Oil giant Shell rebounds into profit in third quarter

Shell has already announced that it is seeking to axe up to 9,000 jobs or more than 10 percent of its global workforce in response to fallout from the deadly pandemic. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 30 October 2020

Oil giant Shell rebounds into profit in third quarter

  • Income boosted by modest recovery in global crude demand and more stable market

LONDON: Anglo-Dutch oil titan Royal Dutch Shell on Thursday logged third quarter net profit of $489 million (€415 million), rebounding after a vast coronavirus-driven loss in the prior three months.

Profit after tax for July-September was boosted by steadier oil prices and contrasted with a vast net loss of $18.1 billion in the second quarter, when Shell was slammed by Covid-19.

Earlier this year, oil prices dropped off a cliff — and even briefly turned negative — as airlines grounded planes worldwide, businesses closed their doors and the world economy tanked into a downturn.

Crude futures also crashed on the back of a vicious price war between key producers.

But in the third quarter, Shell was boosted by a modest recovery in global crude demand and the more stable oil market, having taken a colossal $16.8-billion charge in April-June.

Crude oil currently stands at just under $40 per barrel, still below the roughly $60 a barrel seen in the third quarter of last year, when the group posted a net profit of $5.9 billion.

Despite higher prices, the oil market remains depressed by the coronavirus health emergency which has slammed economic growth and savaged the world’s appetite for oil.

That has in turn sparked thousands of job losses across the energy sector and beyond.

Shell has already announced that it is seeking to axe up to 9,000 jobs or more than 10 percent of its global workforce in response to fallout from the deadly pandemic.

The company’s fierce rival BP, which posted a third quarter net loss of $450 million on Tuesday, is in the process of axing about 10,000 jobs or 15 percent of its staff.

“Our decisive actions taken earlier in the year have solidified our operational and cash delivery,” said Shell CEO Ben van Beurden, who oversees 80,000 staff across more than 70 countries.

“The strength of our performance gives us the confidence to lay out our strategic direction (and) resume dividend growth,” he added.

Shell added Thursday that it would increase its shareholder payout by about 4 percent to 16.65 US cents for the third quarter, and annually thereafter.

The group had stated in September that it was aiming to generate annual savings of between $2 billion and $2.5 billion via a massive restructuring drive. Although oil prices have rebounded to a steadier footing, the market has dived this week as traders fretted over the imposition of lockdowns in Europe to combat a second wave of COVID-19 infections.

World oil prices sank Thursday by another 5.0 percent on fears that new coronavirus lockdowns in Europe would further dent demand for crude.

Shell, meanwhile, warned over the outlook for the fourth quarter amid mounting concern over the pandemic’s resurgence.

“As a result of Covid-19, there continues to be significant uncertainty in the macroeconomic conditions with an expected negative impact on demand for oil, gas and related products,” it said.

“Furthermore, global developments and uncertainty in oil supply have caused volatility in 2020 in commodity markets.”


Fishing rights top Brexit talks agenda

Updated 30 November 2020

Fishing rights top Brexit talks agenda

  • A no-deal scenario is widely expected to cause economic chaos

LONDON: Last-ditch Brexit trade talks continued in London on Sunday with fishing rights remaining an “outstanding major bone of contention,” according to British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters that “work continues, even on a Sunday,” as he arrived for the second day of talks.

Barnier had arrived in London on Friday following a spell in self-isolation after a member of his team contracted coronavirus and ahead of the resumption of talks with British counterpart David Frost on Saturday.

Both men warned that a deal could not be reached without major concessions from the other party.

There are only five weeks to go until the end of the current transition period, during which trade relations have remained largely unchanged.

The two key sticking points remain post-Brexit access to British fishing waters for European vessels and the EU’s demand for trade penalties if either side diverges from common standards or state aid regulations rules.

Raab told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that this could be the final week of “substantive” talks, with time running out to agree and ratify a deal.

“There’s a deal to be done,” he said.

“On fishing there’s a point of principle: As we leave the EU we’re going to be an independent coastal state and we’ve got to be able to control our waters,” he added.

Barnier told envoys last week that London was asking that European access to UK waters be cut by 80 percent, while the EU was willing to accept 15 to 18 percent, according to a Brussels source.

A British official called the demands “risible,” according to the domestic Press Association, adding that the “EU side knows full well that we would never accept this.”

“There seems to be a failure from the Commission to internalize the scale of change needed as we become an independent nation,” said the source.

However, Raab was cautiously optimistic over the “level playing field” issue, saying “it feels like there is progress toward greater respect” for Britain’s position.

A failure to reach an agreement would see Britain and the EU trading on World Trade Organization terms, with tariffs immediately imposed on goods traveling to and from the continent.

As it stands, Britain will leave Europe’s trade and customs area on Dec. 31, with no prospect of an extension.

A no-deal scenario is widely expected to cause economic chaos, with customs checks required at borders.

Concern is particularly acute on the border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland, where the sudden imposition of a hard border threatens the delicate peace secured by 1999’s Good Friday Agreement.

The talks have already dragged on much longer than expected and time is running out for ratification of any deal by the European Parliament by the end of the year.