3M’s Bleak Outlook Sends Shares Plummeting

3M's Bleak Outlook Sends Shares Plummeting

Industrial conglomerate 3M forecasts lower-than-expected earnings for the year, citing a challenging macro environment and weak end markets.

Industrial conglomerate 3M has delivered a disappointing forecast for its full-year earnings, causing its shares to plummet by approximately 12%. The company attributes the bleak outlook to a muted macro environment and softness in key end markets, particularly China and consumer retail. The effects of higher interest rates and sticky inflation have led to a reduction in discretionary purchases, impacting 3M’s electronics business, which manufactures displays for smartphones and tablets. Additionally, the company faces challenges related to inventory reduction and ongoing lawsuits, further adding to its struggles.

1: Challenging End Markets and Soft Consumer Retail

3M’s Chief Financial Officer, Monish Patolawala, acknowledged the softness in China and consumer retail end markets during a call with analysts. The company’s electronics business has been significantly affected by customers cutting back on discretionary purchases due to higher interest rates and sticky inflation. These factors have led to a decline in demand for displays used in smartphones and tablets, impacting 3M’s overall profitability.

2: Inventory Reduction and Distribution Partner Caution

3M also faces challenges related to inventory reduction, particularly in the Greater China and Europe, Middle East, and Africa region. Distribution partners have exercised caution in anticipation of demand entering into 2024. This cautious approach has further impacted 3M’s business operations and has contributed to the company’s disappointing forecast for the year.

3: Restructuring Efforts and Cost Savings

In response to the challenging market conditions, 3M has implemented a major restructuring plan. This plan includes significant job cuts and the spinoff of its healthcare business into a separate listed company. The company expects to achieve cost savings of $700 million to $900 million from this restructuring effort. However, analysts have expressed disappointment with the company’s outlook, citing concerns about both the expected restructuring savings and the underlying operating margins of the business.

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4: Ongoing Lawsuits and Settlements

3M is also grappling with the fallout from lawsuits related to its Combat Arms earplugs and water pollution claims tied to “forever chemicals.” The company has reached a $10.3 billion settlement with numerous U.S. public water systems to resolve pollution claims. However, the impact of funding these settlements is not reflected in the company’s forecast.


3M’s disappointing forecast for full-year earnings reflects the challenges it faces in a muted macro environment and soft end markets. The reduction in discretionary purchases, particularly in China and consumer retail, has impacted the company’s electronics business. Furthermore, cautious inventory management by distribution partners and ongoing lawsuits have added to 3M’s struggles. The company’s restructuring efforts aim to achieve cost savings, but analysts remain concerned about the underlying operating margins. As 3M navigates these challenges, it will need to find innovative solutions and adapt to the changing market dynamics to regain investor confidence and drive future growth.