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Shell raises dividend for second time in six months after first-quarter earnings beat forecasts

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A logo at a Royal Dutch Shell Plc gas station in Rotterdam, Netherlands, on Tuesday, April 27, 2021.

Peter Boer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

LONDON — Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell on Thursday reported slightly better-than-expected first-quarter earnings, amid stronger commodity prices and growing expectations of a fuel demand recovery.

Shell also raised its dividend by around 4%, its second increase in six months, as the oil major seeks to reassure investors it has gained a more stable footing. It comes after Shell slashed its payout for the first time since World War II in April last year.

The Anglo-Dutch company reported adjusted earnings of $3.2 billion for the three months through to the end of March. That compared with $2.9 billion over the same period a year earlier, and $393 million for the fourth quarter of 2020.

Analysts had expected first-quarter adjusted earnings to come in at $3.1 billion, according to Refinitiv.

Ben van Beurden, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, said in a statement that the company had made a “strong start” to the year and was “ideally positioned to benefit from recovering demand.”

Net debt was reduced by $4 billion over the first three months of the year, falling to $71.3 billion.

Shell confirmed the massive winter storm that engulfed Texas in February had an aggregate impact of around $200 million on first-quarter adjusted earnings. It had warned this was likely to be the case in an update published April 7.

Shares of Shell are up more than 9% year-to-date, having tumbled nearly 40% in 2020.

In its outlook for the second quarter, Shell warned of persistent “significant uncertainty” in economic conditions, with an anticipated negative impact on the oil and gas industry. The energy giant said sales volumes could be adversely impacted and it may need to take measures to curtail oil and/or gas production.

“Such measures will likely have a variety of impacts on our operational and financial metrics,” Shell said.

Oil prices

The oil and gas industry was sent into a tailspin last year as the coronavirus pandemic coincided with a historic fuel demand shock, plunging commodity prices, unprecedented write-downs and tens of thousands of job cuts.

Earlier this week, British oil major BP reported that first-quarter net profit had more than tripled, largely driven by “exceptional” gas marketing and trading performance, and stronger commodity prices. It paved the way for the energy company to announce plans to start buying back shares.

Oil prices have climbed around 30% since the start of the year as expectations of a demand recovery appear to have offset concerns about the impact of rising Covid-19 infections.

International benchmark Brent crude futures traded at $67.66 a barrel on Thursday morning, up around 0.6% for the session, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures stood at $64.24, more than 0.5% higher.

OPEC and non-OPEC allies, an influential producer group sometimes referred to as OPEC+, reaffirmed improving market sentiment this week when it announced plans to stick to a phased easing of supply curbs in the coming months.

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Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/04/29/shell-earnings-q1-2021-oil-giant-beats-first-quarter-estimates.html

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Smart home networking standard Project CHIP rebrands as ‘Matter’

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Project Connected Home over IP (Project CHIP) is now known as Matter. The Connectivity Standards Alliance, an organization made up of more than a hundred device manufacturers, including giants like Apple, Amazon, Google and Samsung, announced the rebranding on Tuesday. Those companies came together to work on CHIP in 2019 with the hopes of building out an open smart home standard that connects all their disparate devices together.  

At its most simplest, the promise of Matter is that you’ll be able to buy a device and use it with the voice assistant of your choice and easily connect it to your existing home network. At launch, Matter will support Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, as well as Ethernet, WiFi, Thread and Bluetooth LE.

“The Matter mark will serve as a seal of approval, taking the guesswork out of the purchasing process and allowing businesses and consumers alike to choose from a wider array of brands to create secure and connected homes and buildings,” the CSA says of the rebranding.

Whether Matter lives up to its promise will depend on companies updating their existing products to support the standard. With most smart home devices, it’s easy to feel like you’re replacing a perfectly good lightbulb or other common household item with something more expensive and that the manufacturer won’t support beyond a few years.

Some of the first devices featuring Matter branding will go on sale in late 2021. They will come from companies both big and small. Some of the more notable early adopters will include Amazon, Google and Nanoleaf. When Apple announced it news new Apple TV 4K last month, it said it would support both Thread and Project CHIP. You can also expect everything from smart light bulbs to thermostats and security devices to feature the Matter logo.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/chip-rebrand-matter-221410229.html

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The Nanit Pro baby monitoring system is $100 off at Amazon

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All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

If you’re in the market for a baby monitor, there are a lot of options to choose from. Nanit’s Pro Complete Baby Monitoring System consists of a 1080p camera that provides a bird’s eye view of your child’s crib, a stand, a Breathing Band for your child to wear and a Smart Sheet for their mattress. The whole set is currently $280 on Amazon, which is $100 off its regular price. The Nanit Plus camera and stand is also on sale for $50 off. 

