Shell has signalled its run of record profits is set to end after lower refining and chemicals margins and weaker gas trading weighed on earnings in the third quarter.
Europe’s biggest oil and gas company reported consecutive quarterly profit records in the first half of the year as the disruption in energy markets from Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine drove up prices for fossil fuels.
But oil prices have dropped from more than $120 a barrel in June to about $90 a barrel as recession fears in Europe hit economic activity.
In the three months to the end of September, Shell said margins in its refining business were expected to be $15 a barrel, down from $28 a barrel in the previous quarter. This would have a “negative impact of between $1bn and $1.4bn” on third-quarter adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation compared with the previous three-month period.
At the same time, margins at the FTSE 100 group’s chemicals unit have collapsed from $86 per tonne in the last quarter to an expected minus $27 per tonne, after a fall in global demand for plastics.
The trading update comes ahead of the release of Shell’s third-quarter earnings at the end of the month.
Shell, the world’s biggest trader of liquefied natural gas, added that earnings from its integrated gas business were expected to be “significantly lower” than in the second quarter because of lower seasonal demand and the impact of a “volatile and dislocated” market.
Shares in the energy group dropped nearly 4 per cent in early London trading on Thursday, chipping into gains of about 41 per cent for the year.
“Overall, we see the statement as disappointing given the weaker integrated gas trading result, coupled with another working capital outflow,” said Biraj Borkhataria, head of oil and gas equity research at RBC Capital Markets.
The second quarter’s record profit prompted Shell to launch a $6bn share buyback scheme.
The oil major ended months of speculation when it announced in September that Wael Sawan, head of gas and renewables, would replace Ben van Beurden as chief executive at the end of the year.