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Royal Dutch Shell on Thursday became the latest large oil and gas producer to deliver better-than-expected first quarter results as higher crude prices fuelled recovery at the Anglo-Dutch group.

Earnings on a current cost of supply basis — the measure tracked most closely by analysts — more than doubled to $3.8bn from $1.6bn in the same period last year. This was well above analysts’ consensus forecast for $3.05bn.

Debts fell and the company generated enough cash flow to cover its dividend for the third successive quarter in signs of improving financial health after the strain imposed by its £35bn acquisition of BG Group completed last year. The dividend was held steady at 47 cents per share.

The benefits of the BG deal were evident in increased oil and gas production of 3.7m barrels of oil and oil equivalent per day, up 2 per cent from the same period last year.

Shell has been shedding unwanted assets as it reshapes its portfolio towards more profitable, lower-cost resources, and reduces debt; the group said it was two-thirds of the way towards a target to raise $30bn from disposals by the end of next year.

The positive first quarter results followed similarly upbeat numbers from peers BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron in recent days, reflecting the sharp increase in oil prices from the 12-year lows hit in early 2016.

Ben van Beurden, chief executive, said:

The strategy we have outlined to deliver a world-class investment case is taking shape. Following the successful integration of BG, we are rapidly transforming Shell through the consistent and disciplined execution of our strategy. This includes investing around $25 billion this year and the delivery of new projects, which we expect to generate $10 billion in cash flow from operating activities by 2018.

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