Royal Dutch Shell has warned of “significantly” lower profits.
New boss Ben van Beurden – who is just two weeks into the job – detailed multiple problems and challenges as he said: “Our 2013 performance was not what I expect.”
He announced a probable cut in fourth-quarter earnings to $2.9 billion dollars, from market expectations of about $4 billion.
Analysts said Shell appeared to have suffered a perfect storm in the last three months – including weaker profit from refining oil, higher production costs and output stoppages in Nigeria. A weakening of the Australian dollar has not helped.
The warning comes nearly 10 years to the day after Shell, the western world’s No. 3 oil company, revealed the so-called reserves accounting scandal, when the group dramatically downgraded its reserves estimates.
It also follows a similar warning last week from Chevron, the second-largest US oil company. The warnings reflect how the industry is having to grapple with replacing reserves, lower oil prices and the need to control costs.
“Shell’s profit warning is a confirmation of the impact of the downward trend in oil prices we’ve seen,” said Carsten Fritsch at Commerzbank.
“In particular, the refined product markets in Europe have been very weak.”
International oil prices have averaged about $110 a barrel for the past three years. Booming shale oil production in the nited States has helped lower prices there, however, and delivered a competitive advantage to many US refineries.
The United States has also become a major exporter of gasoline and diesel, further hitting profit margins at refiners in Europe and Asia.
While Shell has a number of refineries in North America, about two-thirds of its refining operations are in Europe and the Asia-Pacific.