Buy Nanit Pro baby monitor at Amazon – $280Buy Nanit Plus Camera + Stand at Amazon – $250

The Nanit Pro system was a “best overall” pick in our baby monitor guide for several reasons: the camera provides a livestream that is clear day or night, it loads quickly and since it hovers over a crib it doesn’t need to be tilted or adjusted after its initial set up. The camera feed is accessed via a mobile app, which can be shared with multiple caretakers. It also provides additional features like motion and sound alerts, background audio (which plays the feeds audio over other apps), a microphone and a Memory feature which replays highlights from the previous evening. The one thing we didn’t like about the camera in testing was the stand which seemed a bit wobbly.

The Breathing Band is strapped around a baby’s midsection and works with the app and camera to track breaths per minute. Nanit also sells the patterned wearable in a swaddle or a sleeping bag version. The Smart Sheets work with the camera to calculate your child’s height, by triangulating points on your baby using a photo of them laying on the sheets. Both products worked well during our testing, but are single-function devices in that they only measure the one aspect.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/nanit-pro-complete-baby-monitoring-system-is-100-off-at-amazon-203859732.html

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Spot gas shortages could worsen if Colonial Pipeline doesn’t reopen by the weekend

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Image showing the Colonial Pipeline Houston Station facility in Pasadena, Texas (East of Houston) taken on May 10, 2021.

Francois Picard | AFP | Getty Images

If the Colonial Pipeline is not back in business by the weekend, prices could continue to rise at the pump and there will be broader localized fuel shortages across the southeast and mid-Atlantic regions.

Gasoline stations that could not get enough fuel were already closed in some states, and prices jumped overnight, by as much as 10 cents or more per gallon in some areas.

“This turns into a crisis by the end of the week, if it’s not resolved, particularly with Memorial Day coming,” said John Kilduff, founding partner of Again Capital. “People are going to start topping off their tanks.”

It’s not that there’s not enough fuel. There’s plenty in the refining centers on the Gulf Coast.

The issue is that gasoline, jet fuel and diesel are stuck in the wrong places. Moving it requires a hodgepodge of solutions, and analysts say it will be impossible to meet demand without the pipeline.

Colonial Pipeline attack

Colonial Pipeline stopped operations Friday and notified federal officials that it was the victim of a ransomware attack. The attack, carried out by a criminal cyber crime group known as DarkSide, resulted in the shutdown of 5,500 miles of pipeline. The artery supplies half of the gasoline to the east coast and runs from Texas to New Jersey.

The pipeline company said it expects to restore a substantial amount of operations by the end of the week, but how much is not clear. U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said federal agencies are working around-the-clock to help the pipeline return to normal operations.

The shutdown arrives at an inopportune time: The beginning of what could be a record summer driving season as Americans make up for last year.

“Given the size and the direction of the pipeline and the market that it feeds, the Colonial Pipeline is the single most important artery moving refined products in the country,” said Michael Tran, energy analyst at RBC. “This is already an earthquake and the magnitude of the earthquake just grows by the day.”

Prices inch upward

The national average for a gallon of unleaded gasoline jumped to $2.985 Tuesday, an increase of 6 cents in the past week, according to AAA.

Regionally, however,the price increases were sharper, AAA found. In South Carolina, for instance, gasoline prices were up more than 6 cents since Monday and 13 cents in the past week. In Georgia, drivers were paying $2.87 per gallon Tuesday, an increase of of more than 10 cents in just one day and 17 cents in a week.

A rise of 3 more cents per gallon would put the average U.S. selling price at the highest level since November 2014.

“We are seeing the full fledge panic at the moment in some of the places I suspected we might see it,” said Tom Kloza, head of global energy analysis at OPIS. “There aren’t enough drivers to take trucks from terminals that have gasoline to stations. We are seeing a lot of stations running out. Georgia seems to be ground zero.”

Kloza said he expects gasoline prices to rise, but not spike wildly higher. The bigger issue is that gasoline will be in short supply in the region, since it takes time to replace once the pipeline is switched on and outages could continue.

Gasoline in the pipeline travels at just 5 miles per hour.

