Royal Dutch Shell is cutting spending in its North American exploration and production business by a fifth and could sell more of its shale oil and gas assets.
It is another sign that major energy companies are struggling to make profits.
The bigger firms – like Shell, BP and Exxon Mobil – have focused on less profitable natural gas in the North America rather than shale which has boosted the fortunes of smaller energy firms
Shell is selling off $15 billion (10.75 billion euros) worth of assets this year and next.
Some analysts expressed disappointment it is not raising more cash through disposals.
Pay cut – sort of
It was also revealed that the pay of Royal Dutch Shell’s former chief executive, Peter Voser, halved to $11.24 million (8.06 million euros) last year following what the company described as a disappointing performance.
“The business performance in 2013 was disappointing. This is reflected in the reward outcomes for the year,” Shell’s head of remuneration committee Hans Wijers said.
The company said it had also trimmed the base salary of new chief executive, Ben van Beurden, to reflect shareholder sentiment.
He will receive a base salary of 1.4 million euros ($1.95 million) compared with Voser’s 1.64 million euros.
Voser, who stepped down from the CEO role at the end of 2013, is currently employed by Shell Switzerland until the end of March as adviser to van Beurden. He will likely receive 635,000 Swiss Francs (523,000 euros) for three months’ work.
Nigerian theft and risks
Shell lost nearly $1 billion (718 million euros) through theft and various disruptions to its Nigerian oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) operations in 2013 and said that rampant oil theft is costing the country even more.
The Anglo Dutch company, updating investors on its strategy, also said that proposed Nigerian legislation had curbed investment, hindering production, while security is a daily challenge and oil theft “very material”.
Nigeria is important for Shell because the African country provides almost 10 percent of the company’s output and is seen as a source of future growth. In its annual report Shell said that some risks of working in Nigeria had worsened.
Oil theft is often associated with criminals who tap crude from pipelines for local refining. Stolen oil also leaves the country in tankers.
“The theft is very material,” Simon Henry, Shell’s chief financial officer said. “Figures have been quoted up to a billion dollars a month being stolen from the governmet, in effect, and that figure is probably accurate.”
The company, which is in the process of selling some onshore Nigerian oil blocks, still views Nigeria as a source of longer-term growth and Henry said Shell would continue to invest in gas and deepwater projects.