NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Shares of 3M (MMM) - Get 3M Company Report , the maker of Scotch Tape and Post-it Notes, never trade lower than their fair market value, and right now they are way too expensive.
Shares are now around $149, up over 6% for the year to date compared with the 1.3% gain in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) for the same period. But these shares aren't expected to go much higher. Among the 19 investment analysts polled by CNN Money, the current consensus for 3M shares is to hold the stock. The reason has to do with the gains the stock has already made and the company's profit projections.
Expect a pullback to the $130 range, or 12.5% lower, because all of the good news is already priced in about the company's recent financial results. It seems the only thing not priced in are the risks to the business.
For the most recent quarter, the company reported a 11.2% year-over-year jump in earnings per share, beating estimates by 2 cents.
3M projects full-year earnings per share in the range of $7.40 to $7.50, which is in line with the consensus of estimates at $7.47 per share, according to CNN Money. So based on these estimates, the stock is priced at a forward multiple of 19.92, according to Ycharts.
This forward price-to-earnings ratio is 4.57 points and 2.6 points higher than General Electric (GE) - Get General Electric Company (GE) Report and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) - Get Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) Report , respectively. On a trailing basis, 3M's P/E of 20.36 is already 0.26 percentage points higher than the average P/E of companies in the S&P 500, according to CNN Money.
So where's the value?
3M shares seldom get cheap. First, the company operates an efficient business. Its operating margin of 22.27%, as of the most recent quarter ending Sept. 30, places the stock price higher among its peer group. Plus, that 22.27% margin beats GE by almost five percentage points.
But with revenue growth of just 2.79% in the most recent quarter, falling 1.22% shy of estimate, those margins aren't likely to help in the next several quarters -- not to the extent that it supports, say, a 10% increase in the stock price.
Second, the company has been aggressively buying back its own stock, including scooping up $1.2 billion worth of its shares in the recent quarter.
As for margins, 3M is likely to experience headwinds in international markets. Central/East Europe and Middle East/Africa grew in the mid single-digits while West Europe declined 0.5%. The company's strategy is to grow internationally. But it doesn't appear there's much growth to speak of as of right now -- at least not when weighed against the U.S. dollar.
For instance, in local currencies 3M earned 0.8% more in profits. But it represented a 1.3% decline in U.S. dollars. 3M will find profits even harder to come by as the U.S. dollar strengthens, especially since the company generates more of its revenue in international markets than it does in the U.S.
For a stock that's already expensive, that spells more risk to the investor.
At the time of publication, the author held no position in any of the stocks mentioned.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
TheStreet Ratings team rates 3M CO as a Buy with a ratings score of A. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:
"We rate 3M CO (MMM) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, solid stock price performance, growth in earnings per share, notable return on equity and good cash flow from operations. Although the company may harbor some minor weaknesses, we feel they are unlikely to have a significant impact on results."
You can view the full analysis from the report here: MMM Ratings Report