Shell caps blazing profits season for energy majors

Shell and other corporations are facing a growin number of lawsuits over climate change – Copyright AFP Yuichi YAMAZAKI


Shell unveiled Thursday a sharp jump in profits, capping a blockbuster first-quarter earnings season for global energy majors that have shrugged off weaker gas and oil prices.

BP and Shell in Britain, ExxonMobil and Chevron in the United States, and TotalEnergies in France have together logged more than $40 billion in net profits for the three months to March.

“Looks as though earnings have held up much better than expected, largely it seems down to bumper trading revenues and much tighter cost control than in the past,” said Finalto analyst Neil Wilson.

At $70-80 per barrel, “crude still trades higher than just about any time since 2014 — October 2018 aside — so relatively speaking, pricing is still strong in terms of where it has been in the last decade,” he told AFP.

For Shell, profit after tax surged 22 percent to $8.7 billion from a year earlier, when it faced a $3.9 billion charge over its exit from Russia after Moscow invaded Ukraine.

The company benefited from falling costs and a better performance at its chemicals division, as it also unveiled a $4.0 billion stock buyback.

The news came after rival BP announced Tuesday that it rebounded into net profit of $8.2 billion in the first quarter, after a record loss a year earlier sparked by its own exit from Russia.

– Outcry on election day –

The surging profits prompted outcry from critics as Britons face a cost-of-living crisis, which has topped the agenda for Thursday’s local elections in England.

They have also rekindled calls for more taxation to help offset sky-high household energy bills caused by key producer Russia’s war on Ukraine.

The Unite trade union, which campaigns for pay increases that keep pace with rampant UK inflation, slammed the “obscene” profits generated by the industry.

“The scale of profiteering displayed today by Shell and earlier this week BP is one of the corporate scandals of our times,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham, urging the UK government to expand its windfall tax on energy-sector profits.

Environmentalists meanwhile slammed BP and Shell over the climate impacts of their operations.

“It’s time for the oil giants to start feeling the heat,” said Greenpeace UK climate advisor Charlie Kronick.

“The UK government should… force Shell and the rest of the industry to start using their obscene profits to pay for the damage that their fossil fuel habit is causing to lives and livelihoods around the world.”

Profits are also forging ahead outside Britain.

France’s TotalEnergies saw net profit advance 12 percent to $5.6 billion in the first quarter.

US giants benefitted from refining activities and cost-cutting, with ExxonMobil more than doubling profit to a first-quarter record of $11.4 billion, while Chevron chalked up $6.6 billion.

But the earnings come as energy majors have also drawn fire over their plans for transitioning away from hydrocarbons, particularly after BP decided to slow its move toward cleaner energy sources.

That has prompted derision by critics over its longstanding ambition to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Analysts warn that the global energy sector now faces a massive struggle to transition to clean energy.

“Although the oil majors are enjoying strong profits for now, the industry faces an uphill battle as the world looks to wean itself off fossil fuels, shifting to renewables instead amid the fight against climate change,” said Victoria Scholar, an analyst at Interactive Investor.

“As a result, there is much hesitation about investing in new fossil fuel products as net zero targets take centre stage.”

Shell caps blazing profits season for energy majors
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