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    Shell Reports $2.81 Billion Loss in Fourth Quarter

    Year-end profits for the Dutch oil company fall 16 percent to $26.8 billion.

    AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Europe's largest oil company, joined the list of oil companies reporting losses in the wake of sharply falling oil prices.

    On Thursday, the company reported a net loss of $2.81 billion in its fourth quarter, compared to a net profit of $8.47 billion in the same period a year ago, according to The Associated Press.

    Shell said fourth quarter sales fell 24 percent to $81.1 billion. Crude production was down less than 1 percent to 3.42 million barrels per day, but Shell's selling price fell 29 percent to $58.40 per barrel.

    CEO Jeroen van der Veer called the results "satisfactory ... given the pressure on demand for oil and gas due to a weaker global economy."

    The company's refining division, where the oil inventory was written down, booked a loss of $6.42 billion compared with a profit of $2.56 billion a year earlier.

    The company said refining profits were down 34 percent on an operating basis, as a result of weaker demand.

    Over the full year 2008, net profit fell 16 percent to $26.3 billion.

    Shell's fourth quarter earnings on a "current cost of supplies" basis -- which strips out the effect of the fall in oil prices on inventory -- would have been down 28 percent to $4.78 billion, the company reported.

    At Shell's exploration and production division, earnings fell 24 percent to $3.7 billion, in line with the fall in oil prices, according to the AP.

    In addition, the company said it suffered from the impact of a stronger dollar against most major currencies.

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