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Shell may post loss after taking £2.7bn Arctic exploration hit

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Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 14.26.20Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden told The Mail on Sunday just two weeks ago that he was committed to the Arctic

By Jon Rees For The Mail On Sunday: 4 Oct 2015

Shell is set to reveal that quitting the Arctic cost it up to $4.1billion (£2.7billion) in its third-quarter results when it unveils them later this month – in a move that could push the oil giant into reporting a loss.

The firm took investors and its environmental opponents by surprise when it announced last week that it would end its drilling programme in the Chukchi Sea, 150 miles off the north-west coast of Alaska.

It said it had found indications of oil and gas but not enough to justify further exploration.

Shell has said it will take a $3 billion charge on its balance sheet for its Alaskan operation plus $1.1 billion of future contractual commitments in its third-quarter results, due for release on October 29.

It will try to reduce the latter by subcontracting some of the fleet involved in the drilling. Analysts at Deutsche Bank said tax allowances may enable Shell to reduce the final cost, but called the Arctic venture ‘a very costly error financially and reputationally’. 

The total $4.1billion charge against its balance sheet contrasts with the $5.3billion profit Shell reported in the third quarter of last year.

The venture has dogged Shell ever since it obtained drilling licences in 2008, when oil was $140 a barrel. Today it is $47 a barrel and many investors, let alone environmentalists, were unhappy about Shell’s decision to keep drilling while the price of oil crashed.

Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden told The Mail on Sunday just two weeks ago that he was committed to the Arctic, noting that oil was already extracted from the region, which could hold the equivalent of 29 billion barrels of oil and gas, according to the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Shell has spent $7billion in the Arctic including $2.1billion on licences – a fifth of its exploration budget since 2007.

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