LONDON - Royal Dutch Shell (IW 1000/2) posted mixed third-quarter earnings on Thursday, as it weathered sliding oil prices but was buoyed by improved capital efficiency and strong project delivery.
The Anglo-Dutch energy major also announced the appointment of Charles Holliday as chairman. Holliday, who previously held the same role at Bank of America, will take over from Jorma Ollila next year.
Shell added in a results statement that net profits, or earnings after taxation, dropped 5% to $4.46 billion in the three months to September from the level a year earlier, as the group took an accounting charge of $349 million.
However, the key profit on a current cost of supplies basis -- which strips out changes to the value of its oil and gas inventories -- surged 24% to $5.27 billion.
Revenues declined 7% to $107.85 billion and production slid 5% to 2.79 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.
The group has sold a total of $11.6 billion of non-strategic assets so far this year, and added on Thursday that further disposals were in view.
The London-listed company also ramped up its quarterly shareholder dividend to 47 cents a share, from 45 cents.
Shell is on course to return a total of $30 billion to shareholders via dividends and buybacks in 2014 and 2015.
"The recent decline in oil prices is part of the volatility in our industry," said chief executive Ben van Beurden.
"It underlines the importance of our drive to get a tighter grip on performance management, keep a tight hold on costs and spending, and improve the balance between growth and returns.
"Our results today show that we are delivering on the three priorities I set out at the start of 2014 -- better financial performance, enhanced capital efficiency and continued strong project delivery."
In recent months, the global energy sector has been hurt by sharp falls in crude oil prices.
The oil market has tumbled since the middle of June owing to a global supply glut, which prompted U.S. bank Goldman Sachs to say on Monday that it had slashed its price forecasts for the next two years.
BP had revealed on Tuesday that its net profit slumped 63% in the third quarter to $1.29 billion, owing to sliding oil prices and a drop in the ruble linked to Western sanctions against Russia.
"Shell appears to be delivering on its plan set out at the start of 2014, with more moderate spending and accelerated disposals," said RBC Capital Markets analyst Biraj Borkhataria.
"We think Shell's restructuring is a multi-year process, and this quarter adds to our confidence that management can deliver on its objectives."
Van Beurden, who took over as chief executive at the start of 2014, began his tenure with a surprise profits warning and dire annual results.
The Dutch national has sought to scale back spending on big new projects and launched plans to streamline the business.
In January, Shell outlined plans to sell $15 billion of assets over the next two years, and slash capital spending to $37 billion in 2014.
Roland Jackson, AFP
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014