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Royal Dutch Shell's (RDS.A) Q1 Earnings Beat, Cuts Capex

Europe’s largest oil company Royal Dutch Shell plc RDS.A reported better-than-expected first-quarter earnings on higher production and aggressive cost cutting measures.

With its outperformance, Shell joins integrated peers like Exxon Mobil Corp. XOM and BP plc BP in braving low oil prices to post an earnings beat. However, the commodity bloodbath proved too much for the other supermajor Chevron Corp. CVX, which reported wider-than-expected loss.

The Hague-based Shell reported earnings per ADR (on a current cost of supplies basis) – excluding one-time items and gains or losses from inventories – of 43 cents, above the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 26 cents.

However, the bottom line compared unfavorably with the year-ago adjusted profit of $1.17 amid the continued plunge in commodity prices.

Revenues were down 26% to $48,554 and also missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $53,165 million.

Plans to Cut Investment Further

Amid the challenging industry fundamentals and following the completion of the $54 billion BG Group takeover earlier this year, Shell decided to cut 2016 spending by a further 10% to $30 billion.

Segmental Performance

Upstream: Upstream segment recorded a loss of $1,437 million (excluding items) during the quarter, significantly wider than the $195 million (adjusted) loss in the year-ago period.

This primarily reflects the impact of sharply lower oil and gas prices. To some extent, this was offset by a rise in production, reduced costs and decline in exploration expenses.

Shell’s upstream volumes averaged 2,828 thousand oil-equivalent barrels per day (MBOE/d), 11% higher than the year-ago period. While crude oil production increased 16%, natural gas output was up 6%. Liquids contributed approximately 55% to Shell’s total volumes, while natural gas accounted for the remaining portion.

Production during the quarter compared with the year-ago quarter included volumes from continued ramp-up of existing fields – particularly North American shales, Erha North ph2 in Nigeria and the Corrib gas field in Ireland – that boosted output by roughly 62 MBOE/d.

Shell’s worldwide realized liquids and natural gas prices were 36% below their respective year-earlier levels.

Downstream: In the Downstream segment, the Anglo-Dutch super-major reported adjusted income of $2,010 million, 24% less than the $2,646 million earned in the year-ago period. The negative comparison reflects the impacts of weaker results from refining and marketing operations, partly offset by lower costs.

Integrated Gas: The Integrated Gas unit reported adjusted income of $994 million as against $1,491 million in Jan-Mar quarter of 2015. Results were weighed down by sharply lower commodity prices and the expiry of Malaysia LNG Dua joint venture agreement. Partly offsetting these factors were contribution from the BG acquisition, increased contributions from trading and lower well write-offs.

Cash Flow

During the quarter under review, Shell generated cash flow from operations of $661 million, returned $3,700 million to shareholders through dividends and spent $59,000 million on capital projects (including $52,900 million associated with the acquisition of BG).

Balance Sheet

As of Mar 31, 2016, this Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell) company had $11,019 million in cash and $80,873 million in debt (including short-term debt). Net debt-to-capitalization ratio was approximately 26.1%.

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