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Low Oil Prices Not Hurting Shell’s Bottom Line

Oil has lost a quarter of its market value in recent months, but that didn’t stop Royal Dutch Shell from enjoying a robust rise in overall profits in the third quarter, thanks to bigger revenue from new projects, sales of natural gas and lower expenses for exploration.

The company’s core profit for the quarter declined by 5 percent from the previous quarter because of the oil price decline, but it rose by 31 percent to $5.8 billion from the same quarter in 2013.

In announcing the increased profit on Oct. 30, Ben van Beurden, the CEO of the Anglo-Dutch oil company, issued a statement saying Shell’s diversity and nimbleness demonstrate that selling oil is not the only way it makes money.

Related: Shell Needs Five More Years In The Arctic

“The recent decline in oil prices is part of the volatility in our industry,” van Beurden said. “It underlines the importance of our drive to get a tighter grip on performance management, keep a tight hold on costs and spending, and improve the balance between growth and returns.”

At the same time, Shell announced that it’s getting a new chairman. Jorma Ollila, who has held the position for the past nine years, will resign at the company’s annual meeting in May 2015, to be replaced by Charles “Chad” Holliday, the former chairman of Bank of America and former chief of DuPont.

The bad news for the company was the 5 percent drop in oil-production profits from the same quarter in 2013, down to 2.79 million barrels a day of oil and equivalent volumes of natural gas. Simon Henry, Shell’s chief financial officer, explained that these results represent about a third of the overall effect of oil prices dropping by one-quarter since June.

The cost of oil has plummeted as the United States rides a boom of oil production, much of it from shale. That oil ordinarily is difficult to extract, but new technologies, including horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have yielded huge volumes. And as U.S. oil production has been rising, the global economy has been weakening, slowing the demand for oil.

Related: Four More Years Of Pain For Petrobras

Henry said Shell’s focus is to “invest in profitability,” not merely in selling oil. This evidently gave Shell the edge over its chief European rivals, Britain’s BP and France’s Total, both of which reported lower earnings for the same quarter.

Shell said earnings rose in many of its businesses, boosting its quarterly dividend from 45 cents a share to 47 cents. The company’s current profit from the cost of supplies grew to $5.27 billion in the third quarter of 2014, compared with $4.25 billion a year earlier.

Profits also were up in Shell’s division that focuses on exploration and production during the quarter, to $3.95 billion, compared with $3.28 in the same quarter of 2013. The company attributed this to improved refining margins, increased sales of natural gas and less spending.

By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com

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