AMSTERDAM (AP) -- Royal Dutch Shell PLC reports third quarter earnings before European markets open on Thursday.
Analysts expect profits at Europe's largest oil company by market capitalization to fall by 10-20 percent, due mostly to sharply weaker natural gas prices in North America compared with the third quarter of 2011.
Shell has been investing heavily in new capacity, and analysts will be looking at whether a number of new projects the company has been bringing on line are boosting production as promised. In the third quarter of 2011, Shell pumped 3.01 million barrels of oil and equivalents per day.
In addition, Shell will be reporting on what progress, if any, it made in drilling off the coast of Alaska amid difficult weather in the late summer. The company has invested more than $4 billion in obtaining U.S. licenses and building equipment to seek oil in the Arctic circle, despite opposition from environmental groups.
On Tuesday, Shell's biggest European rival, BP, reported better-than-expected earnings, excluding one-off gains, of $5.2 billion, down from $5.5 billion in the third quarter of 2011.
Shell's shares were flat in the third quarter and were down 5.7 percent for the year as of Wednesday.
WHAT'S EXPECTED: Analysts surveyed by ThomsonReuters expect net earnings of $6.31 billion, or $1.93 per share, excluding one-time gains.
LAST YEAR'S QUARTER: The Hague, Netherlands-based Shell reported earnings of $7.25 billion on the same basis, or $2.24 per share, in the third quarter of 2011.
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