Shell boosts buybacks as cash pile surges to $15bn high

Oil is trading well below its price of a decade ago, but you’d have no idea looking at Royal Dutch Shell’s giant pile of cash.

The Anglo-Dutch oil major generated the most cash from operations in 10 years last quarter – almost $15bn (€13bn). The last time Shell pumped out that much money was when crude soared to $140 a barrel, compared to $75 today.

As a result, it is showing greater confidence. It increased the pace of a $25bn buyback programme, rewarding shareholders who stuck with it through crude’s collapse. The cash surge is a feather in the cap of CEO Ben van Beurden, who splashed more than $50bn on BG Group in 2016 during the depths of the downturn.

Yet investors, who have been impatient for greater returns, didn’t react positively to the results, which were largely as expected.

“Our strategy remains on track,” Mr Van Beurden said. “Our strong financial performance allowed us to cover the cash dividend, interest payments, share buybacks and to further pay down debt.”

The $14.7bn cash figure excludes working capital movements of $2.6bn, the difference between assets and liabilities. Even with that subtracted, Shell is still generating cash as if oil were over $100 a barrel.

The cash boom can largely be attributed to the company’s broad portfolio, with higher prices for LNG.

Adjusted profit climbed to $5.62bn, a 37pc gain from a year earlier. Shell’s B shares declined 2.6pc to 2,499 pence as of 9.08am in London, as the Stoxx Europe 600 Oil & Gas Index lost 1.5pc.