Royal Dutch Shell has recorded adjusted earnings of $3.2bn for the first quarter of 2021, an increase of nearly 10% compared with $2.9bn over the same period a year ago.

Earnings were primarily boosted by assets sales as well as an increase in oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices.

Divestment of oil and gas assets in Nigeria, Canada and Egypt added $1.4bn to the Anglo-Dutch company’s first-quarter profits.

For the three months through to the end of March, the oil giant’s cash flow from operations surged to $8.3bn from $6.3bn.

Royal Dutch Shell reduced its debt by $4.1bn in the first quarter; it now stands at $71.3bn.

The company noted that it intends to slash debt pile to $65bn to increase shareholder distributions.

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Shell, which cut its dividend last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will raise the payout for the quarter by 4% to about 17 cents per share.

The company’s fuel sales declined to 4.16 million barrels per day (bpd) in the first quarter but are expected to rise to an average of 4.5 million bpd in the second quarter.

Commenting on the performance, Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said: “Shell has made a strong start to 2021, generating over $8bn of cash in the quarter. Our integrated business model is ideally  positioned to benefit from recovering demand.

“As previously announced, the first quarter 2021 dividend per share has been increased by around 4%, in line with our progressive dividend policy.

“We have reduced net debt by more than $4bn this quarter, progressing towards the $65bn milestone to increase shareholder distributions. Our competitive and robust financial performance provides the platform to achieve the goals of our Powering Progress strategy.”