Like its competitors, Total posts bumper profits

16th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 15, 2006 (AFP) - French oil group Total reported on Wednesday that its net profit last year leapt by nearly a third to EUR 12 billion, marking a record for the group and for any French company.

PARIS, Feb 15, 2006 (AFP) - French oil group Total reported on Wednesday that its net profit last year leapt by nearly a third to EUR 12 billion, marking a record for the group and for any French company.

The result, achieved in a context of rising crude oil prices, immediately drew criticism from French consumer group UFC-Que Choisir, which said that Total should be subjected to an exceptional tax of EUR 5 billion.

International oil companies, which have posted bumper profits for 2005, have been accused of raising prices at the expense of consumers.

Total, the fourth-biggest oil group in the world, has nearly doubled its profitability in two years after reporting net profit of EUR 7 billion in 2003.

But the group is far behind ExxonMobil of the United States, the biggest oil group in the world, which posted record net profit of US $36 billion for 2005.

At the beginning of the month, Royal Dutch Shell also set a record in British corporate history when it posted net profit of EUR 19.03 billion for 2005.

The profit figure was towards the bottom of a range of forecasts by analysts, according to a poll by AFX News, the financial news subsidiary of AFP.

One trader at a US bank, who declined to be named, said that the dividend proposed by the company, while increased, represented only a small part of the profits.

Total said that it would propose a dividend of EUR 6.48 to shareholders, an increase of 20 percent compared with the dividend paid from the profits of 2004.

The group also said that its investments had increased by 26 percent in 2005 to EUR 11.2 billion, but would be held at this level in 2006.

The trader suggested that the group might be retaining profits for possible takeovers. He also said that the company's refining margins in Europe were weak and that this might have disappointed investors.

Total reported that sales in 2005 had risen by 17 percent to EUR 143.2 billion, but production had fallen by four percent compared with 2004.

The fall in production was a result of disruption from hurricanes in the US, labour problems at a refinery in Normandy, France, stoppages of North Sea production, and political unrest in the Congo, Total said.

In the fourth quarter alone, Total made a net profit of EUR 3.05 billion, an increase of 16 percent from the equivalent figure the previous year and representing EUR 5.20 per share, an increase of 18 percent.

Total said that on May 18 it would split its shares into four.

Total said that its proved and probable reserves amounted to 20 billion barrels of oil at the end of 2005. This was equivalent to nearly 22 years of production at the current rate of output.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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