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7

Shell Surpasses All Imagination

The strong results came due to globally soaring oil and gas prices but masked an 8% fall in its hydrocarbon production

Anglo-Dutch oil giant Royal Dutch/Shell plans to hand over $15 billion to investors through dividends and share buybacks this year after beating City forecasts with a 28% rise in first-quarter profits, The Guardian reported.

The strong results came due to globally soaring oil and gas prices but masked an 8% fall in the group's hydrocarbon production.

Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer described the $5.6bn cost of supply earnings as an "excellent start to the year".

The profits were compared with analysts' estimates of $4.7bn and came despite losses incurred by its petrol sales in Britain.

Shell shrugged off the fall in physical output to 3.8m barrels of oil equivalents per day, saying this was in line with expectations and partly due to the expiry of a gas contract in Oman. Mr Van der Veer said he was still "reasonably confident" of reaching a 100% reserve replacement ratio over five years, although he acknowledged the uncertainties.

Under the most extreme measurement criteria - including the impact of divestments and year-end pricing - the 2004 reserve replacement figure for Shell was just 19%.

The cash handouts to share holders will come via $10bn of dividends, plus share buybacks of $3bn to $5bn. A first-quarter dividend of 4.55p a share cost Shell nearly $2bn.