Diversified technology provider 3M Co. (NYSE: MMM – $161.45) reported fourth-quarter earnings of $1.81 per share, an increase of 11.7% versus $1.62 in the fourth quarter of 2013 and a penny above consensus. Full year earnings were $7.49 per share, 11% higher than 2013 results. Sales grew 2.0% year-on-year to $7.7 billion, a bit shy of estimates. Organic local-currency sales grew 6.3%, but foreign currency translation reduced sales by 4.4%. Results were strong in all business segments with Electronics and Energy unit’s sales ahead by 3.3% to $1.4 billion on the strength of international markets, while U.S. growth was flat. The Industrial unit’s results, however, were driven by strength in the U.S., with Latin America/ Canada and Asia-Pacific also driving growth and posted $2.6 billion in sales, an increase of 1.4%. The company said sales in its Consumer division rose 2.2% to $1.1 billion, while its Health Care segment posted a 2.4% increase in sales to $1.4 billion. 3M’s Safety and Graphics business had a sales increase of 3.4% led by the personal safety and commercial solutions businesses. St. Paul, Minnesota-based 3M, which affirmed its outlook for the year, has been eager to seek acquisitions to boost earnings, even as it pursues a more conservative financial strategy. The company expects 2015 earnings to be in the range of $8.00 to $8.30 per share with organic local-currency sales growth of 3-6%, in the range of most analysts where the average is for $8.21. The company has been repurchasing shares at a strong clip and the dividend was increased in the first quarter by 20% to an annual rate of $4.12 per share, yielding 2.5% at current quotations. The high-quality shares, although not cheap at 19.6 times 2015 earnings estimates, can continue to be held in a well-diversified conservative account for solid long-term total returns.