Shell Cuts 6,500 Jobs and Slashes Spending on Prolonged Downturn

Shell to Reduce Capital Investment by $7 Billion

Royal Dutch Shell Plc said it’s preparing for a “prolonged downturn” by cutting thousands of jobs and slashing billions of dollars in investments over the next two years. The shares gained the most in more than seven months.

The current downturn in oil prices could last for several years, the company said Thursday, compared with a forecast in April that prices would return to $90 by 2018. Shell is cutting 6,500 jobs this year and plans to reduce capital investment by $7 billion, it said in a statement.

Shell joins BP Plc and Chevron Corp. in cutting costs as the world’s biggest oil producers grapple with a 50 percent slump in crude prices in the past year. They are reducing jobs, deferring projects and selling assets to strengthen their balance sheets and maintain dividend payouts.

“Shell is highlighting the lower for longer oil price scenario and setting up their business to deal with that,” said Aneek Haq, head of oil and gas at Exane BNP Paribas in London. “They’ve now gone further than their peers on cost cuts in this scenario.”

The company’s B shares, the most widely traded, rose 4.7 percent, the biggest gain since Dec. 16. The stock has dropped 17 percent this year.

Challenging Times

Crude slumped to a six-year low this year as the U.S. produces near the fastest rate in three decades and leading members of OPEC pump at a record pace. Brent entered a bear market this month and traded at $53.61 a barrel as of 5:18 p.m. in London, compared with about $106 a year ago.

“We have to be resilient in a world where oil prices remain low for some time,” Chief Executive Officer Ben Van Beurden said in the statement. “These are challenging times for the industry, and we are responding with urgency and determination.”

Shell, which is buying BG Group Plc for more than $70 billion, also reported a 38 percent decline in second-quarter adjusted profit.

The BG acquisition, to be completed by early next year, will give Shell deepwater assets in Brazil, consolidate its position in Australia’s gas industry and allow greater participation in the U.S.’s emerging LNG export industry. Yet oil’s slump means LNG rates are also declining because most contracts are linked to the price of oil.

The BG purchase would be accretive to cash flow at $67 a barrel in 2016, according to the CEO, who said the deal works even at the current oil price.

Cutting Costs

Shell plans to reduce operating costs by $4 billion this year, before making further cuts in 2016. The Hague-based company employs about 94,000 people in more than 70 countries and territories, according to its website.

“After six months of relative inaction versus industry peers, Shell now looks to be responding to the low oil price environment,” said Alastair Syme, oil analyst at Citigroup Inc. in London.

Shell said the combined investment by the enlarged group with BG next year would reach $35 billion, down from the $40 billion it announced three months ago.

Shell CEO Sees Oil Rising to $70 to $90 in 'Long Run'

Oil explorers are seeking large discounts from contractors and sending some projects back to the drawing board to find cheaper ways to build them after crude prices crashed.

Chevron this week said it’s eliminating 1,500 jobs to curb spending by about $1 billion. ConocoPhillips has said it’s continuing layoffs while it, too, strives to slash $1 billion in spending over two years.

Beating Estimates

Job cuts at exploration and production companies have accounted for about 10 percent of the more than 150,000 layoffs globally throughout the industry, according to Graves & Co., a Houston-based adviser that has closely tracked the cutbacks. That compares with more than 100,000 eliminated from service providers and drilling contractors.

Shell reported second-quarter profit adjusted for one-time items and inventory changes dropped to $3.8 billion from $6.1 billion a year earlier, according to a statement on Thursday. That beat the $3.4 billion average estimate of 16 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Its dividend commitment will remain unchanged at $1.88 per share this year, with at least that amount paid in 2016.

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