Royal Dutch Shell may have to slash its dividend - analysts

Oil major held its interim dividend steady but may face pressure to cut it eventually

Shell petrol pumps
Shell's gas and downstream businesses fuelled earnings

Investors in Royal Dutch Shell PLC (LON:RDSB) should be steeling themselves for an eventual cut in their dividend payouts, according to analysts.

In half-year results on Thursday, the Anglo-Dutch company held its interim dividend steady, at 47 cents, despite underlying earnings for the quarter falling 72% to US$1bn.

Its gas and downstream businesses fuelled earnings, more than outweighing a US$2bn loss in the upstream division, which faced one-off charges of US$649mln.

But shares in the group fell 53.5p, or 2.5%, to 2051.5p.

Hargreaves Lansdown equity analyst Nicholas Hyett said: "Shell's commitment to the dividend is legendary, and half the Netherlands would keel over in apoplectic horror if Royal Dutch Shell ever cut the payout.

"However, the question is whether the company ultimately will have any choice in the matter.

"Even after dramatic cuts, Shell's spending plans still outstrip its likely cash flows, and with the dividend yield now over 7%,  investors seem to be questioning whether the current rate of pay-out can continue."

Ayondo Markets chief trader Jordan Hiscott said: "Shell’s huge miss on second quarter profit estimates, by over US$1bn, is the largest I’ve seen in a while.

"The firm is clearly feeling the effects of the low oil price and hefty costs related to its arguably expensive takeover of BG Group, but what surprises me is that, with a loss of this magnitude, dividends are yet to be cut.

"With this in mind, it seems highly likely that we’ll see a cut to the full-year dividend later down the line."

The price of a barrel of Brent crude fell about 1.7% to US$42.75 while a barrel of West Texas Intermediate dropped 1.62% to US$41.25.


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