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Big Year for Big Oil as Shell Posts Record Profits While World Struggles With Rising Fuel Prices

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Shell Plc’s fourth-quarter far exceeded expectations as its natural gas business thrived, lifting the oil major to a record performance in 2022 fueled by soaring energy prices.

After a bumpy ride earlier in the year amid volatile markets, Shell’s integrated gas unit was firing on all cylinders in the final part of the year, delivering almost $6 billion of adjusted profit in its strongest performance in at least a decade.

Flush with cash, the company kept up the pace of share buybacks by announcing a further $4 billion of purchases in the coming months, and went ahead with a planned 15% dividend hike. It’s a sign that Chief Executive Officer Wael Sawan, who took over the top job at the beginning of the year, will continue to prioritize using Shell’s riches to reward shareholders.

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“We intend to remain disciplined while delivering compelling shareholder returns,” Sawan said in a statement on Thursday. “Our results in the fourth quarter and across the full year demonstrate the strength of Shell’s differentiated portfolio.”

Shell’s fourth-quarter adjusted net income of $9.81 billion was well ahead of the average analyst estimate of $7.97 billion compiled by the company. It posted a profit of $39.87 billion for the full year, beating the previous record of $28.4 billion set in 2008.

The earnings are the latest evidence of a blowout year for Big Oil, with Exxon Mobil Corp. also reporting a record annual profit in recent days. The companies’ performance has drawn scrutiny from governments around the world, whose populations are struggling with a cost-of-living crisis caused in large part by high oil and gas prices.

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