An American medical mask producer saw its NZ profits swell 2,400% in 2021.

3M, a Fortune 500 company, was the main supplier of N95 masks to the Ministry of Health during the covid pandemic.

Between July 2020 and July 2022, nearly 92 million masks were supplied by 3M, an Official Information Act (OIA) request has revealed. 

This dwarfed competing suppliers. 

Grab & Go NZ Ltd, which normally sells emergency medical kits, supplied 10 million N95 masks back in March 2020, the second-highest unit delivery during this time. 

Overall, 3M supplied 85% of the N95 masks bought by the ministry during this time. 

BusinessDesk understands these sales were enabled by 3M’s pre-existing position as an approved supplier, with an established supply chain to hospitals and district health boards. 

Its NZ division, based in Albany, Auckland, registered a net profit of $15.4m in 2021, a staggering increase from $608,000 in 2020. 

A substantial factor in this rise is $6.9 million of unspecified actuarial gains, as part of its superannuation plan. Disregarding this sum, net profits still more than tripled (+262%).

Despite the outbreak of the pandemic, 3M’s 2020 revenue actually declined slightly (-2%) compared to 2019. Expenses increased greatly in 2020, with support services costing an additional $6 million, a 79% increase. 

These figures are a drop in the ocean of 3M’s global sales. Its most recent filings saw the company return US$5.9 billion (NZ$9.3b) in profits, leaving it ranked at 102 in the Fortune 500. 

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is just one aspect of 3M’s product portfolio. It also sells building materials, cleaning supplies, electronics, lubricants and office supplies. 

The OIA also revealed that five million N95 masks were supplied by Draeger NZ, based in East Tamaki, Auckland. The hospital and safety equipment provider is owned by Drägerwerk AG & Co in Lübeck, Germany.

One million N95 masks were also supplied by Zinc Group, a multinational marketing and supply chain specialist that pivoted into PPE, and 150,400 from toy manufacturer Zuru.

BusinessDesk asked 3M about the superannuation component of its reported profit, but the company did not respond.