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Daily Telegraph: Shell puts aside $500m to meet mis-statement class action

(Filed: 28/07/2006)

Royal Dutch Shell has set aside $500m (£270m) to settle outstanding class action litigation related to the oil major’s mis-statement of reserves in 2004. A payment at this level would dwarf the £81m it has already paid out in fines to the financial authorities in Britain and the US.

Chief executive Jeroen van der Veer denied that the accounting provision indicated that Shell was close to securing a deal with shareholders over the scandal, which cost then chairman Philip Watts his job. ”It is a management judgment about where we would be prepared to settle,” he added.

Unveiling a 36pc jump in second-quarter currency cost earnings to $6.3bn (£3.4bn), Mr van der Veer refused to discuss speculation this week that Shell had had preliminary discussions with rival BP over a possible merger. ”I won’t go there at all,” he said. ”We have said it is all speculative.”

Shell is launching a range of costly ”unconventional oil” projects in a bid to make up for lost production in Nigeria, where militants have targeted foreign oil companies, and in the Gulf of Mexico, which was hit last autumn by a series of powerful hurricanes.

Shell plans to invest up to $18bn in a project in Qatar to convert natural gas into clean liquid fuel similar to diesel and is focusing on plans to extract oil from tar sands in Canada following its recent $2.2bn acquisition of BlackRock Ventures.

The loss of 177,000 barrels a day in Nigeria contributed to an 8pc slide in overall production to 3.25m barrels of oil equivalent a day, undershooting the average analyst’s forecast of 3.3m barrels.

The company also cut its forecast for average production this year to 3.4m barrels a day. Citgroup said this was the fourth straight year of declining production.

Shell’s earnings were boosted in the three months to June by a sharp rise in the price of oil, which was 33pc higher on average at $64 a barrel than in the same quarter of 2005.

The better-than-expected second quarter, helped lift group pre-tax profits for the first six months of the year by 16pc to $24.7bn, on revenues 3pc higher at $154.8bn. The dividend is being lifted 9pc to €0.25, payable on September 13.

The group bought back $2.5bn worth of shares – 1.1pc of the equity – for cancellation during the second quarter.

The company’s B shares rose 41p to close at £19.81. 

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