By Ron Bousso

LONDON (Reuters) – Shell boosted its dividend and share repurchases on Thursday after fourth quarter profits soared to $6.4 billion fueled by higher oil and gas prices and strong gas trading performance.

Shell, which moved its headquarters from The Hague to London last month, said it expected to increase its dividend by 4% in the first quarter of 2022 to $0.25 per share.

The company also announced it will buy back $8.5 billion worth of shares in the first half of 2022, including $5.5 billion from the sale of its Permian shale assets in the United States.

That compares with share buybacks totalling $3.5 billion in 2021.

“2021 was a momentous year for Shell,” CEO Ben van Beurden said in a statement.

Fourth-quarter 2021 adjusted earnings rose by 55% from the previous quarter to $6.4 billion, above an average analyst forecast provided by the company for a $5.2 billion profit. That compares with earnings of $393 million a year earlier.

For the year, Shell’s adjusted earnings rose to $19.3 billion, compared with $4.85 billion in 2020.

The energy company said it planned this year’s spending at the lower end of the $23-$27 billion after spending $20 billion in 2021.

Shell, the largest trader of liquefied natural gas (LNG), said its integrated gas earnings were boosted by “significantly higher” profits from trading.

(Reporting by Ron Bousso; Editing by Jan Harvey and Tomasz Janowski)