ANGLO-Dutch oil giant Shell saw its first quarter earnings this year shoot up by 142 per cent from $3.8 billion (£2.94bn) from $1.6bn (£1.24bn) for the same period of last year.
Its profits on a current cost of supply measure which strips out price fluctuations jumped to $3.4bn (£2.6bn) from $1bn (£775m) last year – a rise of 136 per cent.
Royal Dutch Shell joins rivals BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Total in reporting better-than-expected results after a rise of 55 per cent in oil prices in the first quarter.
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Chief executive Ben van Beurden said Shell would be making $25bn (£19.3bn) of investments in new oil and gas projects this year.
In a statement, he said: “The first quarter 2017 was a strong quarter for Shell. Cash flow from operating activities of $9.5bn (£7.3bn) and free cash flow of $5.2bn (£4bn) enabled us to reduce debt, and cover our cash dividend for the third consecutive quarter.
“We saw notable improvements in upstream and chemicals, which benefited from improved operational performance and better market conditions.
“Our operations in Qatar are restarting during the second quarter. We continue to reshape Shell’s portfolio and to transform the company with over $20bn (£15.5bn) divestments completed or announced that will strengthen the balance sheet as they are completed.
“The strategy we have outlined to deliver a world-class investment case is taking shape. Following the successful integration of BG, we are rapidly transforming Shell through the consistent and disciplined execution of our strategy.
“This includes investing around $25bn this year and the delivery of new projects, which we expect to generate $10bn (£7.7bn) in cash flow from operating activities by 2018.”
Upstream – oil and gas production – activities saw a two per cent rise in the quarter to 3.752 million barrels of oil equivalent from 3.905 million in the fourth quarter of 2016. A number of new fields continued to increase output, particularly in Brazil and Kazakhstan. There was also a 20 per cent rise in earnings from refining, marketing and chemicals to $2.3bn (£1.9bn).
Investors welcomed the results, with Shell shares rising three per cent at the start of trading.
The world’s energy producers are reaping the benefits of higher oil prices following an agreement by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries to cut production. The cartel’s move helped Brent crude prices rise to an average of $54 a barrel in the first quarter of 2017 compared with almost $34 a barrel in the same period last year.
However, the price has slipped back recently and yesterday it was trading at around the $49.75 mark.
Analysts also welcomed the results, Nicholas Hyett, from Hargreaves Lansdown, saying they suggested that Shell was well on the way to recovery.
“It’s been some time since reading a set of oil results could be described as a pleasure, but today, Shell’s fit the bill,” he said.
“The improvement in upstream was to be expected given the oil price environment, and was actually slightly behind consensus, but the strong cash flow and lower debt are a pleasant surprise.
“Shell’s fortunes remain exposed to the oil price of course, and capital expenditure has been slashed. That can’t last forever, but today’s numbers suggest Shell is well on the way to recovery.”