Royal Dutch Shell said fourth-quarter earnings tumbled 44 percent as the collapse in oil prices took its toll on another global energy giant.
Profit adjusted for changes in the value of inventories and one-time items dropped to $1.83 billion from $3.26 billion in the same period a year earlier, the Anglo-Dutch company said Thursday.
The results came days after Shell sealed a $52.4 billion takeover of BG Group Plc, which will increase the company’s proven reserves of oil and natural gas by 25 percent. While critics questioned the deal because of the plummeting price of oil, CEO Ben van Beurden promised it would rejuvenate Shell.
The BG deal comes as Shell and other oil companies are slashing jobs and postponing investments to adjust the bottom line to the dramatically lower oil prices.
Jobs will also be eliminated in the Shell-BG deal and other efforts to boost competitive performance. In a statement released last month just before shareholders voted on the BG merger, Shell said that streamlining and integration from the deal and other cost cutting would include the loss of 10,000 staff and contractor positions across both companies in 2015-2016.
“In 2015, we significantly curtailed spending by reducing the number of new investment decisions and designing lower-cost development solutions,” van Beurden said. “Shell will take further impactful decisions to manage through the oil price downturn, should conditions warrant that.”
Oil prices have been falling for over a year. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil, hit a 12-year low of $27.10 a barrel in January, having been above $100 a barrel in September 2014. It traded at $33.54 on Wednesday.
Shell cut capital investment by $8.4 billion to $28.9 billion and slashed operating costs by $4.1 billion to $41.1 billion for 2015. The company expects another $3 billion in cuts this year. Net income improved 58 percent to $939 million.
Van Beurden told reporters in a webcast that he expected prices would rebound later in the year or in the early part of next year. The fundamentals point to a higher price, he said.
“Can oil prices go lower? I’m sure they can. Will they go lower? I don’t know,” he said. “If you look at … the slightly longer run, you are not going to see structurally lower oil prices in the $30s.”
The report comes amid sweeping changes for the company. Shell has exited from exploring in Alaska for the foreseeable future and cancelled the Carmon Creek heavy oil project.
Oil supplies are high even though consumption growth has tailed off, particularly in China. OPEC members, meanwhile, haven’t wanted to cut production — even at a time Iran wants to turn on the taps after decades of sanctions.
Campaign groups like Greenpeace suggest it’s time the oil companies focused on other forms of energy, citing more electric cars, solar panels, and better-insulated homes.
“Shell and BP have bet heavily on the wrong energy sources, and now they’re losing big,” Greenpeace UK’s senior climate adviser Charlie Kronick said. “The problem is that with thousands of jobs, billions in investments and people’s pensions tied up with their companies’ fortunes, Big Oil’s bosses won’t be the only ones to pay for their shortsightedness.”
Gold Prices Rise as Soft Dollar Supports Safe-haven Appeal
Gold prices firmed on Monday, propped up by a subdued dollar and slight retreat in the U.S. Treasury yields, with investors gearing up for a week of speeches from U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers for cues on the central bank’s rate hike path.
Spot gold was up 0.5% at $1,759.06 per ounce, as of 0400 GMT, while U.S. gold futures were up 0.4% at $1,759.00.
While the dollar index softened, the benchmark 10-year Treasury yields eased after hitting their highest since early-July. A weaker dollar offered support to gold prices, making bullion cheaper for holders of other currencies.
“Gold is still looking slightly precarious where it is right now, and it’s probably bouncing off key technical level around $1,750,” IG Market analyst Kyle Rodda said.
“Gold remains an yield story and that yield story is very much tied back to the tapering story.”
A slew of Fed officials are due to speak this week including Chairman Jerome Powell, who will testify this week before Congress on the central bank’s policy response to the pandemic.
“There’ll be a lot of questions being put to Fed speakers about what the dot plots implied last week and weather there is higher risk of heightened inflation going forward and that rate hikes could be coming in the first half of 2022,” Rodda added.
A pair of Federal Reserve policymakers said on Friday they felt the U.S. economy is already in good enough shape for the central bank to begin to withdraw support for the economy.
Gold is often considered a hedge against higher inflation, but a Fed rate hike would increase the opportunity cost of holding gold, which pays no interest.
Investors also kept a close watch on developments in debt-laden property giant China Evergrande saga as the firm missed a payment on offshore bonds last week, with further payment due this week.
Holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, increased 0.1% to 993.52 tonnes on Friday from 992.65 tonnes in the prior session.
Silver rose 0.9% to $22.61 per ounce.
Platinum climbed 1.3% to $994.91, while palladium gained 0.7% to $1,985.32.
Brent Crude Oil Near $80 Per Barrel Amid Supply Constraints
Oil prices rose for a fifth straight day on Monday with Brent heading for $80 amid supply concerns as parts of the world sees demand pick up with the easing of pandemic conditions.
Brent crude was up $1.14 or 1.5% at $79.23 a barrel by 0208 GMT, having risen a third consecutive week through Friday. U.S. Oil added $1.11 or 1.5% to $75.09, its highest since July, after rising for a fifth straight week last week.
“Supply tightness continues to draw on inventories across all regions,” ANZ Research said in a note.
Rising gas prices as also helping drive oil higher as the liquid becomes relatively cheaper for power generation, ANZ analysts said in the note.
Caught short by the demand rebound, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies, known as OPEC+, have had difficulty raising output as under-investment or maintenance delays persist from the pandemic.
China’s first public sale of state oil reserves has barely acted to cap gains as PetroChina and Hengli Petrochemical bought four cargoes totalling about 4.43 million barrels.
India’s oil imports hit a three-month peak in August, rebounding from nearly one-year lows reached in July, as refiners in the second-biggest importer of crude stocked up in anticipation of higher demand.
Oil Holds Near Highest Since 2018 With Global Markets Tightening
Oil held steady near the highest close since 2018, with the global energy crunch set to increase demand for crude as stockpiles fall from the U.S. to China.
Futures in London headed for a third weekly gain. Global onshore crude stocks sank by almost 21 million barrels last week, led by China, according to data analytics firm Kayrros, while U.S. inventories are near a three-year low. The surge in natural gas prices is expected to force some consumers to switch to oil, tightening the market further ahead of the northern hemisphere winter.
China on Friday sold oil to Hengli Petrochemical Co. and a unit of PetroChina Co. in the first auction of crude from its strategic reserves said traders with the knowledge of the matter. Grades sold included Oman, Upper Zakum and Forties.
Oil has rallied recently after a period of Covid-induced demand uncertainty, with some of the world’s largest traders and banks predicting prices may climb further amid the energy crisis. Global crude consumption could rise by an additional 370,000 barrels a day if natural gas costs stay high, according to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
“Underpinning the latest bout of price strength is a tightening supply backdrop,” said Stephen Brennock, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates Ltd.
Various underlying oil market gauges are also pointing to a strengthening market. The key spread between Brent futures for December and a year later is near $7, the strongest since 2019. That’s a sign traders are positive about the market outlook.
At the same time, the premium options traders are paying for bearish put options is the smallest since January 2020, another indication that traders are less concerned about a pullback in prices.
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