Total CEO Margerie Says Projects Will Be Delayed as Oil Drops

Total SA (FP), Europe’s third-largest petroleum company, will delay some exploration and production projects as the slump in oil prices cuts into earnings.

“When prices fall, we’re making less money,” Christophe de Margerie, chief executive officer of Paris-based Total, said in an interview broadcast on Europe 1 radio today. Some of Total’s projects “will be behind schedule, there will be an impact on investments” he said, adding that the company “will do the maximum” to minimize delays and cancellations.

“Our duty is to continue to invest,” Margerie said, “What we’re launching now is for production in four, five or six years when prices will probably be higher,” he said. “If we stop investing, prices will be very high in four or five years.”

De Margerie has said the company will report lower earnings for the fourth quarter of 2008 and the current quarter on slumping oil prices, which have plunged more than $100 a barrel in the past six months. Total reports fourth-quarter results next month.

OAO Gazprom, Russia’s gas monopoly, is a “reliable partner,” De Margerie said. Gazprom is at the heart of a standoff between Russia and Ukraine over natural-gas shipments that has disrupted supplies to European nations.

Total is one of Gazprom’s partners helping the Russian company develop the offshore Shtokman natural-gas project.

To contact the reporter on this story: Francois de Beaupuy in Paris at fdebeaupuy@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net.

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