Shell's earnings drop, still posts $1.2B

Royal Dutch Shell's (RDS) fourth quarter 2009 earnings, on a current cost of supplies (CCS) basis, were $1.2 billion compared to $4.8 billion a year ago. Basic CCS earnings per share decreased by 76% versus the same quarter a year ago. 

Fourth quarter 2009 CCS earnings, excluding identified items, were $2.8 billion compared to $3.9 billion in the fourth quarter 2008. Full year 2009 earnings, on a current cost of supplies (CCS) basis, were $9.8 billion compared to $31.4 billion a year ago. Basic CCS earnings per share decreased by 69% versus a year ago. Cash flow from operating activities for the fourth quarter 2009 was $5.7 billion. Net capital investment for the quarter was $7.2 billion. Total dividends paid to shareholders during the fourth quarter 2009 were $2.6 billion. Gearing at the end of the fourth quarter 2009 was 15.5%. 

Royal Dutch Shell Chief Executive Officer Peter Voser commented: "Our fourth quarter 2009 results were impacted by the weak global economy. Oil prices have increased compared to a year ago, but gas prices and refining margins have declined sharply, because of weaker demand and high industry inventory levels. We are not assuming that there will be a quick recovery, and the outlook for 2010 is uncertain. 

Our strategy is on track, although the near-term industry outlook does remain challenging. We are taking steps to improve our performance, to bridge the company, and our shareholders, into a period of significant growth in the coming years. 

We are making good progress on our plans to raise Shell's competitive performance. The Transition 2009 programme, which was launched in mid-2009, is now completed. We have reduced complexity in the company, and our new organisation, announced in July 2009, is now fully up and running. Our Upstream organisation is simpler and our new Projects & Technology organisation makes for better technical integration on bigger projects and a sharper innovation focus along the value chain. 

These changes, combined with our global Downstream organisation, and continued streamlining in the corporate functions, have created a powerful platform for future performance. We're seeing a new way of working in Shell, with increased empowerment and accountability for our people. 

As a result of our actions in 2009, some 5,000 employees will leave Shell, a reduction of 10% in the impacted areas. We have reduced underlying operating costs by some $1 billion in the fourth quarter 2009, and by over $2 billion in 2009 compared to 2008. 

Downstream is facing some tough times. There is a significant overhang of industry refining capacity, exacerbated by the economic downturn. That's why we have initiatives underway to refocus Shell's Downstream footprint into fewer, more profitable markets with growth potential, through disposals and selective growth investment. 

In 2009, Shell sold some $1.2 billion of non-core Downstream assets, bringing the five year total to $11 billion, and in early 2010 announced plans to close the 130 thousand barrels per day (b/d) Montreal East refinery in Canada. Asset sales will continue in 2010, with some 560 thousand b/d of refining capacity, 15% of Shell's total, and selected marketing positions, under review. 

Cost focus is now embedded in our day-to-day operations. For 2010, we are targeting a further underlying cost reduction of at least $1 billion, and a reduction of some 1,000 employees. Much of this will come from Downstream and ongoing cost initiatives in the corporate functions. 

I am pleased with the portfolio progress in 2009. We had successful start-ups of Sakhalin II in Russia and BC-10 in Brazil, and these projects, plus Ormen Lange in Norway have completed their production ramp-ups. We have taken final investment decisions on two substantial new projects; Gorgon LNG in Australia, and Caesar/Tonga in the deep water Gulf of Mexico, and launched a front-end engineering and design study for floating LNG for the Prelude gas field in Australia. Exploration and appraisal performance in 2009 has been strong, with particularly good results in North America tight gas and Western Australia gas. I see exciting opportunities for the medium-term." 

Fourth quarter 2009 portfolio developments

In Australia, Shell confirmed that it has accepted Woodside Petroleum Ltd.'s entitlement offer of new shares at a total cost of $0.8 billion, maintaining its 34.27% share in the company.

In Iraq, Shell was awarded a contract as lead operator in developing the Majnoon field (Shell share 45%). Production is expected to reach 1.8 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d), up from a current level of approximately 45 thousand boe/d (100% basis). In addition, Shell was awarded a 15% share in a contract for the development of the West Qurna 1 field. 

Shell has agreed an asset swap to acquire assets in Gabon and in the UK North Sea, in return for its interest in a pair of Norwegian offshore fields. This transaction, which is still subject to government approval and other requisite consents, is a strategic trade and no cash payment is involved. 

In Egypt, Shell signed agreements to acquire a 40% holding and become the operator on the Alam El Shawish West Concession, where oil and gas discoveries have been confirmed. 

In Bolivia and Brazil, Shell has sold its share in a gas pipeline and in a thermoelectric power plant and its related assets for a total of $100 million. 

During 2009, Shell participated in 10 discoveries, in Australia, the US Gulf of Mexico, Malaysia and Norway. Shell is seeing particularly strong results from exploration and appraisal drilling in the North American Haynesville and Groundbirch tight gas areas, and offshore Western Australia. Shell also increased its overall acreage position, completing acquisitions of new exploration licences in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Guyana, Italy, Jordan, Norway and the USA and successfully bidding for new licences in Egypt, South Africa and French Guiana. 

In Singapore, Shell announced the successful start-up of its new world-scale monoethylene glycol (MEG) unit at the Shell Eastern Petrochemicals Complex with a nameplate capacity of 750 thousand tonnes per annum.
Also in Singapore, Shell sold 49% of its share in two chemicals joint ventures (Petrochemical Corporation of Singapore and The Polyolefin Company).

In Australia and New Zealand, Shell announced the sale of its share in two bitumen joint ventures. The sale will be concluded in several phases and finalised by 2014.



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