Royal Dutch Shell today posted profits of $3.3bn (€2.5bn) for the first three months of 2009, down 58% on a year earlier.
The Anglo-Dutch firm made profits of £22bn (€24.5bn) last year, but, in line with BP yesterday, it said the weaker global economy had impacted its performance.
As well as oil prices below $50 ($38) a barrel, having peaked at $147 (€111.50) in July, Shell has been affected by security concerns in Nigeria, Opec quota restrictions and weakening industrial demand for gas.
Chief executive Jeroen van der Veer said the company continued to make “significant investments” in order to maintain future profitability.
He added: “Industry conditions remain challenging, and our focus is on capital discipline and costs. We are taking a prudent approach to this downturn, focused on sustaining a strong position in the energy landscape.”
Today’s figures were ahead of market expectations, with profits before exceptionals of $2.96bn (€2.24bn) well ahead of the $2.6bn (€1.97bn) forecast in the City.
BP reported a sharp drop in profits yesterday, with its first- quarter haul falling 62% to $2.39bn (€1.81bn). This figure was also stronger than City forecasts.
Steep profit falls are also expected later this week from US companies ExxonMobil and Chevron.
Shell pledged earlier this year to maintain net investment at near to last year’s level of $32bn (€24bn) in order to safeguard future profitability.
The company has moved into more expensive areas of production such as tar sands.