Shell profits fall on tumbling oil prices and weaker margins

The firm has seen profitability strengthen in recent years but the fall in the price of Brent crude in December hit profits across the sector
The firm has seen profitability strengthen in recent years but the fall in the price of Brent crude in December hit profits across the sector

Royal Dutch Shell has seen profits drop on the back of tumbling oil prices and weaker margins.

The blue-chip firm posted statutory earnings of $5.3 billion (£4.1bn) for the first quarter, down 7% on the same period last year.

Underlying earnings fell 2%, surpassing expectations, as stronger trading and higher liquefied natural gas prices partially offset the drop in oil prices and refining profits.

Shell hailed the performance as “strong”, despite also suffering a 9% fall in cash flow from operating activities to $8.6bn (£6.6bn), compared with the same period in 2018.

Chief executive Ben van Beurden said: “Shell has made a strong start to 2019, with the first quarter financial performance demonstrating the strength of our strategy and the quality of our portfolio of assets.

“Our integrated value chain enabled our Downstream business to deliver robust results despite challenging market conditions.

“The consistent financial performance across all our businesses provides confidence in meeting our 2020 outlook.”

Shell also launched the next stage of its share buy-back programme, with the intention of purchasing $2.75bn (£2.1bn) of shares in the market over the next three months.

Mr van Beurden has been leading an ambitious cost-cutting drive since the industry was buffeted by the 2014 oil price crash.

The Anglo-Dutch firm has also seen profitability strengthen in recent years on the back of a rebound in the cost of crude, as earnings jumped 36% in 2018 to a four-year high.

However, the price of Brent crude oil sank to an 18-month low at the end of December, holding back profits in the sector.

Shell’s profit decline follows BP’s announcement on Tuesday that its profits dropped 12% in the three-month period.