3 Things to Love About Royal Dutch Shell

LONDON -- There are things to love and loathe about most companies. Today, I'm going to tell you about three things to love about Royal Dutch Shell  (LSE: RDSB  ) (NYSE: RDS-B  ) . I'll also be asking whether these positive factors make this FTSE 100 oil supermajor a good investment today.

It's not BP!
The activities of multinational oil companies inevitably attract close scrutiny from environmental groups, and health and safety and human rights campaigners.

Shell has been embroiled in its fair share of controversies over the years, but its failings haven't come close to those of rival BP in terms of reputational and financial damage to the company and its shareholders.

Low earnings multiple
City analysts are expecting Shell's earnings to fall modestly this year to around $4.16 a share (267 pence at current exchange rates). As the shares are currently changing hands for 2,296 pence, investors are paying 8.6 times forecast earnings.

Shell's earnings multiple is well below that of the average FTSE 100 company -- and even below BP's rating of 8.8 times earnings.

Dividend durability
Shell maintained its dividend through the recent tough years for the global economy. The company paid out $1.68 a share for the years 2009, 2010, and 2011.

Shell lifted the 2012 dividend to $1.72 (+2.4%) and growth is expected to accelerate in 2013. This year's first-quarter dividend implies a full-year payout of $1.80 (+4.7%). That dividend will be covered a healthy 2.3 times by earnings if analyst forecasts are on the money.

Translated into sterling at current exchange rates, Shell's dividend offers a prospective income of a bit more than 5%, comfortably above the FTSE 100 average and similar to BP's yield.

A good investment?
Shell's valuation makes it as "cheap" as BP, despite the latter's continuing legacy uncertainties as a result of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010.

City experts aren't expecting Shell to produce runaway earnings and dividend growth over the next couple of years, but long-term investors may feel that a price of less than nine times earnings and an income of more than 5% is ample compensation.

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