Royal Dutch Shell Plc (NYSE: RDS.A) is gearing up for a prolonged downturn and lower commodity prices by reorganizing, shedding certain assets and being “highly selective” on future investment opportunities as it works to merge with BG Group.
So far, Shell has already cut spending by 20% and lowered operating costs by 10%, including the layoff of about 7,500 employee and contractor positions, in an effort to save $11 billion by year-end 2015. Add this to the $20 billion in asset sales since 2014 and plans for more sales in the next two years that could result in another $30 billion after the BG merger.
“Upstream will be reorganized to increase accountability for performance and to better align the organization with the company strategy,” Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said in prepared remarks. “Asset sales and hard choices on capital spending, such as the recent announcements to cease exploration in Alaska and the development of Carmon Creek heavy oil in Canada, all underline the changes that are underway.”
The planned moves come as the oil and gas industry continues to cope with lower commodity prices that have forced companies to become leaner and smarter inside corporate offices and in the fields. Abundant supplies worldwide, with unmatched demand, have also moved some companies to join their peers to strengthen their global presence while working to meet the world’s growing energy demand.
Reorganization plans unveiled Nov. 3, as part of the company’s management day, include breaking its conventional oil and gas, unconventional resources and integrated gas units into three businesses.
Andrew Brown, the upstream international director for Shell, will lead Shell’s global upstream unit covering conventional oil and gas businesses.
Marvin Odum, upstream Americas director, will head up the new unconventional resources unit that will focus on heavy oil and shale activities in the Americas; while Maarten Wetselaar will become director of the new Integrated Gas organization. The business has already generated $11 billion of cash flow in the last three years, Shell said.
The changes—described by Shell as a simpler upstream organization that reflects recent changes in its portfolio— would become effective Jan. 1, 2016, after the BG deal is completed.
Although efforts taken since the commodity price fall have resulted in savings and capital efficiency gains—which could reach about $4 billion during 2015-2016 for Shell, the company said it will be “highly selective” when it comes to new investments.
Shell pointed out that the BG’s deepwater and integrated gas positions have growth potential and will help Shell become more focused, concentrating in the upstream and downstream sectors with emphasis on deep water and LNG.
“These are industries where Shell has significant capabilities and technologies,” van Beurden said. “With enhanced positions in both of these themes, Shell can focus on the best positions and deliver a more structured and predictable investment program.”
BG, a major force in the LNG supply market delivering to more than 25 countries, said it will be the largest contracted LNG supplier to China in 2017.
If all goes as scheduled, the merger will be complete in first-quarter 2016.
“Integration planning for Shell and BG is progressing according to plan and today we’re announcing a 40% increase in synergies expected from the recommended combination,” van Beurden said.
Shell said $2 billion of operating costs savings and a $1.5 billion reduction in exploration spending in 2018 could be realized as a result of the merger in 2018. That is about 40% more than previously expected.
The potential sources, as outlined in a statement from Shell, include eliminating overlapping support costs as well as back office and business support, consolidating offices and migrating IT systems. Other areas that would be impacted include marketing and shipping costs and procurement spend.
Exploration spend would also be reduced by $1.5 billion as the companies high-grade and optimize their combined exploration portfolio.
“Shell is becoming a company that is more focused on its core strengths, a company that is more resilient and competitive at all points in the oil price cycle and that has a more predictable project development pipeline,” he said. “We’ll grow to simplify.”
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