Shell profits soar

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Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell today reported profits of £18.1bn for 2011, a jump of 54 per cent on a year ago.

The improvement for the Anglo-Dutch firm came despite its below-expectations performance in the final quarter of the year, when trading was impacted by a squeeze on refining margins and lower American natural gas prices.

It still made profits of £4.1bn in the fourth quarter, which represented a 13 per cent rise on a year ago, after crude oil prices remained close to the 100 US dollars a barrel mark.

Shell has outshone its troubled rival BP in recent years and today underlined its confidence by promising dividend growth for the first time since 2009.

It said its three-year strategic plan, which was first outlined in early 2010, had built the foundations for growth through a company-wide restructuring and by refocusing its efforts on emerging growth markets.

The company, which saw production decline three per cent last year, is planning investment in major projects worth £19bn in 2012 and said its outlook was boosted by more than 60 new projects and options.

There will also be £3.8bn of investment in Shell’s “heartlands” during this year, including extending the life of its operations in the UK North Sea and South East Asia.

Chief executive Peter Voser said: “Shell’s strategy is innovative and competitive. Our improving financial position creates an opportunity to increase both our dividends and investment levels.”

He said the planned return to dividend growth in 2012 showed the company’s confidence that “there is more to come from Shell”.

His comments come a month after Shell angered unions when it scrapped its final salary pension scheme for new recruits, meaning that not a single employer in the FTSE 100 Index offers the retirement package.

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