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Shell’s profit for the final quarter of 2013 will be almost halved from the same period a year earlier, and cash flow is expected to be down by a third.
Shell’s profit for the final quarter of 2013 will be almost halved from the same period a year earlier, and cash flow is expected to be down by a third.
(TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS)

Why new Shell CEO is beating a retreat

Big oil companies like to be predictable; they rarely issue profit warnings but when they do it is for two reasons: there is a new boss clearing the decks of the mistakes of his predecessor or there is something fundamentally wrong.

Shell’s previous red flag – the warning in 2004 about a huge hole in its reserves – was clearly a case of the latter. This time, there is certainly an element of the former: Ben van Beurden, the chief executive officer who replaced Peter Voser at the start of the year, is taking full advantage of his honeymoon.