The figures compare to a profit of $8.5bn for the fourth quarter of 2007 and a profit of $31.3bn for 2007 as a whole.

The international oil major, which has a number of ventures in the Middle East, suffered from weak fourth quarter earnings as a result of collapsing oil prices.

Fourth quarter revenues were also down, from $106.7bn a year ago to $81.1bn. However, full year revenues rose from $355.8bn to $458.4bn.

Chief executive officer Jeroen van der Veer says the company intends to continue with its investment strategy.

“We delivered satisfactory performance in the fourth quarter of 2008, given the pressure on demand for oil,” he says. “Industry conditions remain challenging, and we are continuing the focus on capital and cost discipline in Shell.”