Total Sees Deal Targets Still Too Expensive After Crude Crash

Total CFO Patrick de la Chevardiere
Patrick de la Chevardiere, Chief Financial Officer of Total SA. Photographer: Fabrice Dimier/Bloomberg

Total SA Chief Financial Officer Patrick de La Chevardiere said prospective takeover targets are still too expensive after crude prices collapsed.

“All potential targets brought to us by bankers haven’t yet adjusted in terms of prices,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Tuesday. “They are still expensive companies. Their share prices haven’t adjusted to the new oil price environment.”

The executive didn’t name any companies Total may be considering to buy.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s $70 billion move for BG Group Plc to form the world’s biggest producer of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, could trigger a wave of consolidation deals, analysts including Jean-Luc Romain of CM-CIC Securities have said. Gerard Mestrallet, Chief Executive Officer of the French utility that changed its name to Engie from GDF Suez, expressed a similar view on Monday.

Commenting on the the biggest deal in Shell’s history, Total’s de La Chevardiere said that “the price was quite high.” That echoes comments earlier this month from Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne, who said the French company can afford some acquisitions.

“It’s a bit early for me,” Pouyanne said then. “The opportunities will really come if oil prices remain low over a longer period. Then you will see real opportunities for major companies like Total.”

Oil has rebounded from a six-year low in March on speculation a drilling slowdown will reduce U.S. production and Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen will disrupt Middle East supplies. Iran and world powers are in talks to reach a final nuclear deal by the end of June that may result in sanctions being lifted against the Persian nation’s oil exports.

Brent Collapse

The global Brent benchmark collapsed last year as OPEC maintained its output target at 30 million barrels a day, saying non-member producers created an oversupply and must help tackle it. It’s up 13 percent this year, at about $65 a barrel, while still more than 40 percent lower than its June high.

“There is a big question about what Saudi Arabia will do when Iran is back on the market,” de La Chevardiere said about future crude supply and prices. Slower drilling in the U.S. may have lowered or stabilized output there, though “it all depends on Iran coming back or the Saudis making a decision.”

The company plans to move into Iran when sanctions are removed, La Chevardiere said.

“We had a project prior to the sanctions, and we are ready to move in as soon as the sanctions are lifted,” he said.

U.S. drillers cut the number of active rigs in the country to 703 last week, the lowest level since October 2010. Crude inventories gained despite the decline.

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