3M ramps up production of masks to meet coronavirus demand


A customer holds boxes of 3M Co. 8247 R95 particulate respirators at a pharmacy in the Central district of Hong Kong, China, on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020.

Justin Chin | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The CEO of industrial giant 3M said Tuesday that the company is increasing production of its respiratory protection products, such as masks, to meet demand caused by the outbreak of coronavirus.

Mike Roman said on a conference call for 3M’s fourth quarter results that the company is raising production around the world to make more of the products. The conglomerate company makes masks that people wear to cover their mouths and noses.

“We’re seeing increased demand for our respiratory protection products, and we’re ramping up our production, in China and around the world, to meet that demand,” Roman said.

Coronavirus has now spread to more than 10 countries, with nearly 4,700 confirmed cases and over 100 deaths.

Shares of 3M were down 4.4% in early trading on Tuesday. The company missed Wall Street expectations on the top and bottom lines for its fourth quarter and announced a new batch of job cuts.

Despite the increased demand for respiratory protection products, the travel restrictions and shutdown of companies in China due to the virus could hamper 3M’s performance in the country overall, Roman said. The first part of the year was already looking like a rough patch for the company before the outbreak, Roman said.

“Before we got to the past couple of weeks, with the coronavirus really becoming the focus, we were looking at a sluggish start to China in first quarter, really based on automotive,” Roman said.

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