On Thursday, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, which is on the brink of a $50 billion acquisition of its smaller rival BG Group, became the latest oil giant to feel the brunt of the collapse in oil prices. Shell, Europe’s largest oil company, reported a staggering annual decline of 80 percent in profits in 2015, as its earnings plummeted to $3.8 billion from $19 billion in 2014.
In the fourth quarter of last year, profits shrank 56 percent to $1.8 billion from $4.2 billion a year earlier. Adjusted for one-time items and inventory changes, yearly profits dropped 53 percent, while fourth-quarter profits fell 44 percent.
“We are making substantial changes in the company, reorganizing our upstream, and reducing costs and capital investment, as we refocus Shell, and respond to lower oil prices,” Shell CEO Ben Van Beurden said, in a statement. “As we have previously indicated, this will include a reduction of some 10,000 staff and direct contractor positions in 2015-16.”
Last month, shareholders in Shell voted in favor of its takeover of smaller rival BG Group. At the time, oil was trading at about $55 a barrel, but since then, it has fallen sharply to about $30 a barrel — adversely affecting not only Shell, but also other global oil giants such as Exxon Mobil and BP.
“We now believe many major oil and gas companies’ current and prospective core debt coverage metrics are likely to remain below our rating guidelines for two or three years as the industry adjusts to lower prices,” credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's, which recently downgraded Shell’s long-term credit rating by one level, said.
However, the impact of Shell’s dismal earnings report was not felt on its London-listed shares, which were trading up 4.1 percent in early trade.