Shell earnings beat forecasts, appoints new chairman

Royal Dutch Shell beat expectations with core earnings of $5.8 billion for the third quarter and maintained its dividend as both upstream and downstream divisions delivered strong results.

Europe's biggest oil company by market value also said it had appointed former chairman of Bank of America Charles Holliday as its chairman. Holliday will take over from current chairman and former boss of Finnish mobile firm Nokia Jorma Ollila in 2015.

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The Anglo-Dutch oil major has enjoyed a rapid recovery over the past year through asset disposals and the ramp up of production in the Gulf of Mexico and West Africa.

Quarterly earnings nevertheless declined from the second quarter of 2014, mostly due to weaker oil prices and lower oil production.

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Oil and gas production in the quarter was 5 percent lower than in the same quarter last year at 2.79 million billion barrels of oil equivalent per day as Shell divested assets.

"The recent decline in oil prices is part of the volatility in our industry. 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," Chief Executive Ben van Beurden said.

Oil companies have seen billions wiped off their stock market values as crude prices dropped over the past four months by 25 percent to a four-year low near $85 a barrel due to slowing global demand particularly in China and ample supplies.

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The trend is stacking pressure on the majors' efforts to protect earnings by cutting investment and operating expenses.

Shell is in a push to shed $15 billion in assets this year, which it has largely achieved. The company said it had divested in the third quarter a total of $1.6 billion in the upstream and $2 billion in the downstream.

Shell maintained its quarterly dividend of $0.47 per share.

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