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3M revenue growth slows, misses Wall Street target

3M Company's respirator masks are displayed in Encinitas, California April 22. 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake
3M Company's respirator masks are displayed in Encinitas, California April 22. 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) - Diversified manufacturer 3M Co reported lower-than-expected quarterly sales on Thursday, hurt by declines in its consumer business and slowing growth in Latin America.

Revenue rose 2.5 percent to $7.57 billion in the fourth quarter, below the analysts' average estimate of $7.71 billion.

Analysts expressed disappointment in the region that includes Latin America and Canada, where sales growth slowed significantly, and in the decline in revenue in the consumer business, which includes stationery and office supplies.

Shares of 3M fell 1.9 percent to $127.77 in morning trading.

"Maybe this is a read-through that we're still in a slow-growth environment," said Morningstar analyst Adam Fleck, noting that 3M's revenue increase had slowed from 5.6 percent in the third quarter.

The company, whose products include Post-it notes and film for flat-panel televisions, backed its 2014 financial targets, including revenue growth of 3 percent to 6 percent.

3M said fourth-quarter net income rose to $1.1 billion, or $1.62 per share, from $991 million, or $1.41 per share, a year earlier.

The results were in line with the analysts' average estimate, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

However, Sanford Bernstein analyst Steven Winoker said earnings had benefited from a lower-than-expected tax rate, and he described the results as an "operational miss."

Sales in Latin America and Canada increased 2.2 percent after rising 10.5 percent in the third quarter and 8.5 percent in the second quarter. On a conference call, executives said weak sales in Venezuela had brought down results in the region.

Last month, 3M said it would spend $5 billion to $10 billion on acquisitions through 2017, including possible "multibillion-dollar" transactions. It also expects to pay $17 billion to $22 billion for share repurchases in that time.

(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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