Royal Dutch Shell on Thursday cut its dividend for the first time since the 1940s after a first-quarter loss – and warned virus-ravaged oil prices will take time to fully recover.
The Anglo-Dutch group sank into a $24-million ($29.5-million) net loss in the three months to March – when oil went into freefall on tumbling demand and a price war between producers Saudi Arabia and Russia.
That contrasted sharply with profit after tax of $6.0 billion in the same period a year earlier, the London-listed giant added in a statement.
Earnings on a current cost-of-supplies (CCS) basis – stripping out changes to the value of oil and gas inventories – sank 46 percent to $2.9 billion in the reporting period, Shell said.
The energy titan, which axed spending last month in response to the oil crash, said it had slashed its shareholder dividend by 65 percent to 16 cents per share, from 47 cents in the fourth quarter.
“As a result of COVID-19, there is significant uncertainty in the expected macroeconomic conditions with an expected negative impact on demand for oil, gas and related products,” Shell said.
“Furthermore, recent global developments and uncertainty in oil supply have caused further volatility in commodity markets.”
It warned that the pandemic would spark a difficult second quarter with no price bounceback in prospect.
“It would be too naive at this point in time to say: we know what is happening, this is just another downturn, things will bounce back, and we will get to where we were before,” van Beurden told Bloomberg TV.
“I think that would be an inappropriate conclusion to draw at this point in time.”