This turns into a crisis by the end of the week, if it’s not resolved, particularly with Memorial Day coming.

John Kilduff

founding partner of Again Capital

According to GasBuddy, 7.6% of the gas stations in Virginia were out of fuel Tuesday afternoon, while 7.5% of stations in North Carolina have run dry. The impact on gas stations in other states along the pipeline was lower though 5.2% of Georgia stations were out of fuel.

GasBuddy also notes that gasoline demand on Monday in five key southeastern states was 40.1% greater than it was on the prior Monday. Those states are Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

“Gasoline demand as a whole was up 20%” for the U.S. on Monday, according to Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. De Haan said for each day the pipeline is down, it takes five to seven days to return to normal.

“Refiners are starting to book tankers to store product off shore because it’s backing up in the system,” said Kilduff.

“You have a weird kind of problem,” he added. “U.S. Gulf Coast refinery operating levels are at record highs. They were over 90%. They have the opposite problem. There’s a surfeit of supply building in the Gulf Coast region.”

Some refiners, like Motiva, have already cut back runs.

Alternative ways to transport gas

Again Capital’s Kilduff said traders are watching to see if the U.S. will waive the Jones Act to allow non-U.S. ships to transport gasoline to U.S. ports.

Under the Jones Act, a U.S.-flagged ship must be used to transport goods from one U.S. port to another, but in an emergency, refiners could seek a waiver so they could ship fuel to the southeast ports.

The New York region could be spared the worst of it, since it is served by Philadelphia and New Jersey refineries, and there are increased shipments of gasoline from Europe already booked for the U.S,. said Kilduff.

“There’s bookings out of Europe to come to the U.S. That’s why we’re seeing pressure on gas prices,” said Kilduff, noting RBOB gasoline futures were barely higher. Futures had initially jumped on concerns about shortages, but had given back most of their gains. Jefferies noted that at least six tankers were booked to ship gasoline from Europe.

Currently, more fuel is being moved by truck. Truckers have been given temporary hours of service exemptions, but Kloza of OPIS said the problem of too few truckers is an issue for the effort. The lack of truckers had already been straining supply in some areas.

“To put it in perspective, if a tanker truck can hold 250 barrels of gasoline and the Atlanta area consumers need over 200,000 barrels of gasoline, you need more than 1,000 trucks a day,” said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates.

Lipow said that also doesn’t solve the supply problem for diesel-fueled trucks or the issue airlines face if they can’t get jet fuel. The pipeline carries 1.5 million barrels a day of gasoline and about 1.2 million barrels of distillates, which includes diesel and jet fuel.

“Jet fuel is a concern because it’s only stored at airports. They’re at risk of running out of jet fuels and airlines have to make alternative plans, loading up aircraft before they fly into those airports, making sure they have supplies before they go to their next destination,” Lipow said.

American Airlines said the impact so far was minimal, but that it was adding stops to two long-haul flights from Charlotte to conserve fuel at the North Carolina hub.

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Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/11/colonial-spot-gas-shortages-may-worsen-if-pipeline-doesnt-reopen-soon.html

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Ubisoft’s oft-delayed ‘Skull and Bones’ won’t come out before 2022

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Skull and Bones will miss its previous release date once again. Ubisoft says it now expects to publish the pirate game sometime between during its 2022-2023 fiscal year, which runs from April 1st, 2022 to March 31st, 2023. For those keeping track, this is the fourth time Ubisoft has delayed Skull and Bones. Following a reveal at E3 2017, the company initially planned to release it in 2018. It then went on to push back the game to 2019, mid-2020, 2021 and now 2022.

Last year, Elisabeth Pellen, the game’s creative director, attributed the ongoing delays to a vision change. Initially, the premise of Skull and Bones was simple. It was supposed to adapt the ship battling mechanics from Black Flag for multiplayer and strip all the narrative threads that make the Assassin’s Creed franchise hard to follow. Things have changed since then. “The answer is that we simply needed more time. We dreamt something bigger for Skull and Bones, and these ambitions naturally came with bigger challenges,” she wrote at the time. “As Skull and Bones evolved from its original idea to what it is now, it was also necessary to have some fresh eyes join the team.”

In the meantime, Ubisoft fans can look forward to playing some of the company’s most popular games on new platforms. In the same earnings report, the company said it would release Rainbow: Six Siege and For Honor on Stadia before the end of June.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/ubisoft-delays-skull-and-bones-2022-201006927.html

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