Royal Dutch Shell’s new boss got an early boost yesterday as the oil giant’s share price jumped on a 4 per cent rise in the dividend and a pledge of more asset sales.
Chief executive Ben van Beurden revealed that the group’s profits slumped 45 per cent to $4.5 billion (£2.7bn) from $8.2bn a year ago, largely due to large write-downs on refineries in Asia and Europe.
However, the shares rose 5 per cent initially, and later closed up nearly 3 per cent at 2,347p, as the firm declared a dividend of 47 cents (2013: 45 cents) and chief financial officer Simon Henry said a $5bn stock buyback programme in the quarter would continue. Henry said the group had made $11bn of divestments in the past 12 months, including more than $4bn in the first three months of 2014.
The group’s oil and gas output sank 9 per cent to 3.2 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, partly due to the difficult security situation in its important Nigerian market and licence expiries. Henry said Shell would stay on “the right side of the law” regarding any political sanctions against Russia resulting from developments in Ukraine and the Crimea.
The energy major has a key project in Sakhalin Island in Russia, but Henry said it would not be “jumping into” new investments in that country in the short term.
On any implications for the North Sea business of a potential Yes vote in the Scottish independence referendum, Henry said the company “does not take political positions”, but welcomed economic stability.