The Bullish Case Remains in Place for 3M After Earnings Sell-Off

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3M Co. (NYSE: MMM) is not the most important conglomerate when it comes to market capitalization, but its high share price makes it the most important one in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. 3M shares are still up more than 10% so far in 2017, and that is even after close to 5% drop after last week’s earnings report.

While the consensus analyst price target from Thomson Reuters is around $205 (versus a $201.17 prior close), Merrill Lynch’s Andrew Obin and Anna Kaminskaya have reiterated a Buy rating on 3M, and they have raised their price objective to $227 from $225. That target is now just $7 shy of the street-high price target.

The analysts gave 10 reasons why investors should continue to own 3M shares. They also raised their earnings estimates from 2018 to 2020, and the new target is based on a valuation of 23.5 times 2018 earnings.

The 10 reasons to own 3M included: leverage to global and emerging market growth; benefits of a weak dollar; improving pricing in the second half; defensive stock keeps up; Portfolio management and management changes; higher margins; it is underowned by investors; it trades at discount to growth; and its multiple follows returns.

Merrill Lynch did acknowledge the weakness in 3M shares after earnings. The firm feels that investors do not fully understand 3M’s business model. They also feel that investors are overlooking the significance of 3M’s ongoing business transformation that will create a sustainable system of continuing operational improvement.

The firm’s investment rationale said:

3M’s lower cyclicality, high-return portfolio should be viewed positively by investors in the current low-growth, high-uncertainty macro environment. The company is well diversified across end markets and geographies and has a more defensive, less cyclical business model that is focused on shorter cycle products. 3M stock is defensive and tends to outperform its peers and the market during a recession.

Despite the weakness in the stock, Merrill Lynch is not alone in raising targets on 3M. Stifel previously raised its target price to $210 from $202.

After earnings, Credit Suisse retained its Outperform rating on 3M with a $229 target. Still, it noted that 3M may need to prove its pricing prowess to investors all over again. Credit Suisse raised its Blue Sky Scenario to $253 from $250 and also raised its Grey Sky Scenario to $178 from $176.

There were some analysts trimming their targets as well after last week’s earnings report:

  • RBC Capital Markets lowered its target price to $209 from $210.
  • Morgan Stanley lowered its price target to $191 from $193.
  • Citigroup lowered its target, but from a higher target of $230 to $228.

3M shares closed up 0.7% at $201.17 on Monday, and the stock was up 0.7% at $202.52 early on Tuesday. Its 52-week trading range is $163.85 to $214.57.

As the Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted index rather than by market cap like the S&P 500, 3M’s share price makes it the third highest weighting of the 30 Dow components, with a 6.3% weight. UTX has just a 3.7% weight, and GE has a mere 0.8% weight. That is a stark difference in the S&P 500 Index weightings, where GE’s $225 billion market cap gives it the 17th highest weighting. 3M’s $120 billion market cap gives it only the 39th spot in the S&P 500 Index, and United Tech’s $95 billion market cap is ranked at 51st place in the S&P 500 weightings.