OIL giant Royal Dutch Shell stole a march on rival BP by posting a 34% hike in second-quarter profits to £2.7bn.
The forecast-beating performance in an “uncertain” economic climate came as Shell unveiled a 5% rise in production and faster than expected progress on its £2.2bn cost-saving plans, which will see 7,000 jobs go.
Earlier this week, BP revealed a £20.9bn hit from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill which sent it crashing into the red for the first time in 18 years.
Shell chief executive Peter Voser said the spill was a “tragedy for everyone affected”.
Shell’s results underline the sudden switch in momentum between the firm and its rival, triggered by the Gulf catastrophe.
Under chief executive Tony Hayward – who resigned this week – BP had closed the gap on Shell after years of under-performance, before the Deepwater Horizon crisis erupted in April.
Shell lagged behind BP in its response to the economic downturn, but Mr Voser said the group was “on track for growth” after adding to its gas interests in the USA.
The firm also began production from its Gbaran-Ubie oil and gas project in Nigeria – which will produce 70,000 barrels of oil a day when fully operational – and signed a gas exploration agreement in Qatar.
Shell also expects to sell up to £5.1bn in assets this year as it refocuses on projects with higher growth potential.
Profits were helped by higher refining margins than a year earlier, as well as higher oil and gas prices than in 2009, when much of the global economy was still in recession.