Shell and Total show Big Oil is back from the cold


Two European oil companies, Royal Dutch Shell and Total, reported sharp profit increases in the first quarter, as oil prices rose and energy consumption resumed after last year’s collapse in demand. But they remain prudent about the strength of the rebound, and Shell is still cautious on dividends.

  • Total, the French group, reported adjusted net income of $3 billion, up 69% on-year, and 9% above the level reached in the first quarter of 2019.
  • Royal Dutch Shell

    said profits were up 13% to $3.2 billion in the quarter, but still far below the $5.2 billion profit it booked in the same period two years ago.
  • The U.K.-Dutch group, which cut its payout by two-thirds a year ago, confirmed it would pay a dividend of 17.35 cents a share, still way below the 47 cents pre-pandemic level. Total, an exception among major oil companies, has maintained its dividend at 66 euro cents a share throughout the crisis.
  • BP
    Spain’s Repsol

    and Norway’s Equinor

    also earlier reported profits up sharply, after oil prices jumped from lows of $14 a barrel a year ago to more than $65 today.

Read: Biden pledges to cut U.S. greenhouse gases 50% by 2030 — with major implications for oil and gas sector

The outlook. Looking beyond the euphoria, most oil groups have cautioned against uncertainties ahead. Since most of them are also under attack from investors accusing them of moving too slowly toward green and clean energy, some caution about dividends, to retain capital for future investments, might be warranted.

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