Profit from the City’s short-termism - buy Shell

Royal Dutch Shell's most recent results failed to impress City investors. But they're missing the bigger picture, says Phil Oakley. It's an excellent share to buy for the long term.

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell (LSE: RDSB) saw its shares fall by 2% this morning, as its 2011 results failed to impress the City. That's great news, because it gives you a chance to buy the shares cheaper.

Shell's results look good and frankly, they are. Higher oil and gas prices saw net profits rise by 36% to $24.7bn. Post-tax operating cashflow grew by 34% to $36.8bn.

Better yet, for the first time in three years, Shell said that it plans to raise its quarterly dividend from $0.42 per share to $0.43. That's nothing to get carried away with, but it's better than nothing.

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So why have the shares dipped? What worried the City is that fourth-quarter profits were lower than they'd expected. Shell's refining business lost money, and US natural gas prices fell sharply. As a result, analysts are now worried that 2012 profits will also miss expectations.

The long-term fundamentals still look good

But they're missing the long-term picture. Shell is becoming increasingly more focused on gas, which will be the focus of a new growth initiative between now and 2015. This matters, because gas is going to become ever more important as a fuel, due to America's huge reserves and the high price of oil.

Shell has a leading position in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) sector, which means it can increasingly sell its gas to the highest bidder with Asia a particularly promising market. Its gas-to-liquids investment in Qatar also looks promising, as it should allow Shell to make money by exploiting the price differentials between oil (very expensive) and gas (very cheap). Throw in Shell's pipeline of maturing assets, then unless there's a total collapse in world oil prices, it should be able to keep growing its profits.

If this investment in gas pays off, then Shell could increase its operating cash flow by between 30% and 50% from recent levels. Worried analysts point out that the $30bn of annual investment needed to produce this means that returns on investment may fall.

That's fair enough, but should oil prices remain around the $100 level, Shell could end up generating lots of surplus cash, which means shareholders could see more generous dividend increases in the future.

A good share for the long-term

At 2,273p, Shell trades at 8.1 times consensus earnings forecasts for 2012 while offering a prospective dividend yield of 4.8%. That looks good value to us, given the promising fundamentals of gas.

It is also worth bearing in mind the importance of dividends in contributing to investment returns, especially in a bearish environment for equities. By reinvesting the dividends you receive, you will compound your returns. If the dividend grows as well, then so much the better (see my colleague Tim Bennett's video: Compound Interest the lazy way to get rich).

Phil spent 13 years as an investment analyst for both stockbroking and fund management companies.


After graduating with a MSc in International Banking, Economics & Finance from Liverpool Business School in 1996, Phil went to work for BWD Rensburg, a Liverpool based investment manager. In 2001, he joined ABN AMRO as a transport analyst. After a brief spell as a food retail analyst, he spent five years with ABN's very successful UK Smaller Companies team where he covered engineering, transport and support services stocks.


In 2007, Phil joined Halbis Capital Management as a European equities analyst. He began writing for MoneyWeek in 2010.