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Record oil prices boost Shell and BP

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Reuters: Record oil prices boost Shell and BP

Tue Apr 29, 2008 9:57am BST
By Tom Bergin and Alex Lawler

LONDON (Reuters) – Record oil prices of over $100 a barrel helped Shell and BP shatter first-quarter profit forecasts on Tuesday.

Royal Dutch Shell announced a 12 percent rise in current cost of supply (CCS) net income to $7.85 billion (3.96 billion pounds) while BP was up 48 percent to $6.59 billion.

A Reuters poll of 11 analysts gave an average forecast of $6.84 billion for Shell’s first quarter CCS earnings, excluding non-operating items. The highest forecast was $6.99 billion.

“They look like blow-away numbers. Surprising across all divisions at this time,” said Jason Kenney, analyst at ING. “I can’t see anything in particular that is unusual, they’ve just done well.”

The Hague-based Shell delivered a surprise for investors with a small boost in output.

It said production averaged 3.52 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) in the first three months of the year, compared with 3.51 million boepd in the same period last year.

Analysts had predicted output would fall to 3.40 million boepd.

“The real positive is the upstream, both on the volumes and on the profitability,” said Herman Bots, analyst at Theodoor Gilissen.

Shell Chief Executive Jeroen van der Veer said the company’s results were “competitive” and its strategy was on track.

“Shell has the largest capital spending programme in our industry today, to grow the company and play our part in ensuring that energy markets remain well supplied,” he said in a statement.

After five years of falling production, the world’s second-largest non-government-controlled oil company by market capitalisation has been struggling to expand output.

Meanwhile BP’s results raised investor hopes that Chief Executive Tony Hayward’s restructuring was working, pushing the company’s shares up nearly 5 percent.

“The figures are very good,” said Tony Shepard, oil analyst at Charles Stanley.

The main driver of BP’s earnings was its core oil and gas production unit, which benefited from the high oil prices, although output was flat at 3.913 million boepd.

BP’s refining and marketing division turned in an unexpected $1.2 billion profit, despite lower crude processing margins and lower throughputs at its refineries.

Many analysts had expected a loss but a strong result from marketing aviation fuel and lubricants helped the company.

BP has underperformed rivals in recent years with delays on some key projects, fatal refinery accidents, oil leaks and U.S. investigations into its energy trading activities.

Hayward has been cutting management layers to improve delivery on projects, simplify decision-making and reduce costs.

However, a BP spokesman cautioned that the strong first-quarter earnings did not mean BP had completed its return to form, saying the results were flattered by a number of unusual items including BP’s oil and gas traders having a lucky quarter.

© Thomson Reuters 2008 All rights reserved.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/stocksNews/idUKNOA93135320080429?sp=true

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