France's Total gets oil price profit boost

February 10, 2012 - 4:25 AM

PARIS (AP) — French oil company Total SA forecast higher production this year while revealing Friday that higher oil prices helped it post a 12.8 percent rise in fourth quarter profits despite a drop in output.

France's largest company by market value reported fourth quarter profit of euro2.29 billion ($3.0 billion) from euro2.03 billion the year before.That took the full-year profit up to euro12.3 billion, 16 percent higher from euro10.5 billion in 2010.

CEO Christophe de Margerie said high oil prices helped profits on production activities in the quarter but hurt downstream operations such as refining. Upstream revenue was up 21 percent in the fourth quarter to euro2.8 billion while downstream revenue fell 7 percent, losing euro222 million.

De Margerie said the company plans euro20 billion in investments this year and that the startup of the new deep offshore Pazflor field in Angola and others "will ensure a return to production growth in 2012 and the years to come."

Total's output was down 1.3 percent over the year at 2.35 million barrels a day. It was 2.38 million barrels a day in the fourth quarter, roughly unchanged from the same quarter a year earlier.

The company announced a dividend of euro2.28, the same as the year before.

Europe's biggest oil company, Royal Dutch Shell, reported weaker than expected fourth quarter earnings last week and also said it would embark on a new program to boost production. Shell reported a 4.3 percent annual fall in fourth quarter earnings to $6.5 billion because of a sharp downturn in industry refining margins and in natural gas prices.

Britain's BP PLC posted double-digit gains in profit and revenue in the last three months of 2011 despite further big payments to compensate for the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. BP reported a profit of $7.69 billion.