Amid the continuing concern over oil prices that either drop or stay in a neutral position, Royal Dutch Shell managed to get some good news on May 4. That was when the company’s quarterly earnings were released, numbers that were higher than expected and which give rise to the hope that the strategic initiatives that were implemented within the past few years are beginning to pay off.

Shell financial picture

The clearest sign of that success came in noting the continuing dividend payouts that went out to shareholders. These had previously been a consistent payoff on investors’ faith in the company, but over the past three years, the economic toll of steep price drops for oil had put them in jeopardy. The dividends paid out during the first quarter amounted to $3.9 billion with nearly 70 percent of that paid out in cash, with the rest being dispersed in the form of stock.

Just one year ago, Shell was forced to borrow money in order to continue this hallowed tradition. Since that time, the company has sold a number of assets around the globe that helped steady the ship. Reducing those operational costs, increasing the level of production and keeping close watch on the budget have become the equation that led to such success.

One of the main reasons for such cuts came in the wake of Shell’s purchase of the BG Group, a purchase that many of the aforementioned shareholders had criticized. Their attacks were based not only on the steep purchase price of $54 billion, but their belief that such a price was out of line with the company’s overall value.

In the all-important area of profit, the numbers are also enticing: $3.75 billion this quarter as opposed to $1.55 billion for the same period a year ago.