Total’s First-Quarter Profit Slides 10% on Refining, Output

Total SA (FP)’s first-quarter profit fell 10 percent as refining margins and output slumped at France’s largest oil producer.

Profit excluding changes in inventories dropped to $3.33 billion from $3.7 billion a year earlier, the Courbevoie, France-based company said today. The result trailed the $3.39 billion average of 10 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Production slid 6 percent to 2.179 million barrels of oil equivalent a day.

Total closed almost unchanged at 51.48 euros in Paris trading, keeping gains for the year at 16 percent.

The company follows BP Plc (BP/) and Italy’s Eni SpA (ENI) in reporting lower first-quarter earnings. As the biggest refiner in western Europe, where it operates eight plants, Total has been hurt by lower crude-processing margins caused by overcapacity. Oil output fell after the loss of concessions in Abu Dhabi.

Since the start of the second quarter, margins have recovered from “very low levels” while crude processing and petrochemicals are “favorable” in the U.S., Chief Executive Officer Christophe de Margerie said in today’s statement.

Second-quarter refining will be affected by “major turnarounds” at the Leuna and Vlissingen plants, Total said.

Kashagan Field

Adjusted net operating income for refining and chemicals slid 21 percent in the first quarter to $346 million on “strong deterioration” of the European environment, the company said. European refinery margins fell to $6.60 per metric ton of crude processed in the first quarter, from $26.90 a year before, Total said this month, citing its European Refining Margin Indicator.

The explorer will pay a dividend of 61 euro cents a share for the quarter and the payout could increase as free cash flow “accelerates,” Chief Financial Officer Patrick de la Chevardiere told a conference call. The explorer may also use proceeds to lower gearing and buy back shares.

The company is counting on new projects to increase its oil production to 2.6 million barrels a day in 2015 and to about 3 million barrels two years later. Total has said output will be unchanged in 2014 as it ramps up projects to make up for a loss of 140,000 barrels a day from a concession in Abu Dhabi.

Total blamed the first-quarter output drop partly on security issues in Libya and Nigeria.

Production hurdles this year also include a leak at Kazakhstan’s Kashagan project, held 16.8 percent by the French company. The field, which was halted after producing its first oil in September, will probably remain idled beyond this year as 180 kilometers (112 miles) of pipelines are replaced, operator North Caspian Operating Co. said April 28.

Angola LNG

Output from Angola LNG, 13.6 percent owned by Total, has been curbed since June and was halted this month because of technical issues.

“We are very frustrated and disappointed” with Angola LNG and Kashagan, de la Chevardiere said. Total “won’t change” its 2014 and 2015 output forecasts.

The targets included 15,000 barrels a day from Angola LNG this year and 25,000 barrels a day in 2015, and 10,000 barrels a day from Kashagan this year and about 50,000 barrels a day in 2015, he said.

Total has vowed to explore for new oil and gas deposits more aggressively, while cutting European refining and petrochemicals businesses 20 percent from 2012 to 2017.

De Margerie is selling assets to help pay for development of so-called mega-projects. Total has targeted $15 billion to $20 billion of asset sales from 2012 to 2014, including stakes in Nigeria’s offshore Usan field, Congolese operations and an Angolan oil deposit. Asset sales could reach $25 billion, de Margerie said in February, without giving a timeframe.

Asset sales were $1.5 billion in the latest quarter, about two-thirds from the sale of the Angola field and one-third from an initial public offering of Gaztransport & Technigaz SA, de la Chevardiere said. Closing the Usan deal is taking “longer than expected.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tara Patel in Paris at tpatel2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net Alex Devine, Randall Hackley

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