Why Royal Dutch Shell plc’s share price could collapse 60%!

Despite the volatility smashing financial markets on Friday — Britain’s decision to exit the European Union caused the FTSE 100 to shunt 3.2% lower — oil sector shares proved to be extraordinarily robust.

Indeed, fossil fuel giant Shell (LSE: RDSB) saw its share price slip just 0.3% on the day. This is despite wide risk-aversion pushing Brent back below $50 per barrel, the crude benchmark shedding 5% of its value to rest at $48.50.

Steady… for the moment

To some market commentators, however, the resilience of Shell et al came as little surprise.

PwC analyst Alison Baker commented that “the oil & gas industry is a global business and as a result should be less impacted by [Friday’s] EU referendum result.”

And Baker noted that “we’ve seen the industry… demonstrate its resilience in dealing with volatility and uncertainty through past and current oil price shocks,” adding that “we are convinced that they can do so again.”

But this isn’t to say troubles won’t be encountered further down the road, Baker noted, warning that signs of further economic hardship or crude price volatility could heap fresh pressure on the sector.

Rigged up

Such problems are a very likely possibility, in my opinion. Aside from the shock to the global economy delivered by the upcoming Brexit, worsening supply/demand indicators threaten to keep crude under the cosh for some time yet.

Sure, latest Baker Hughes data released on Friday showed the US rig count dip again. But this follows three straight rises on the bounce, indicating that an oil price around or above the psychologically-critical $50 level is attractive enough for North American drillers to return to work.

And with OPEC set to keep disappointing those hoping for an output freeze in the coming months, I believe there’s plenty of scope for oil prices to keep toiling.

Poor value

Despite these concerns, the City expects Shell to shift back into the black during 2016 following four years of heavy earnings dips.

Indeed, earnings are expected to detonate to 102 US cents per share, up from 31 cents in 2015.

However, this projection still leaves Shell dealing on a P/E rating of 25.2 times, sailing outside the benchmark of 10 times indicative of stocks with high risk profiles like the black gold giant.

A subsequent rerating of the share price would leave Shell dealing at just 748p per share. This represents a shocking 60% markdown from current stock values around £18.80.

Dividend in danger?

As well as the prospect of yet more disappointing supply data, Shell could also see investors head for the exit should it slash the dividend, as has been touted in many quarters.

Broker consensus suggests that Shell will keep the payout locked at 188 US cents per share through to the close of 2017, a figure that yields a stunning 7.2%.

But with the fossil fuel giant battling a gigantic $70bn debt pile as well as a sickly revenues outlook, I believe asset sales alone may not be enough to keep the balance sheet afloat, and that dividend cuts could still be on the cards.

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Royston Wild has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Royal Dutch Shell B. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.