Mike Roman, chairman and CEO of 3M, said Tuesday the industrial giant expects demand for its N95 respirators to be robust through 2021, even as Covid vaccine delivery raises hopes that the intensity the pandemic is gradually subsiding.
The medical masks are considered the best option to protect against infection and have been in need – and sometimes in shortage – throughout the health crisis. 3M, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, began increasing production of N95 about a year ago when the novel coronavirus, which first appeared in China in late 2019, was a global concern.
“We expect the demand for our N95 respirators to be strong later this year,” Roman said Tuesday on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street. “We see the demand and needs of healthcare workers and first responders at the forefront. That is still our priority. We are focused on serving their demand as well as some critical industries that need this N95 protection.”
Roman’s comments came after 3M reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter results. Sales of $ 8.58 billion beat Wall Street’s projections of $ 8.4 billion, while earnings per share of $ 2.38 were 23 cents above estimates.
For the full year, 3M saw 12.3% sales growth in healthcare, which includes respirators and products such as hand sanitizers. The company’s total revenue of $ 32.2 billion in 2020 increased 0.1% from 2019.
3M distributed 2 billion respirators worldwide last year.
In addition to the short-term need for masks, Roman said another factor likely to fuel continued demand is governments looking to replenish their stocks. For example, the Associated Press reported in August that the US government’s national supply of personal protective equipment for health workers was nearly depleted at the time.
3M’s shares rose about 3% to nearly $ 176 apiece on Tuesday – basically unchanged since the start of the year and down slightly over the past 12 months.