These days, just making Post-it notes and Scotch tape is not enough to keep growing. Just ask 3M (NYSE: MMM), which owns the brands. Three years ago, a newly promoted CEO realized the company needed to do more to expand. The first step was a reorganization, and now 3M is both buying and selling along new lines.
In late 2012, several months after being promoted from chief operating officer to chief executive, Inge Thulin reorganized the St. Paul, Minnesota-based company, consolidating six divisions: health care; industrial; consumer; electronics and energy; and safety and graphics.
Lately, 3M has been realigning the part of the safety and graphics division that makes helmets, harnesses and other safety equipment through acquisitions and divestitures. The division owns the Diamond Grade, EAR, Peltor, Scotchlite and Speedglas brands.
3M recently completed the $2.5 billion acquisition of harness maker Capital Safety from Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (NYSE: KKR). Thulin called the purchase an important step in expanding the division. “Personal safety is a large and strategically important growth business in the 3M portfolio,” Thulin says.
In tandem with looking for acquisitions, 3M has been divesting. Recently, 3M sold its 40-year-old library systems division, which provides a slew of digital lending, security and productivity services and boasts $100 million in annual sales. The buyer was One Equity Partners Capital Advisors LP, the private equity arm of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM).
“After a thorough strategic review, we have decided to exit the Library Systems business, and focus on our core businesses, such as reflective traffic safety and vehicle identification solutions,” says John Riccardi, general manager of 3M’s traffic safety and security division. With companies constantly looking to improve safety practices, the industry is likely to generate attractive targets for 3M.