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Photo: Valery Matytsin\TASS via Getty Images

Royal Dutch Shell said Thursday that it's cutting shareholder dividends for the first time since World War II as the company reported a steep drop in quarterly profits.

Why it matters: The decision underscores how the coronavirus-fueled collapse in prices and demand is upending the oil landscape and forcing even the most powerful companies to scramble to protect their finances.

  • Shell, which like other companies is also steeply cutting capital spending, said in announcing the dividend cut that "the deterioration in the macroeconomic and commodity price outlook" due to COVID-19 is "unprecedented."
  • "The duration of these impacts remains unclear with the expectation that the weaker conditions will likely extend beyond 2020," the company warned.

Driving the news: Shell said it would reduce its first quarter dividend to 16 cents per share, a 66% cut. If that reduction is maintained all year, Shell will save about $10 billion, Reuters reports.

  • The company reported $2.9 billion in Q1 net profits, which is down 46% from the same period a year ago.

What's next: U.S.-based multinational giants Exxon and Chevron report their earnings Friday.

Go deeper: Oil industry has more bleak days ahead as coronavirus crushes demand

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Aug 5, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Shale's struggles will persist despite a rise in oil prices

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

WTI, the benchmark U.S. oil future, traded Wednesday morning at its highest since early March — highlighting how the worst of shale's crisis is seemingly over, though more bankruptcies likely lie ahead.

Why it matters: Its price at the time — $43 — is still too low for many producers to do well, though it varies from company to company.

Democrats drubbing Trumpless GOP on social media

Data: Twitter/CrowdTangle (Feb 24, 2021); Chart: Will Chase/Axios

In a swift reversal from 90 days ago, Democrats are now the ones with overpowering social media muscle and the ability to drive news.

The big picture: Former President Donald Trump’s digital exile and the reversal of national power has turned the tables on which party can keep a stranglehold on online conversation.

Here come Earmarks 2.0

DeLauro at a hearing in May 2020. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to announce details of a plan to restore a limited version of earmarks, which give lawmakers power to direct spending to their districts to pay for special projects.

Why it matters: A series of scandals involving members in both parties prompted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011. But Democrats argue it's worth the risk to bring them back because earmarks would increase their leverage to pass critical legislation with a narrow majority, especially infrastructure and spending bills.