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.


Foreign investors hope India dials back policy shocks after Modi win

Updated 24 May 2019
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Foreign investors hope India dials back policy shocks after Modi win

  • Modi’s pro-business image and India’s youthful population have lured foreign investors
  • After Modi’s win, about a dozen officials of foreign companies in India and their advisers said they hoped he would ease his stance and dilute some of the policies

NEW DELHI: Foreign companies in India have welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election victory for the political stability it brings, but now they need to see him soften a protectionist stance adopted in the past year.
Modi’s pro-business image and India’s youthful population have lured foreign investors, with US firms such as Amazon.com , Walmart and Mastercard committing billions of dollars in investments and ramping up hiring.
India is also the biggest market by users for firms such as Facebook Inc, and its subsidiary, WhatsApp.
But from around 2017, critics say, the Hindu nationalist leader took a harder, protectionist line on sectors such as e-commerce and technology, crafting some policies that appeared to aim at whipping up patriotic fervor ahead of elections.

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“I hope he’s now back to wooing businesses,” said Prasanto Roy, a technology policy analyst based in New Delhi, who advises global tech firms.
“Global firms remain deeply concerned about the lack of policy stability or predictability, this has sent a worrying message to global investors.”
India stuck to its policies despite protests and aggressive lobbying by the United States government, US-India trade bodies and companies themselves.
Small hurdles
Modi was set to hold talks on Friday to form a new cabinet after election panel data showed his Bharatiya Janata Party had won 302 of the 542 seats at stake and was leading in one more, up from the 282 it won in 2014.
After Modi’s win, about a dozen officials of foreign companies in India and their advisers told Reuters they hoped he would ease his stance and dilute some of the policies.
Other investors hope the government will avoid sudden policy changes on investment and regulation that catch them off guard and prove very costly, urging instead industry-wide consultation that permits time to prepare.
Protectionism concerns “are small hurdles you have to go through,” however, said Prem Watsa, the chairman of Canadian diversified investment firm Fairfax Financial, which has investments of $5 billion in India.
“There will be more business-friendly policies and more private enterprise coming into India,” he told Reuters in an interview.
Tech, healthcare and beyond
Among the firms looking for more friendly steps are global payments companies that had benefited since 2016 from Modi’s push for electronic payments instead of cash.
Last year, however, firms such as Mastercard and Visa were asked to store more of their data in India, to allow “unfettered supervisory access,” a change that prompted WhatsApp to delay plans for a payments service.
Modi’s government has also drafted a law to clamp similar stringent data norms on the entire sector.
But abrupt changes to rules on foreign investment in e-commerce stoked alarm at firms such as Amazon, which saw India operations disrupted briefly in February, and Walmart, just months after it invested $16 billion in India’s Flipkart.
Policy changes also hurt foreign players in the $5-billion medical device industry, such as Abbott Laboratories, Boston Scientific and Johnson & Johnson, following 2017 price caps on products such as heart stents and knee implants.
Modi’s government said the move aimed to help poor patients and curb profiteering, but the US government and lobby groups said it harmed innovation, profits and investment plans.
“If foreign companies see their future in this country on a long-term basis...they will have to look at the interests of the people,” Ashwani MaHajjan, an official of a nationalist group that pushed for some of the measures, told Reuters.
That view was echoed this week by two policymakers who said government policies will focus on strengthening India’s own companies, while providing foreign players with adequate opportunities for growth.
Such comments worry foreign executives who fear Modi is not about to change his protectionist stance in a hurry, with one offical of a US tech firm saying, “I’d rather be more worried than be optimistic.”