3M profit beats as N95 mask demand surges due to Omicron

3M Co. said on Tuesday demand for its N95 respirators had picked up due to a surge in Omicron-related COVID-19 cases, while reporting better-than-expected quarterly profit as more people purchased its air filters and Scotch-branded products.

In December, the United States reported record high COVID-19 cases and hospitalization rates caused by the more transmissible Omicron variant that spurred demand for 3M’s respirators.

However, the company, which is the biggest maker of N95 respirators in the United States, anticipates that the demand will wane in 2022. It reported a 4% fall in its respirator sales for 2021.

The Dow Industrial Average component reported upbeat fourth-quarter profit and revenue on the back of strong demand for its home improvement and personal safety products.

The company’s iconic Post-it-branded products also saw a surge in sales despite workplace reopenings being pushed back due to the resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

The Saint Paul, Minn.-based company continues to navigate supply chain disruptions, raw material and logistics cost inflation and a semiconductor shortage.

“We think macro-related headwinds plus the spread of Omicron somewhat increases near-term growth/earnings volatility for the company,” Citi analyst Andrew Kaplowitz said.

3M further pushed its prices high to combat the costs and inflationary pressures. “Our selling price actions continue to gain traction as we went through the quarter,” chief financial officer Monish Patolawala said on a call with analysts.

3M’s transportation & electronics and safety & industrial units saw 1.5% and 2.2% declines in sales.

Net income attributable to 3M fell to US$1.34 billion, or US$2.31 per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from US$1.41 billion, or US$2.41 per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of US$2.02 per share, according to Refinitiv data.

Net sales edged 0.3% higher to US$8.61 billion, beating estimates of US$8.55 billion.

(Reporting by Aishwarya Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

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