3M to Cut Jobs as Demand for Its Products Weakens

3M to Cut Jobs as Demand for Its Products Weakens

3M Co.

said it is cutting 2,500 manufacturing jobs globally as the company confronts turbulence in overseas markets and weakening consumer demand.

The maker of Scotch tape, Post-it Notes and thousands of other industrial and consumer products said Tuesday that it expects lower sales and profit in 2023 after demand weakened significantly in late 2022, pulling down quarterly performance.

The St. Paul, Minn., company forecast sales this year to slip from last year’s level with weak demand for consumer products and electronic items, particularly smartphones, tablets and televisions, for which 3M provides components. Fourth-quarter sales for 3M’s consumer business dropped nearly 6% from the same period a year earlier.

“Consumers sharply cut discretionary spending and retailers adjusted their inventory levels,” 3M Chief Executive

Mike Roman

said during a conference call. “We expect the demand trends we saw in December to extend through the first half of 2023.”

3M shares were down 5.2% at $116.25 Tuesday afternoon, while major U.S. stock indexes were little changed.

The company said demand for its disposable face masks is receding, as healthcare providers spend less on Covid-19 measures, and mask demand returns to prepandemic levels. 3M said it expects mask sales to decline by $450 million to $550 million this year from 2022.

3M executives said the spread of Covid infections in China is weighing on sales there, and sporadic plant closings are interrupting industrial production. China also is reducing production of consumer electronics because of weakening consumer demand, they said, and 3M’s exit from its business in Russia last year will also contribute to lower sales this year.

The 2,500 layoffs represent roughly 2.6% of the company’s workforce, which a regulatory filing said was about 95,000 at the end of 2021. Mr. Roman declined to specify where the job cuts will take place, or whether the company might make further reductions as it reviews its supply chains and prepares to spin off its healthcare unit.

“We’re looking at everything that we do as we manage through the challenges that we’re facing in the end markets and we focus on driving improvements,” he said.

The company said it would take a pretax restructuring charge in the first quarter of $75 million to $100 million.

Mr. Roman said the job cuts were unrelated to litigation facing the company. 3M is defending against allegations that the so-called forever chemicals it has produced for decades have contaminated soil and drinking water. It is also involved in litigation over foam earplugs its subsidiary Aearo Technologies LLC sold to the military. About 230,000 veterans have filed complaints in federal court alleging the earplugs failed to protect them from service-related hearing loss.

3M has said the earplugs were effective when military personnel were given sufficient training on how to use them. In litigation over firefighting foam that incorporated forms of forever chemicals, 3M is expected to argue that the products were produced to U.S. military specifications, granting the company legal protection as a government contractor.

In both cases, Mr. Roman said the company is focused on finding a way forward.

3M said the strong value of the U.S. dollar continues to erode sales from other countries when foreign currencies are converted to dollars.

The company forecast that sales for the quarter ending March 31 will be down 10% to 15% from the same period last year. For the full year, the company projects sales to fall between 6% and 2%, and expects adjusted earnings of $8.50 a share to $9 a share. The company earned $10.10 a share in 2022, excluding special charges, and analysts surveyed by FactSet were expecting the company to earn $10.22 in 2023.

For the fourth quarter, the company posted a profit of $541 million, or 98 cents a share, compared with $1.34 billion, or $2.31 a share, a year earlier.

Stripping out one-time items, including costs tied to exiting the company’s operations making forever chemicals, adjusted earnings came to $2.28 a share. Analysts were looking for adjusted earnings of $2.36 a share, according to FactSet.

Sales fell 6% to $8.08 billion for the quarter, slightly topping expectations of analysts surveyed by FactSet.

Mr. Roman said there were promising signs for some of 3M’s businesses, including in biopharma processing, home improvement and automotive electrification, the last of which he said grew 30% in 2022 to become a roughly $500 million business.

“There’s more to it than consumer electronics, but certainly the consumer-electronics dynamics are the story of the day,” he said.

Write to John Keilman at john.keilman@wsj.com and Bob Tita at robert.tita@wsj.com

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