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VICIOUS JOB CUTS – THE INEVITABLE RESPONSE BY SHELL TO PREVIOUS DOWNTURNS

LEAKED INTERNAL MESSAGE FROM ROYAL DUTCH SHELL PLC CEO BEN VAN BEURDEN TO ALL SHELL EMPLOYEES

“…there is no panic. We know what levers we can pull in downturns, even dramatic ones…”

(THE UNSTATED LEVER OF DRAMATIC JOB CUTS – SHELL’S INEVITABLE RESPONSE TO PREVIOUS DOWNTURNS)

Colleagues,

2020 has not started the way that any of us had expected, or hoped. COVID-19 began impacting our colleagues in China in late January, and since then has created health impacts all around us. Four of our colleagues who had been suffering from COVID-19 have tragically lost their lives – something that saddens me deeply. The virus has shut-down normal life as we know it in every country where Shell operates.

Amid everything, I am so proud of the countless stories I hear, emerging from all around the world, of how Shell people are showing care at this incredibly difficult time. Care for each other as colleagues, both those now working from home with all the challenges that entails, and especially those who are leaving their homes every day to keep our service stations, plants, platforms and facilities running to provide vital energy and supplies to customers and indeed entire countries.

Care also for our customers, implementing measures to keep them safe at our retail sites but also supporting home-energy customers with flexible payment plans, and of course keeping our commercial customers driving, flying if they can, and supplied with the LNG, chemicals and other products that they need. And care for the communities in which we live and work, whether volunteering individually or helping Shell provide hand sanitiser ingredients, meals, or other much-needed practical or financial support. Thank you for the many and incredible ways in which you are stepping up in these challenging times.

Today we announce our first quarter results. The market volatility triggered by COVID-19 is of course hitting us hard, and will continue to do so for several quarters to come. Oil and gas prices have already fallen dramatically this year as the pandemic has significantly reduced demand for oil and gas. Despite the extremely challenging economic conditions, Shell has delivered good earnings of $2.9 billion and cash flow from operations, excluding working capital movements, of $7.4 billion. Our return on average capital employed, on a CCS earnings basis excluding identified items, was 6.1% and at the end of Q1 2020, our gearing was 28.9%. (You can find more detail on our results in our quarterly results announcement.)

However, the full impacts of COVID-19, on a global basis, only really started to bite in March. Since then, we’ve witnessed considerable further volatility and very low prices for our commodities, including, for example – and for the first time in history – negative oil prices in the United States. The level of economic activity – and resulting demand for Shell’s products – has fallen dramatically over the last few months and the speed of recovery is highly unpredictable. And it is owing to the extraordinarily uncertain outlook that we must show leadership and take early and decisive action to stay resilient as a company, balancing the needs of all stakeholders.

Which is why the media headlines today will be dominated by the decision that the Board has taken to reduce the amount we pay as dividends to our shareholders, announcing a rebasing of our quarterly dividend to 16 US cents per share – a reduction of 66%. This is a decision that is not taken lightly, but together with the measures we announced on March 23, regarding significant and urgent capital and operating cost reductions and suspension of the share buyback, it is the prudent next step to preserve cash and protect the company. Many of you are also Shell shareholders and I recognise of course that this rebasing of the dividend will have a financial impact for you.

However, there is a further measure that we are announcing today that will, I’m afraid, impact many more colleagues. I already shared in my video for the Hub last month that we would not be publishing a Group Scorecard for 2020 given that many of our plans are now obsolete. Given the unprecedented and intense economic headwinds, we would expect a very low scorecard outcome against our original 2020 targets. So, in the same way that the decision has been taken to reduce the pay-outs to the shareholders who own and finance the company, the expected financial performance of the company this year will also impact our remuneration. We simply do not expect that there will be financial success for Shell in 2020 in which we can all share.

I’m therefore telling you now that at the end of the year I will set the Group Scorecard outcome to zero. The Remuneration Committee of the Board has already decided that no annual bonus will be paid to any of the EC, including myself. But setting the Group Scorecard at zero means – and I’m sorry for this – that there will be no Group performance-based bonuses paid to anyone in Shell for this year. Furthermore, I should let you know now that it is our expectation that any salary increases in the next year will be very low, if indeed they are increased at all. Both measures are further significant steps that we can take to help preserve cash.

There is no doubt that we are battling through a crisis. COVID-19 is creating an existential challenge for some sectors and companies. For the energy sector, the demand and pricing outlook is creating a crisis of uncertainty. And the decisions we’ve announced today are undoubtedly big and impactful. But there is no panic. We know what levers we can pull in downturns, even dramatic ones like this, and we are in control. The need for all of us to spend Shell’s money as if it is our own has never been more true than it is today. And indeed what will get us through this is the calibre, resilience, resourcefulness and commitment of Shell’s people. Each of you.

That knowledge helps me sleep well at night. But I do wake every morning concerned about the risk that the distractions of the current situation might mean that people take their eye off safety. More than ever we must all prioritise our own health, both mental and physical, and the health of those around us. And for those going to a Shell work site every day, please, please continue to be safe, and help those around you to stay safe.

As well as focusing on the immediate difficulties, we are also focused on long-term strength and success. Two weeks ago, despite the extraordinary times that we are living through, we announced our ambition to be a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, or sooner. I’m fully confident that Shell will come through our current trials and that we will be able to thrive, and lead, in the energy transition to come. We have everything to play for.

Thank you, and take care of yourself, and each other.

Ben

The dividend dilemma

At all times, Shell needs to generate enough cash for the following things:

  1. Pay interest and repay any debt that the company has taken on
  2. Pay dividends to shareholders, the owners of the company
  3. Invest back in the business to continue generating value to ensure cash for 1 and 2

We always have to strike the right balance, but at this time our priority is financial resilience so we must strengthen our balance sheet position (i.e. paying down debt), then preserve the investment programme to protect the value of the company, then pay out a reduced amount to our shareholders.

The Group Scorecard is our share in the success – or not – of the Group. The zero Group Scorecard outcome decision means no bonus (including personal performance bonus) for anyone whose bonus is linked to the Group Scorecard. This approach deliberately has a greater impact when bonus is a greater proportion of an employee’s remuneration, i.e. the higher up in the organisation you are.

Your base salary is different as it does not depend on Group performance and there is no plan to reduce base pay.

royaldutchshellplc.com and its sister websites royaldutchshellgroup.com, shellenergy.website, shellnazihistory.com, royaldutchshell.website, johndonovan.website, shellnews.net and shell2004.com are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

1 Comment on “VICIOUS JOB CUTS – THE INEVITABLE RESPONSE BY SHELL TO PREVIOUS DOWNTURNS”

  1. #1 Bassam asran
    on May 14th, 2020 at 10:45

    In fact, I work as a private driver with Mr. Jeron in Egypt and because of the current circumstances he will leave Egypt and refuse to give me my dues, which is an end-of-service bonus of $ 750. I thought I would report him in the police station but he is a good boss, and I don’t like to cause him problems, I think Only he is stingy and does not like to give people their rights, if there is a fair person in this company and can help me, please contact me on [email protected] or on whatsapp 0201092315560
    [email protected]
    His number is 0201211156934

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