Shell Braces For 'Lower Forever' Oil As Profits Soar
LONDON, July 27 (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell is gearing up for a world of "lower forever" oil prices, its Chief Executive Ben van Beurden said on Thursday, after the company's profits tripled in the second quarter.
The oil and gas industry has struggled with three years of weak prices while also facing the prospect of oil demand plateauing by the end of the next decade.
But Europe's largest energy company was able to boost its profits more than expected, increase cash flow to $12.2 billion and reduce debt thanks to asset sales and as big savings introduced since the oil price collapse kicked in.
But Shell's oil and gas production dipped versus the previous quarter as a result of reduced output from a facility in Qatar.
Van Beurden said with oil prices hovering around $50 a barrel and forecasts of only a modest recovery by the end of the decade, Shell was not planning to stop its cost cutting drive.
It was now "getting fit" to be profitable in a world where oil trades at $40 a barrel, he said.
"The external price environment and energy sector developments mean we will remain very disciplined."
Shell is one of the top three picks of analysts that cover global oil companies, together with Chevron and Total , Reuters data shows.
Shell's "performance is beginning to show the underlying potential of Shell's ability to generate operating cash flows in the current oil price environment," Brendan Warn, analyst at BMO Capital Markets, said. BMO has an "outperform" recommendation on Shell.
Shell's shares were up 0.3 percent at 1404 GMT, outperforming the broader index, which was down 0.5 percent.
Shell's European rivals Total and Statoil also beat analyst forecasts on Thursday.
Shell reiterated its plans to spend around $25 billion this year, at the lower end of its long-term range, but said it could cut further if needed.
Net income attributable to shareholders in the second quarter, based on a current cost of supplies and excluding exceptional items, rose 245 percent to $3.6 billion, topping a company-provided analyst consensus of $3.15 billion.
The rise in profits was driven mostly by refining and chemicals.
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