London: Oil giants Royal Dutch Shell and BP beat forecasts to post big rises in first quarter profits on Tuesday, lifting shares across the sector, as investors bet oil prices above $100 a barrel would be an even bigger bonanza than expected.
Shell, the world’s No 2 private oil company by market capitalisation, said net income, excluding unrealised gains from changes in inventory values, rose 12 per cent to a record $7.8 billion.
Industry No 3 BP said profits, calculated on the same basis, rose 48 per cent to $6.6 billion.
“It’s an eye opener for investors, showing what the high commodity price environment really, really means in terms of earnings for the oil sector,” Paul Andriessen, oil analyst at Fortis Bank in Amsterdam.
Shell’s London-listed “B” shares rose 5.1 per cent to 2021 pence by 0951 GMT, while BP’s rose 5.2 per cent to 608-1/2 pence.
The DJ Stoxx European oil and gas sector index rose 2.9 per cent, compared to a 0.1 per cent drop in the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares.
The oil majors’ core upstream, oil and gas production units were the main drivers of the bumper profits, thanks to record oil prices, which averaged almost $100 a barrel during the quarter, and strong gas prices in the US and Europe.
Despite the run-up in oil prices, which hit a new high of almost $120 a barrel this week, investors have been slow to reward oil stocks, amid fears of rising costs, stagnant or falling production and a dearth of new oil finds.
Trigger
Andriessen said yesterday’s results should lead to a re-rating of shares across the sector. “This is a trigger,” he said.
Other analysts said that in the near-term, Shell and BP’s results would boost expectations regarding earnings releases due over the next week from other industry players including US majors ExxonMobil and Chevron, British gas producer BG Group and France’s Total.
“The outlook appears to remain strong into 2Q, 2008, with oil prices averaging $107 a barrel, and the prospect of further sector earnings upgrades,” James Neale, analyst at Citigroup, said in a research note.

(Reuters & Gulf News)