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DAILY TELEGRAPH: Shell leaps 48pc on buoyant oil price

DAILY TELEGRAPH: Shell leaps 48pc on buoyant oil price

By Christopher Hope, Business Correspondent (Filed: 29/04/2005)

Shell, the oil and gas giant which is trying to recover its reputation after last year’s reserves scandal, yesterday posted a 48pc jump in first-quarter profits on the back of the surging oil price and high refining margins.

However overall production was down 2pc to 3.85m barrels of oil equivalent a day, excluding divestments. Shell has recently increased spending on exploration and production to ramp up its production rate.

Overall pre-tax profits were up 48pc to $11.3billion (£6billion) on total revenues up 26pc to $72.2billion for the three months to the end of March, helped by an oil price which for Shell averaged $43.84 a barrel.

Like rival BP, Shell is planning to return some of its profits from the high oil price to shareholders. Peter Voser, finance director, said between $13billion and $15billion would be given back to investors in the form of dividends and share buybacks.

Shell said that in the first quarter it spent $500m buying back and then cancelling its own shares, a process which can help to support the share price for other investors. Shell’s shares closed down 1.5 at 466.5p.

Jeroen van der Veer, chief executive, brushed aside concerns about the low hydrocarbons’ ouput – oil production was down 8pc to 2.14m barrels a day – claiming that the total figure was “at the higher end of expectation for the quarter”. Shell said it was still confident it would be able to increase its reserve replacement ratio to over 100pc over the next five years.

Shell, which last year revealed that it had overstated its proven oil and gas reserves by over 25pc, is in talks with the US’s Securities and Exchange Commission over its reserves statements for 2004.

Mr Van der Veer welcomed suggestions that the SEC’s definition of “proven” reserves should be simplified. “It is not easy [for the public] to understand what are proved reserves and what are not.”

Mr Van der Veer said the company was on course to complete the reform of its dual corporate structure into a conventional business, listed in London and head-quartered in the Netherlands.

Russian giant Gazprom was also well advanced towards taking a stake, probably around 25pc, in Shell’s Sakhalin II gas project in the far east of Russia. In return Shell would take a stake in the Zapolarnoye Neocomian field in Siberia.

Mr Van der Veer, who visited Moscow last week, said: “In those discussions we made good progress but, as yet, there are no definite agreements.”

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