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Shell earnings surge as oil prices rebound

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Royal Dutch Shell products in Torzhok, Russia.

Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Royal Dutch Shell products in Torzhok, Russia.

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell posted a 42 percent rise in profits in the first quarter of 2018, underpinned by a recent uptick in oil and gas prices.

Net income attributable to shareholders on a current cost of supplies (CCS) basis, used as a proxy for net profit, and excluding identified items, came in at $5.322 billion from a year ago. This compared to a company-provided analyst consensus of $5.277 billion.

Over the same quarter last year, net income was $3.754 billion.

Here are the key first-quarter metrics:

  • Net income attributable to shareholders (on a current cost of supplies basis and excluding identified items) came in at $5.3 billion, versus $3.8 billion in the previous quarter.
  • Capital investment of $5.183 million in the first three months of 2018 vs. $4.720 as reported a year ago.

“Shell’s strong earnings this quarter were underpinned by higher oil and gas prices, the continued growth and very good performance of our Integrated Gas business, and improved profitability in our Upstream business,” CEO Ben van Beurden said in a statement.

The latest figures come at a time when the environment for oil companies is dramatically improving, amid signs the energy market is rebalancing and crude futures have rallied to multi-year highs.

The main driver for a recent uptick in oil prices has been a supply cut from major oil producing group OPEC and Russia, who started to withhold output in January last year. The production cuts are scheduled to continue throughout 2018.

The move has helped to stabilize oil prices and support oil companies in recent quarters. Brent crude traded at $74.44 a barrel on Thursday morning, up 0.6 percent, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was at $68.37 a barrel, 0.4 percent higher.

Shell rival BP is due to report its latest figures for the same quarter on Tuesday.

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China sanctions Pompeo, O’Brien, Azar and other Trump administration officials

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press conference at the Great Hall of the People on June 14, 2018 in Beijing, China.

Lintao Zhang | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – The Chinese government slapped sanctions on former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and former trade adviser Peter Navarro, along with other members of the Trump administration Wednesday.

“Over the past few years, some anti-China politicians in the United States, out of their selfish political interests and prejudice and hatred against China and showing no regard for the interests of the Chinese and American people, have planned, promoted and executed a series of crazy moves which have gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s interests, offended the Chinese people, and seriously disrupted China-U.S. relations,” wrote the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement.

“China has decided to sanction 28 persons who have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and who have been mainly responsible for such U.S. moves on China-related issues,” the statement also said.

The Chinese government also named former deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger, former Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft, assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell and under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach.

Former national security adviser John Bolton and Stephen Bannon were also sanctioned Wednesday.

“These individuals and their immediate family members are prohibited from entering the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao of China. They and companies and institutions associated with them are also restricted from doing business with China,” wrote the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement.

US President Donald Trump (L) and China’s President Xi Jinping shake hands at a press conference following their meeting outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Artyom Ivanov | TASS | Getty Images

The crumbling relationship between Washington and Beijing intensified under the Trump administration following an attempt from the world’s two largest economies to mend trade relations.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua has previously said the Trump administration “is pressing the accelerator to trash China-U.S. relations.”

“Certain U.S. politicians are so irresponsible that they will say whatever needs to be said to make China a target,” she added last summer.

Her comments followed a blistering speech by then-U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr in which he accused the Chinese government of human rights abuses, espionage and economic blitzkrieg.

“The People’s Republic of China is now engaged in an economic blitzkrieg—an aggressive, orchestrated, whole-of-government campaign to seize the commanding heights of the global economy and to surpass the United States as the world’s preeminent superpower,” Barr said during a July 16 speech.

In June, O’Brien slammed China for a laundry list of offenses before saying that “the days of American passivity and naivety regarding the People’s Republic of China are over.”

Pompeo, who has previously described Huawei and other Chinese state-backed businesses as “Trojan horses for Chinese intelligence.” In July, Pompeo announced that the U.S. was looking at banning TikTok as well as other Chinese social media apps, citing national security concerns.

The Trump administration has also squarely placed blame on China for the deadly health crisis caused by the coronavirus

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EU chief says Biden on the same page over Big Tech regulation

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Kamala Harris sworn in as vice president of the United States

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Kamala Devi Harris was sworn in Wednesday as the nation’s first female, Black and South Asian American vice president.

She took her oath moments before Joe Biden was set to be sworn in as the nation’s 46th president.

Sonia Sotomayor, America’s first Latina Supreme Court justice, administered the vice presidential oath of office to Harris.

Harris and Biden on Inauguration Day inherit a country facing the Covid crisis, an economic downturn and demands for racial justice.

A daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, Harris has made history throughout her career.

As a U.S. senator for California, Harris, 56, was the second Black woman and first South Asian American to serve in the upper chamber. Before her Senate tenure, Harris was the first female, Black and South Asian American attorney general of California. Harris also served as district attorney of San Francisco.

Harris ran for president in the 2020 Democratic primary before joining Biden’s ticket. Her record as a prosecutor at times sparked criticism from progressive advocates for criminal justice reform, though Harris has said she sought reform from within those roles. Harris clashed with Biden during first Democratic debate, criticizing his record on racial justice issues.

An alumna of Howard University and member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Harris is also the first vice president to have graduated from a historically Black college and to be in a historically Black Greek letter organization.

After her own inauguration, Harris is set to swear in three barrier-breaking senators in her new role as president of the upper chamber.

Alex Padilla, appointed by California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom as Harris’ successor, will be the first Latino senator from the state. Following a competitive January runoff elections, the Rev. Raphael Warnock will be the first Black senator from Georgia and Jon Ossoff will be the first Jewish senator from the Peach State.

The new Democratic senators will create a 50-50 split between the two party caucuses in the Senate, giving Democrats a slim majority with Harris as the tie-breaking vote.

On the campaign trail, Harris often recalled a message her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, told her, “You may be the first to do many things, but make sure you are not the last.” 

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