Europe’s top energy companies signalled confidence in a lasting recovery from the pandemic impact by drawing on higher oil prices to boost shareholder returns and reassure investors as they roll out risky climate strategies.
After swiftly cutting spending and jobs in response to the unprecedented collapse in energy demand last year, executives from Royal Dutch Shell, TotalEnergies and Norway’s Equinor were eager to highlight the rapid reversal in fortunes.
“We wanted to be really clear and signal to the market the confidence that we have in our prospects and our cash flows,” Chief Executive Ben van Beurden said on Thursday, after Shell launched a $2 billion buyback programme and boosted its dividend for a second consecutive quarter, a year after cutting it for the first time since the 1940s.
Energy companies have come under heavy pressure from climate campaigners, governments and shareholders to speed up the shift from fossil fuels to cleaner sources.
While some investors welcome the change as they perceive carbon-intensive, fossil fuel energy as unsustainable, others are worried about the implications for profit margins of new business models.