Whatever the context this was a truly stunning set of numbers from Shell, way ahead of what forecasts had pencilled in and the highest profit in its entire history.
When many others are enduring economic hardship the optics aren’t great, and they will do nothing to quieten demands for further windfall taxes to redistribute some of the bounty Shell has enjoyed this year thanks to the Ukraine-inspired disruption to global energy markets.
AJ Bell’s Russ Mould said: “Shareholders will be pretty pleased though, given news of a new multi-billion-dollar buyback. It feels somewhat telling that, for all the fine words about the energy transition, Shell has returned more to shareholders than it has spent on renewables this year.
“Also hurting Shell’s ESG credentials is news of a damages claim in the UK High Court from 11,000 Nigerians claiming oil spills resulting from Shell’s operations have contaminated drinking water, harmed air quality and destroyed farmland and fishing stocks. Separately, an activist group has alleged the company is inflating the figures around its spending on green energy.
“Shell needs to be careful, already oil and gas prices have retreated from their 2022 highs and if it pursues profit today at the expense of making the business sustainable for the future it may be judged harshly by the markets.
“Recently appointed CEO Wael Sawan benefits from decisions made by his predecessors to invest heavily in natural gas. Gas, typically less polluting than oil or coal, could be an important energy source as the world continues the gradual process of weaning itself off fossil fuels.”