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Big Oil Is About to Post Highest Cash Flow in More Than 13 Years

  • Investors are hoping for buybacks with third-quarter earnings
  • Results would cement a remarkable turnaround from painful 2020
Royal Dutch Shell Permian Basin Operations As Oil Prices Beat Earnings Estimates
Photographer: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg

The Western world’s biggest oil companies likely just generated more cash than at any time since the Great Recession, and investors are about to find out what they’ll do with it.

The five supermajors -- starting with Royal Dutch Shell Plc and TotalEnergies SE, who release earnings on Thursday -- will report about $29 billion in free cash flow combined in the third quarter, according to analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. That would be the most since the beginning of 2008. Strong demand for crude, surging prices for natural gas and chemicals, and a rebound in the refining business are likely to be the main drivers.