Shell

Royal Dutch Shell posted its worst annual profit for more than a decade but better-than-expected cash flows cheered investors looking for an improved performance this year.

Shell’s fourth-quarter earnings fell to $1.0 billion from $1.8 billion a year ago, while the company earned $3.5 billion for the full year, down 8% from 2015. Analysts had forecast profits at $8.17 billion for 2016.

According to The Telegraph, Shell’s profits have taken a hit from low oil prices at the same time it has been integrating its $70 billion acquisition of BG Group that created the world’s largest trader of liquefied natural gas.

CEO Ben van Beurden admitted that the results did not “look good” for investors but said he was “very pleased” with the performance for the full year. In trading Thursday, Shell’s shares rose 0.5% to $54.57.

“Bare with us as we integrate two companies,” he told reporters during a conference call. “2016 was the transition year, 2017 needs to be the delivery year,” he added.

The Telegraph noted that in the final months of last year, $9.1 billion of cash flowed back into Shell after it succeeded in slashing underlying costs to $10 billion lower than Shell and BG combined only 24 months ago. A year ago, cash flow had stood at $5.4 billion.

“It’s also encouraging that the $9.1 billion in cash was enough to cover [Shell’s] capital spending and its dividend payments, which is something it has struggled to do for a while,” The Motley Fool said.

Among Shell’s different business segments, margins from its Europe and Singapore refineries were markedly better than in the prior quarter, while the North American production unit lost $348 million, the smallest loss from that business since 2014 .

Shell now expects its BG gas assets to become a key source of growth. “Our strategy is starting to pay off and in 2017 we will be investing around $25 billion in high-quality, resilient projects,” van Beurden said. “I’m confident 2017 will be another year of progress for Shell to become a world-class investment.”

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