Total CEO Says He Doubts Probe Will Uncover Oil-Price Fixing

Total SA’s chief executive officer said he would be “very surprised” if a European investigation uncovered price-fixing in the crude and oil-products markets.

“Knowing the companies that are named, I would be very surprised if they contributed to manipulation of prices,” Christophe De Margerie told reporters today in Paris after the annual general meeting of Europe’s third-biggest oil company. De Margerie denied that Total had lodged a complaint with the European Commission that may have sparked the probe.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc, BP Plc and Statoil, three of Europe’s biggest oil explorers, are being investigated by EC officials about potential manipulation of prices in the $3.4 trillion-a-year global crude market. Platts, owned by McGraw Hill Financial Inc., is also a target.

“I know Statoil and I can’t imagine that company manipulating prices,” de Margerie said. “I know their ethics. I don’t see a big scandal.”

Statoil Chief Executive Officer Helge Lund has said the company doesn’t tolerate violations of European Union laws.

Total SA has estimated that as much as 80 percent of all crude and oil-product transactions are linked to reference prices such as those published by Platts, while as much as 20 percent are linked to exchange-traded futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange and ICE Futures Europe.

“The system isn’t perfect but that doesn’t mean there’s price fixing,” de Margerie said.

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