Price rises help Shell Oil return to the black

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The Independent Online
SHELL OIL, the US arm of Royal Dutch Shell Group, returned to the black in the final quarter of last year with net profits of dollars 71m (pounds 47m) against a dollars 23m loss in 1991, writes Neil Thapar.

The turnaround helped Shell's full-year net profit surge from dollars 20m to dollars 445m. However, the result excludes an extraordinary charge of dollars 650m relating to accounting changes involving US tax and staff healthcare costs.

Shell Oil said it reduced its costs by dollars 650m during the year. Staff were cut by 7,000 to 32,000.

Thanks to higher oil and gas prices, the company's exploration and production division boosted its profits by dollars 228m to dollars 469m.

The oil refining and marketing arm turned a dollars 127m loss in the fourth quarter of 1991 into a dollars 11m profit last quarter. The improvement, due partly to higher margins, helped the division to report a full-year profit of dollars 6m against a dollars 133m deficit.

However, the chemicals business continued to be hit by difficult trading conditions, pushing it into a fourth-quarter loss of dollars 53m against a dollars 7m profit in 1991. The result included a dollars 65m provision against environmental costs. Full- year 1991 earnings declined by dollars 145m to dollars 12m.

Thanks to the sale of the US coal mining business, cashflow from operations jumped from dollars 1.9bn to dollars 2.5bn last year. Shell plans to boost capital expenditure by dollars 400m to dollars 3bn this year.

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