Royal Dutch Shell Plc said third quarter net profits fell 73 percent, hit by falling oil and gas prices and refining margins, and Chief Executive Peter Voser warned of a slow recovery.

Europe's largest oil company by market value said third quarter constant cost of supply net income, which strips out unrealized gains or losses related to changes in the value of fuel inventories, was $2.99 billion.

Excluding one-off and non-cash items the result was $2.62 billion, ahead of an average forecast of $2.55 billion from a Reuters poll of 8 analysts.

We see some indications that energy demand and pricing are improving, but the outlook remains very uncertain, and we are not expecting a quick recovery, Voser said in a statement.

Voser said his restructuring program was yielding results with operating costs lowered by $1.0 billion in the first nine months of 2009 and around 5,000 jobs cut.

Oil and gas production for the quarter was 2.93 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd), flat on the same quarter of 2008.