Shell raises dividend as it seeks to woo shareholders

Royal Dutch Shell has reaffirmed its decades-long commitment to increasing shareholder payouts, only months after cutting the dividend for the first time since the second world war.

Reporting a modest profit for the third quarter, Shell said it would pay investors a dividend of 16.65 cents for the three-month period.

Last year it cut payouts to 16 cents a share from 47 cents because of the “crisis of uncertainty” facing oil companies amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Shell, once the FTSE 100’s biggest dividend payer, set out the 4% payout sweetener alongside its upbeat results. Adjusted earnings were $955m, easily beating analyst forecasts of a $146m profit, but still well below the $4.76bn recorded for the same quarter last year amid the collapse of global oil prices.

Ben van Beurden, the chief executive, said Shell’s “decisive actions” to stem the impact of coronavirus and “sector-leading” cash flows enabled it to increase shareholder dividends.

The company said it offered investors a “world-class investment case”, despite the shift to low-carbon energy, by promising to boost the dividend on an annual basis.

“The strength of our performance gives us the confidence to lay out our strategic direction, resume dividend growth and to provide clarity on the cash allocation framework, with clear parameters to increase shareholder distributions,” Van Beurden said.

Shell cut the FTSE 100’s biggest dividend in April before reporting a net loss of $18.3bn for the second quarter of 2020, down sharply from a net profit of $3bn over the same period last year and $2.7bn in the first three months of 2020.

The company cut the value of its oil and gas assets, alongside many of its rivals, as market prices tumbled in response to falling demand for transport fuels this year.

Shell reduced the value of these assets through a post-tax impairment charge of $16.8bn in the second quarter, and reported another writedown of almost $1bn on its Australian gas project, Prelude, in its third-quarter results.

Earlier this year, Shell said it expected oil prices to average $35 a barrel in 2020, rising to $40 in 2021, $50 in 2022 and $60 in 2023. The average oil price last year was $64.36 a barrel.

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