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BG Group profit up ahead of takeover

Saturday, February 6, 2016

LONDON—Oil and gas firm BG Group, whose takeover by Royal Dutch Shell is almost complete, has reported a rise in its final full-year earnings.

Britain's BG Group, in its last results update before its takeover by Shell, reported a 22 per cent fall in fourth quarter core earnings to US$1.43 billion on Friday as low energy prices ate into profits.

BG, which is a shareholder in Atlantic LNG, said pre-tax profits for the full year were $2.97bn (£2bn), compared with a loss of $2.3bn in 2014.

On a quarterly basis, BG's losses improved from $8.3bn in the final quarter of 2014 to a loss of $1.17bn for the same period in 2015. The large gas producer, set to become part of Shell on Feb. 15, took a hit in its oil and gas production and liquefied natural gas (LNG) segments from another roughly 20 percent fall in oil prices in the quarter.

A surge in production in Australia and Brazil, key growth areas that Shell has singled out to justify its takeover, helped BG beat its own yearly output target to 704,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

BG's prized LNG unit also delivered 63 per cent more volumes in 2015 mainly thanks to the smooth ramp-up of its Queensland Curtis LNG export project. The additional volumes were mostly absorbed by buyers in Asia, with the number of cargoes to the region rising 72 per cent year-on-year to 208.

In a sign that BG has increased opportunistic trading, the company said it had purchased 13 more cargoes on the spot market in the fourth quarter. Weaker demand and a steady ramp-up in fresh supplies meant low LNG prices provided more spot trading opportunities, complementing deals under long-term contracts.

BG's successful LNG business will turn Shell into the world's largest LNG trader, betting on continued growth driven by governments' ambitions to make their economies less carbon-intensive.

"We believe BG's quality portfolio in both Brazil and LNG will contribute positively to the Shell-BG combined entity," said analysts at Bernstein.

BG Group's chief executive, Helge Lund, said: "We are pleased to have delivered an excellent operational performance in 2015 with results in line with, or ahead of, our guidance for the year.

"This strong operational performance is the result of the capability and commitment of our teams across the organisation and we will deliver a high-performing business into the combination with Shell."

BG's results come in the same week as those from other energy giants, BP and Shell. Both maintained their dividend payout to shareholders. BG said its shareholders would receive Shell's 2015 fourth-quarter dividend and would not receive a further BG Group dividend for 2015.

Shell's fourth-quarter dividend is 47 cents per Shell share, which is equivalent to 20.93 cents per BG Group share.