Royal Dutch Shell has raised its dividend by almost 40% and kickstarted share buybacks worth $2bn (£1.4bn) as soaring global oil prices helped to fuel a sharp rise in quarterly profits.
The Anglo-Dutch oil company reported its highest profits in two years for the three months to the end of June after a steady rise in global energy prices as the world economy recovers from the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic last year.
Shares in the oil company rose by almost 4% in early trading on the London stock market.
The company’s profits for the second quarter climbed to $5.5bn from $3.2bn in the same period last year, about 9% higher than forecast by City analysts. The rise in profits was in large part due to higher oil prices, which climbed from less than $45 a barrel in the second quarter of 2020 to about $75 a barrel in recent weeks.
The better than expected results helped Shell to bolster its resolve to increase dividend payouts to its shareholders, after the impact of the pandemic on global oil markets forced the company to cut its dividend for the first time since the second world war.
The Royal Dutch Shell chief executive, Ben van Beurden, said the company was “stepping up” shareholder distributions by increasing dividends and kickstarting share buybacks “while we continue to invest for the future of energy”.
“The quality of Shell’s operational and financial delivery and strengthened balance sheet have given the board confidence to rebase the dividend,” he said.
Shell announced the return of share buybacks this year after dropping a pledge to wait until it had cut its net debt levels to below $65bn before it would start offering payouts to investors. The company’s net debt was $65.7bn at the end of the quarter.
Despite the shareholder sweetener, Shell’s share price remains well below where it traded before the outbreak of Covid-19, even as the oil price has recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Despite rising on Thursday morning, the shares were only up to 1,432p, compared with just over 2,298p in January 2020.