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Royal Dutch Shell profits fall 8% to £2.7bn

Royal Dutch Shell has reported an 8% fall in full-year profits to £3.5 billion US dollars (£2.7 billion)

The oil giant's figures came in below analysts' expectations and compare with a 3.8 billion US dollar (£2.6 billion) profit last year.

The results were dragged down by a lacklustre fourth quarter, which saw profits fall 44% to 1 billion US dollars (£789 million).

The results come despite oil prices recovering from around 27 US dollars a barrel last January to more than 55 US dollars a barrel.

Chief executive Ben van Beurden said: "We are reshaping Shell and delivered a good cash flow performance this quarter with over 9 billion US dollars (£7.1 billion) in cash flow from operations.

"Debt has been reduced and, for the second consecutive quarter, free cash flow more than covered our cash dividend."

Excluding exceptional items, profits fell 37% to 7.18 billion US dollars (£5.6 billion) for the year.

Shell, which completed a 52.6 billion US dollars (£36.4 billion) acquisition of BG Group last year, is embarking on an ambitious cost-cutting drive and a 30 billion US dollars (£24.6 billion) divestment initiative.

Earlier this week Shell announced it will sell off a package of North Sea assets for up to 3.8 billion US dollars (£3 billion) to smaller rival Chrysaor.

Mr van Beurden said: "We are operating the company at an underlying cost level that is 10 billion US dollars (£7.9 billion) lower than Shell and BG combined only 24 months ago.

"We are gaining momentum on divestments, with some 15 billion US dollars (£11.8 billion) completed in 2016, announced, or in progress, and we are on track to complete our overall 30 billion US dollars (£23.6 billion) divestment programme as planned."

The results show that Shell's integrated gas division saw earnings fall to 3.7 billion US dollars (£2.9 billion) compared with 5 billion US dollars (£3.9 billion) last year.

Its upstream oil and gas producing unit booked losses of 2.7 billion US dollars (£2.1 billion) while downstream profit fell from 9.7 billion US dollars (£7.6 billion) to 7.2 billion US dollars (£5.6 billion).

The company said it plans to pump 25 billion US dollars (£19.7 billion) into "high-quality, resilient projects" in 2017.

Shares in Shell rose 1.8% in morning trading.

AJ Bell Investment director Russ Mould said: "Royal Dutch Shell's shares were up in early trading despite a fall in earnings.

"The group has been hit by a combination of low oil prices and restructuring costs and investors were encouraged by the oil giant's good cash flow performance.

"Shell has reduced its debt and, for the second consecutive quarter, free cash flow more than covered its cash dividend.

"A 30 billion US dollars sell-off programme is also on course with most of the proceeds being put into high-quality, resilient projects."

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