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No, Shell didn’t make a record profit in 2022, if you drill into the numbers

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Shell on Thursday posted its fourth-quarter and annual numbers, and boy did the profits gusher out.


net profit for 2022 was a cool $42.31 billion, more than double 2021’s. Using standard adjustments to account for oil in inventories, the number that is getting the media’s attention is $39.9 billion, which again is just more than double 2021’s $19.3 billion.

Shell has been around a long time — 115 years in fact. So it’s pretty incredible to say, Shell has produced the highest profit in its history, as many media outlets did.

Except, is that the proper way to think of it? A dollar 115 years ago is worth more than a dollar today. A dollar in 1913 — the oldest date in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ CPI inflation calculator — is worth $29.68 in today’s money.

And any sort of inflation adjustment quickly leads to the conclusion that Shell has in fact had better years. In 2007, for instance, Shell earned $31.3 billion, worth $44.2 billion in today’s dollars. The 2011 profit of $30.8 billion came close to beating this year’s, with an inflation-adjusted bottom line of $40.5 billion.

Also — who has 115 years of Shell profit data to even verify it? It’s certainly not on the website, which has annual reports going back to 2005. The most MarketWatch can find, from S&P Global Market Intelligence, dates back to 1989, when Shell was reporting results in British pounds.

Shell’s media team did promise to look into the matter, but so far haven’t come up with anything better.


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