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Why Royal Dutch Shell’s Fire Sale May be Cause for Concern

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 19.09.52…both BP’s and ConocoPhillips’ asset sales look downright modest in comparison to the outright fire sale Royal Dutch Shell will soon embark on. Royal Dutch Shell unloaded billions last year, with even greater amounts to be sold off over the next two years. That’s why investors may have legitimate cause for concern about the fate of Shell’s future growth trajectory.

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by Bob Ciura

Royal Dutch Shell plans to sell off several billion dollars worth of assets over the next two years. Should investors be worried?

The last year was a tough one for integrated oil majors. Thinning refining margins put a serious dent in downstream earnings, and upstream profitability failed to impress despite cooperative energy prices. As a result, it’s not entirely surprising to see members of Big Oil such as BP (NYSE: BP) sell off non-critical assets.

Even independent exploration and production major ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP), which isn’t nearly as integrated as its peers after spinning off its downstream and midstream business, got in on the asset sale game last year.

However, both BP’s and ConocoPhillips’ asset sales look downright modest in comparison to the outright fire sale Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-B) will soon embark on. Royal Dutch Shell unloaded billions last year, with even greater amounts to be sold off over the next two years. That’s why investors may have legitimate cause for concern about the fate of Shell’s future growth trajectory.

These initiatives are what Shell management refers to as the “hard portfolio choices” necessary in light of its poor underlying performance in 2013.

Bob Ciura owns shares of BP p.l.c. (ADR). The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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