French oil major Total’s Q1 profits lifted by record production

Total produced 2.703 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in the first quarter, driven by ramp-ups and new acquisitions, up more than 5 percent compared to the same period in 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 26 April 2018
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French oil major Total’s Q1 profits lifted by record production

  • Net adjusted profit came in at $2.9 billion, beating analysts’ forecast of $2.77 billion in the quarter
  • Total expects to exceed its 6 percent production target for 2018

PARIS: Record output and high oil prices helped French oil and gas major Total report a consensus-beating rise in net adjusted profit during the first three months of the year, with Total adding it would surpass its production target for 2018.
Total’s earnings echoed a similarly robust set of results from Royal Dutch Shell which also posted higher Q1 profits on Thursday.
Total produced 2.703 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d) in the first quarter, driven by ramp-ups and new acquisitions, up more than 5 percent compared to the same period in 2017, and above analysts’ estimates of 2.663 million boe/d.
It said the ramp-up of production from new projects such as Yamal LNG in Russia and Moho Nord in Congo, along with newly acquired assets, including Maersk Oil and Al-Shaheen in Qatar, had enabled it to reach record production during the quarter.
It marked Total’s highest output ever recorded in a quarter, surpassing a previous record of 2.66 million boe/d in 2003.
Net adjusted profit came in at $2.9 billion, beating analysts’ forecast of $2.77 billion in the quarter.
“Oil prices continued to rebound in the first quarter 2018,” said Total’s Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanne in a statement.
“Brent rose to an average of $67 per barrel, supported by strong demand, OPEC-non-OPEC compliance and geopolitical tensions,” he also said.
“Cash flow after organic investments increased to $2.8 billion, up by more than 50 percent from a year ago, thanks to good operational performance and continued spending discipline,” added Pouyanne.
Total said it expected to exceed its 6 percent production target for 2018 thanks to the start-ups and ramp-ups of new projects, such as Kashagan in Kazakhstan, Kaombo in Angola and Ichthys in Australia, later in the year.
It said this would support its target of 5 percent per year on average output growth between 2016 and 2022, even though Total noted that the global environment remained volatile with persistent uncertainty around the evolution of global supply.
Total also said it would continue to exercise discipline on its cost base.
It maintained 2018 investments at $15-$17 billion, with an operating expense target of $5.5 per barrel of oil equivalent. It said cost reduction plans were ongoing, with an objective of over $4 billion in 2018.
Total said it will raise first quarter interim dividend by 3.2 percent, while Scrip shares issued in January for the second 2017 interim dividend were bought back to prevent dilution.
“In addition, the group bought back a further $300 million of shares to return to shareholders part of the benefit realized from higher oil prices,” Pouyanne said.
The company said in February that it planned to buy back up to $5 billion of stock over 2018-2020 to share the benefits of higher oil prices with investors.


Despite efforts to stop lira fall, Turks still worried

Updated 26 May 2018
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Despite efforts to stop lira fall, Turks still worried

ANKARA: After the embattled Turkish lira weakened against the US dollar this week, Turks remain troubled over the economy despite the government’s reassurances.
The lira’s drama worsened on Wednesday when Japanese investors sold Turkish assets, after comments by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spooked investors earlier in May.
The lira hit 4.92 against the dollar before paring back some of its losses on Wednesday after an emergency central bank interest rate hike, but for many it’s not enough.
In a busy bureau de change on one of Ankara’s popular streets, thoughts turn to the worsening situation and fears that the country is already in a “currency crisis,” as experts at Commerzbank have described it.
During AFP’s visit, dozens came in to change their liras into gold, dollars and euros.
Ali Yilik indicated he was not convinced by Ankara’s reassurances as he changed his money into dollars for work.
“Who wouldn’t be worried about the exchange rate (situation)? This is not something that happens in normal conditions. It is extraordinary,” Yilik, who sells construction material, said.
Ali’s son Yahya Yilik, who is the manager at Tunali Doviz, said more Turks were coming in buying euros and dollars amid worries that the lira would fall further.
“They think the lira will keep losing value,” Yilik told AFP, adding that interest rate increases were a “temporary measure.”
In the past “one or two weeks,” the manager said the center had sold more foreign exchange than those wanting to buy lira.
The fall followed Erdogan comments during his UK visit mid-May when he indicated he wanted a greater say in monetary policy if he won in June 24 polls. This then raised concerns over economic policy becoming more unpredictable.
Student Necdet Guven was in the bureau de change to obtain dollars ahead of a trip to the US in mid-June but said he was “really worried” about the economy.
“Because everyday our economy gets worse. In the past, Turkey used to be among the top countries for agriculture and livestock, but now we import meat from Serbia and straw from Russia,” Guven lamented.
“We are not that developed a country in terms of industry,” he added, saying he believed Turkey had the potential to develop the economy further.
The lira appeared to show no signs of dramatic improvement and was at 4.70 against the dollar on Friday. In the past month, the lira has lost over 16 percent of its value against the greenback.
In a bid to ease concerns, Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek — an ex Merrill Lynch economist trusted by markets — on Friday said the central bank “would do whatever is necessary” during an interview with NTV broadcaster.
“There is no question of taking steps back on either the independence of the central bank or the rule-based market economy,” Simsek vowed.
But not everyone looked at the situation pessimistically.
Orhan Albayrak said the euro and dollar’s value was increasing because of “outside forces’ economic pressure on Turkey,” adding there was “an artificial rise.”
But Albayrak, a wholesaler, was hopeful the lira’s fortunes would improve toward the date of the presidential and parliamentary elections.
“But when there are five, 10 days to the elections, I believe this increase will reverse,” he added.
Albayrak said the three percent key rate rise had some impact, but believed the lira could improve and “reach 4.2, 4.3” with further central bank moves supported by the government.
After the rate hike on Wednesday evening, Erdogan insisted Turkey would adhere to the global governance principles on monetary policy in the new system post-election.
But, Erdogan added he would not let those principles “finish our country off.”