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LONDON: Royal Dutch Shell swung back into profit in the first quarter as oil prices recovered strongly from a year earlier, the company said Thursday. The Anglo-Dutch group posted net profit of $5.7 billion (4.7 billion euros) in the first three months of the year, Shell said in a statement.

That compared with a loss after tax of $24 million in the first quarter of 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic began to slam the price of crude.

The first-quarter performance this year benefitted also from a $1.4-billion gain following the sale of assets, the statement added. “Shell has made a strong start to 2021, generating over $8 billion of cash in the quarter,” said chief executive Ben van Beurden. “Our... model is ideally positioned to benefit from recovering demand.” Shell had dived into net loss of $21.7 billion last year as factories shut and planes were grounded.

As a result, it decided to axe more than 10 percent of its global workforce, or up to 9,000 jobs. Shell rival BP also recovered in the first quarter, announcing this week net profit of $4.7 billion, which compared with a year-earlier loss of $4.4 billion. France’s Total, meanwhile, posted a net profit of $3.3 billion in the first quarter that was even higher than pre-pandemic levels. Its losses and steep job cuts mirrored the situation elsewhere in the energy sector last year. After lockdowns began to spread towards the end of the first quarter in 2020, oil prices dropped off a cliff, even briefly turning negative.