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3M Tops Q1 Earnings Forecast; Pulls 2020 Guidance But Holds Dividend

3M said it will cut its capital spending plans in order to prioritize dividends in 2020, but is suspending its share buyback plans and pulling its full-year profit guidance.

3M Co.  (MMM)  posted stronger-than-expected first quarter earnings Tuesday, while pulling its full-year profit guidance and cutting its capital expenditure plans amid the coronavirus uncertainty.

3M said earnings for the three months ending in March were pegged at $2.16 per share, down 2.7% from the same period last year and 13 cents ahead of the Street consensus forecast. Group revenues, 3M said, rose 3% to $8.1 billion, again topping analysts' estimates of a $7.9 billion tally. 

The group also said it was cutting its full-year capital expenditure plans, but will keep its cash dividend in place. It will, however, suspend its share buyback plans and scrap its 2020 profit forecast. 

“Given the breadth and diversity of our businesses, the financial impact of COVID-19 is varying across 3M,” said CEO Mike Roman. “In the first quarter we saw strong growth in personal safety, as well as in other areas of our portfolio experiencing high demand due to the pandemic."

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"At the same time, we experienced weak demand in several end markets that were more severely impacted by actions taken around the world to slow the pandemic," he added. "Looking ahead, 3M is taking action that will help us navigate near-term uncertainty, generate strong cash flow, and lead out of the slowdown by delivering for employees, customers and shareholders.”

3M shares were marked 4.7% higher in early trading immediately following the earnings release to change hands at $160.58 each, a move that would trim the stock's year-to-date decline to around 9%.

Earlier this month, 3M said it would bring in around 166.5 million N95 masks from its facilities around the world, supplementing the 35 million it currently produces inside the United States, over the next three months.

That followed an agreement with Trump administration officials that ended several days of tension between 3M and the President, who had vowed invoke the 1950 Defense Production Act in order to make the Minnesota-based group produce more of the medical-grade respirators for use within the United States.