By Ron Bousso and Shadia Nasralla
LONDON (Reuters) – Royal Dutch Shell (LON:RDSa)’s profit dropped to its lowest in at least two decades last year as the coronavirus pandemic hit energy consumption worldwide though the company said it expected to raise its dividend again in a sign of confidence.
Shell’s adjusted earnings for 2020 slumped 71% to $4.8 billion, the lowest since at least 2000, according to Reuters data.
Shell’s debt-to-equity ratio rose throughout the year but the Anglo-Dutch oil company was able to avoid the huge losses of its rivals, partly thanks to strong results from its network of more than 45,000 filling stations around the world.
“We are coming out of 2020 with a stronger balance sheet,” Chief Executive Ben van Beurden said in a statement.
Its fourth-quarter profit fell 87% from a year earlier to $393 million – missing analyst forecasts for a profit of $597 million – dragged down by weak liquefied natural gas prices, lower production and weak refining margins.
In a sign of confidence, Shell said it expected to raise its dividend for the first quarter of 2021 by 4% from the previous quarter.
That would be the second slight increase since Shell slashed its dividend by two-thirds in the first quarter of 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first reduction since World War Two.
Shell’s net debt at the end of the fourth quarter rose about $2 billion on the previous quarter to $75.4 billion, with its gearing – or debt-to-equity ratio – ticking up to 32.3%.