Shell annual profits double to $18.6bn

Royal Dutch Shell 'A'

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The oil giant Shell has reported profits almost doubled from $9.8bn to $18.6bn (£11.5bn) for 2010, partly thanks to rising oil prices and output.

Its chief executive, Peter Voser, said the company had made good progress and that there was "still more to come".

During the year, the company made $7bn of acquisitions and invested $3bn in exploration.

For the final quarter Shell made profits of $5.7bn, compared with $1.2bn for the same period in 2009.

Despite the strong gains, Shell's shares fell 3%.

Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers said shares had risen 27% over the past year and investors were taking profits: "Net income was well above expectations and a significant improvement on the previous year."

The fourth-quarter results are in line with rival BP, which earlier this week reported a profit of $4.6bn for that period, although the cost of sorting out the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico left BP with an annual loss.

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Natural gas

Shell's results are reported on a current cost basis, which strips out fluctuations in the value of the oil stocks it has not sold.

The price of US crude oil prices averaged about $85 a barrel in the fourth quarter, up from $76 in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Brent crude this week hit $102 a barrel in London - its highest price since 2008.

Shell said it planned at least $25bn in capital expenditure this year.

The company now produces almost as much gas as oil, and the company is expecting gas output to outstrip oil in 2012.

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