Tuesday 1 November 2016 9:25 am

Shell swings to profit but remains cautious with an eye on low oil prices

It's not a bad day for Royal Dutch Shell. It reported an 18 per cent rise in underlying net profit for the third quarter and beat analysts' forecasts in the process. 

Chief executive Ben van Beurden doesn't want anybody getting too ahead of themselves though – he says "the outlook remains uncertain" as lower oil prices continue to prove a headache for the company.

Read more: Shell shares drop as it reports 72 per cent drop in earnings

The figures

Adjusted earnings were up 18 per cent at $2.79bn (£2.28bn) – analysts surveyed by Bloomberg forecast $1.79bn.

Quarterly profit on a current cost-of-supplies basis was $1.4bn, up from a loss of $6.1bn in the third quarter of last year.

Shell expects capital investment to be about $25bn in 2017, at the bottom of its $25bn to $30bn guidance.

Cash flow from operating activities was $8.5bn, including favourable working capital movements of $700m.

Shares were up 3.5 per cent at 2,188p in early trading.

Why it's interesting

Shell had a bit of making up to do after recording underwhelming second quarter results (its first full quarter after completing the BG acquisition) by missing expectations by around 50 per cent.

Now the acquisition looks to be paying off. It boosted oil production, which helped to fend off a slump in prices.

Still, with Brent crude prices still hovering around the $46 mark, the third quarter was not an easy time to be an oil major – but Shell said its better-than-expected results reflected a "strong operational and cost performance".

But chief executive Ben van Beurden struck a cautious tone, saying lower oil prices "continue to be a significant challenge". 

What Shell said

Shell's chief executive Ben van Beurden said:

Shell delivered better results this quarter, reflecting strong operational and cost performance. But lower oil prices continue to be a significant challenge across the business, and the outlook remains uncertain.

The integration of Shell and BG is now essentially done and has been completed well ahead of plan. It’s been an important catalyst for the significant and lasting changes we are making to the company’s working practices, cost structure and portfolio.In parallel with the integration, we have been managing the company through the down-cycle by reducing costs and investment levels, while executing our asset sales plans and starting up new projects.

In short

A solid turnaround after the disappointment from its second quarter results, and beginning to reap the benefits of its BG acquisition.