Marcus Evans Group | Worldwide Headquarters | American Offices | Latin America | European Offices | African / Asian Offices

Shell profits up 54% on firm oil prices

Brent crude averaged more than 1 per barrel during 2011 compared with in 2010, helping Shell to reap rewards despite a 3% decline in production

Concerns about corporate profiteering in the energy sector are likely to be reignited again on Thursday with Shell reporting a 54% increase in annual earnings to .6bn (£18bn) – £2.2m an hour.

Peter Voser, the Shell chief executive, said the final three month results for 2011, at .4bn, were still lower than he wanted – hit by a “sharp downturn” in refining margins and he warned: “The global economy and energy markets are likely to see high volatility.”

The Anglo-Dutch oil group kept its dividend payout to investors steady at 42 cents per share but said it expected to raise this to 43 after the first three months of the new financial year – the first increase since 2009.

Brent crude averaged more than 1 per barrel during 2011 compared with in 2010, helping the company to reap rewards despite a 3% decline in production.

Shell gave no figures for its petrol sales in Britain or the rest of the world and has previously argued that its profit margins on the forecourt are wafer thin as most of the pump price is made up of government tax.

But UK motorists are facing near-record prices for diesel and the exit of big companies such as Shell from the British refining sector is blamed by some for making the market more volatile. Shell sold off its Stanlow refinery in Cheshire last year while the financial troubles at the smaller Swiss company, Petroplus, which bought the Coryton plant from BP, has led to fears of petrol shortages in the south-east of England.

Oil and power supply companies that make up the wider energy sector have been under fire for making increasing profits at a time when motorists and householders are struggling to pay their bills.

Shell shares, down around 2% to £22.30 in early trading, have risen strongly over the last 12 months – 11% over the calendar year – while arch-rival BP saw a 1% decline, continuing to be hit by the fallout from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill of 2010.

Meanwhile, Shell has been expanding. The company pledged to spend 0bn over four years to 2014 aimed at reversing declining oil output by concentrating on 30 major development projects to come on-stream by the end of the decade. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds