Here’s why Royal Dutch Shell plc could be the best bet to ride out the Brexit storm

Financial markets around the world been on a wild ride since last Friday, and few companies have managed to defy the gloom.

However, FTSE 100 dividend champion Shell (LSE: RDSB) is one company that has racked up a positive performance over the past two days, as markets around the world have plunged, and it looks as if this positive performance is set to continue.

Flight to safety 

Since last Friday morning, shares in Shell have gained 2.3%, outperforming the wider FTSE 100 by nearly 6%. These gains extended Shell’s year-to-date outperformance over the UK’s leading index to around 27%, excluding dividends.

As one of the largest companies in the UK, and a dividend stalwart of the London market, investors often look to Shell to provide stability in times of market turbulence. For example, between January 2008 and mid-2014, when the price of oil collapsed, Shell outperformed the wider FTSE 100 by more than 8%, again excluding dividends.

Nonetheless, this time around shares in Shell are benefiting from more than just a demand for safe haven assets from investors.

International exposure

The majority of Shell’s operations are outside the UK, and the company earns the majority of its income in US dollars. As a result, the dramatic devaluation of sterling that has taken place since Friday morning will provide a strong tailwind for Shell’s earnings growth this year.

Specifically, while the price of Brent oil has fallen from a little over $50 per barrel, to $48/bbl since Friday (at time of writing), according to my calculations the price of Brent has jumped by around 8.4% in sterling terms, from £33.30/bbl to £36.10/bbl. This is just a rough estimate, but it highlights how Shell could be set to benefit from the EU referendum result and subsequent market volatility.

Business as usual

What’s more, the majority of Shell’s operations are located outside the United Kingdom, so most the group’s business is relatively immune to Brexit uncertainty. Simply put, for Shell, it’s business as usual following the referendum. Most of the group’s international operations will be unaffected by Brexit, and weaker sterling means higher profits. If anything, the outcome of the referendum is slightly positive for Shell.

With this being the case it possible that City analysts could move to upgrade Shell’s earnings forecasts in the near future. Analysts currently expect the group to report earnings per share of 75p for the year ending 31 December 2016. For the year ended December 31, 2017, analysts are predicting earnings growth of 76% to 132p, implying that shares in Shell currently trade at a 2017 P/E of 13.7.

At present levels, the shares support a dividend yield of 7.4%, and while earnings don’t cover the dividend of 129p per share, management has confirmed the company’s commitment to the payout. Moreover, current City figures suggest that next year earnings per share will exceed the dividend payout, a reassuring forecast for income investors.

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Rupert Hargreaves owns shares of Royal Dutch Shell. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Royal Dutch Shell. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.