London — Royal Dutch Shell says it will stick to spending discipline this year after 2018 profits jumped by more than a third to $21.4bn, its highest since 2014. The Anglo-Dutch oil company also reported a sharp rise in cash generation, in a further sign that cost savings since the 2014 oil market downturn are filtering into its operations. Its shares were up by more than 4% in midday trading. A strong performance in the fourth quarter was driven by higher oil and gas prices, year on year, as well as a stronger contribution from crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) trading. “The cash flow is incredible,” said Rob West, analyst at Redburn. “It’s heavily flattered by downstream inventory liquidation, but it still squashes any lingering worries about debt and dividend coverage.” Investors were expected to turn their focus to the company’s growth as oil and gas reserves declined for a third year and production largely stagnated. “The debate will move to long-run growth now…. My vie...

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