies. 

The agreement reached earlier this year makes 3M responsible for paying approximately $10.3 billion over the next 10 years. However, the company has acknowledged that the number could rise to as high as $12.5 billion if the level of chemicals in public water systems is higher than expected. 

And the company is still in litigation with the U.S. military over the company's Combat Arms Earplugs. Earlier this year, all parties were ordered into mediation, hoping to settle. That settlement will be another hit to the company's profits over time. 

3M Shows Some Pricing Power 

Despite concerns about ongoing litigation, 3M delivered a strong earnings report. Revenue of $7.99 billion exceeded expectations of $7.88 million. Adjusted EPS came in at $2.17, higher than the $1.73 expected. The company also increased its full-year profit outlook. 3M now expects to generate a profit between $8.60 and $9.10 a share. That's up from prior guidance between $8.50 to $9. 

One reason for rising profits includes raising prices to offset higher commodity prices. 3M has also been undertaking cost-cutting measures, including reducing its global workforce by 10%. 

At a time when the bar was low for 3M, it's not insignificant that the company climbed over it. However, both revenue and earnings are still lower on a year-over-year basis. And the numbers in 2022 were lower than in 2021. 

That's a trend that longtime MMM investors are all too familiar with. The stock is down approximately 40% in the last two years. 

It's Still About the Dividend for 3M 

The company didn't make a dividend announcement with its earnings report. History suggests that it will come sometime in August. And nothing in the earnings report suggests the dividend is in jeopardy. That's been the biggest concern among analysts who suggested that the company's liabilities from the settlements might pressure the dividend, with the presumption that 3M will announce a quarterly dividend of $1.50. 

That payout, combined with a yield currently at 5.42%, makes 3M stock attractive for income-oriented investors, particularly as they can continue accumulating shares at a 10-year low. 

But you may be disappointed if you're considering buying 3M stock for stock price growth. Heading into earnings, the MMM analyst ratings on MarketBeat had the stock at "reduce" with a consensus price target of $114.25. That's only about 3% above where the stock is after its earnings boost. At this point, no analyst has weighed in, but with uncertainty surrounding the company's profit outlook, analysts are unlikely to be raising their forecasts. 

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