Oil major Statoil swung to a surprise first quarter net loss on a writedown in the value of its U.S. shale business but its operating figures beat forecasts and the firm pleased investors by maintaining its dividend.
State-controlled Statoil, which operates in dozens of countries from Canada to Africa, said it had cut its price outlook for its U.S. business. It took about $6 billion in impairments, felt the effects of plunging crude and gas prices and enjoyed only a modest benefit from higher refining margins.
However, its exploration and refining businesses both performed better than gloomy expectations, output beat forecasts and its cash flow covered nearly all of its relatively high investment spending.
"Underlying it's a strong quarter, showing we can function as a company and deliver profitability with oil prices below $50 per barrel," Chief Executive Eldar Saetre said.
"We've assumed prices for 2017 of around $80 per barrel and then a careful rise after that," added Saetre, a company veteran who stepped up to the top job after Helge Lund left last year.