Shell is to hand $12bn (£9.6bn) back to shareholders after posting a record quarterly profit of $9.7bn, triggering fresh calls for a bigger windfall tax on energy companies.
The FTSE 100 giant’s results on Thursday came even after oil and gas prices tumbled from their peaks last summer.
Its earnings also beat the expectations of analysts, who had predicted Shell would post a profit of around $8bn for the first three months of 2023.
As a result, Europe’s biggest energy company said it is now planning to return $12bn to shareholders in the first half of this year. That figure includes $8bn of share buybacks and around $4bn of dividends.
Shell’s record first quarter take comes after it posted profits of $39.9bn in 2022, double the previous year’s total and the highest annual profit in the company’s history.
Wael Sawan, Shell’s chief executive, said: “In [the first quarter of 2023], Shell delivered strong results and robust operational performance, against a backdrop of ongoing volatility, while continuing to provide vital supplies of secure energy.
“We will commence a share buyback programme for the next three months as part of our commitment to deliver attractive shareholder returns.”
Among others, the money dished out through dividends and stock buybacks will deliver a boost to pension funds and retail shareholders.
However, critics pounced on the numbers as proof that energy firms were not paying their way, contrasting the figures with the soaring prices faced by millions of households.
Both the UK and the EU announced windfall taxes on energy companies in 2022, arguing that their higher earnings were the result of surging prices caused by the war in Ukraine.
Under the so-called energy profits levy on North Sea firms, oil and gas companies pay a headline tax rate of 65pc on their UK earnings.