Shell posted a first-quarter net profit of $9.65 billion on Thursday, topping analysts’ forecasts, as strong earnings from fuel trading and higher liquefied natural gas (LNG) sales offset cooling energy prices.
The stronger-than-expected profits followed a string of forecast-beating results from rivals including BP and Exxon Mobil as the sector continues to benefit from strong demand and price volatility. Norwegian rival Equinor also posted higher-than-expected quarterly profits on Thursday.
Lower natural gas prices in the quarter weighed on Shell’s giant integrated gas business, with profits slumping 18 percent to $4.9 billion. But this was broadly offset by a 139 percent jump in profits to $1.8 billion in its chemicals and refined products unit.
Shell’s shares were up 2.7 percent in early London trading.
Shell, the world’s top LNG trader, said LNG production rose in the quarter thanks to higher uptime at its Prelude floating facility off the coast of Australia.
Shell kept its dividend unchanged at $0.2875 per share and also kept the rate of its share repurchase program stable at $4 billion over the next three months, even as its cash generation fell in the quarter. It bought back $19 billion in shares in the year to February 2023, nearly double the total in pre-pandemic 2019.
Shell reported adjusted earnings of $9.65 billion in the first quarter, exceeding a company-provided analyst forecast of $8 billion. The company’s shares rose 2.5 percent in early London trading.
That compared with earnings of $9.1 billion a year earlier and $9.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022, when Shell reported a record annual profit of $40 billion.
Shell showed “strong operational performance in the quarter across all divisions, with oil and gas trading playing a key role,” Jefferies analyst Giacomo Romeo said in a note.
The British company maintained its 2023 capital spending plans unchanged in a range between $23 and $27 billion.
Shell Chief Executive Officer Wael Sawan has introduced a new management structure since taking office in January, including placing its renewables and low-carbon operations under the downstream division.