Shell made more money than Exxon Mobil in the second half of 2016, despite the Anglo-Dutch oil major's annual profit hitting its lowest level in more than a decade as it grappled with a deep downturn. As David Pollard reports, Europe's largest oil and gas company showed stronger signs that it was turning a corner following deep spending cuts, divestments and thousands of job losses last year.
Tough times, tough measures - Shell says its 'transition plan' of deep cuts is paying off. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SHELL CEO, BEN VAN BEURDEN, SAYING: "We have in two quarters a cash flow which is, a free cash flow which is well above our cash dividend requirements, we have started to pay down our debt in the fourth quarter, four and half billion dollars in a single quarter." For now, markets appear to agree. Shell shares up around a percent and half - a near 70 per cent jump in cash flow in Q4 perhaps signalling a revival for the oil giant. Despite still sagging crude prices ... And at just shy of 7.2 billion dollars, its lowest annual profit in over a decade. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SHELL CEO, BEN VAN BEURDEN, SAYING: "What we saw in the fourth quarter was indeed not only poorer refining margins globally, but we also saw a much flatter trading environment in oil products and indeed in crude. So as a result of it, that integrated P&L was a little bit weaker on two accounts." Its drive to slash 30 billion dollars from its debt pile, it says, is on target - helped by two divestments announced this week worth nearly five billion. And on the bigger picture, it sees globalisation as an 'unstoppable force'. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SHELL CEO, BEN VAN BEURDEN, SAYING: "Being a very large international company that very much relies on international trade, also international flow of capital and international flow of talent, we are of course proponents of open borders, lower barriers, etc, etc, and we have always advocated that in whatever context we find ourselves." Confirmation of Rex Tillerson - a former Exxon chief - as the new US secretary of state may soothe nerves for Shell and others in the sector - as it waits to see whether trade will ultimately trump protectionism in White House thinking.