Total says oil price boosts quarterly profit by third

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French oil group Total raised first-quarter adjusted net profit by 35 percent to 3.1 billion euros, boosted by high oil prices, the company said on Friday.

The outcome was slightly higher than the figure expected on average by analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires who had expected a figure of 3.06 billion euros.

Sales rose by 22.0 percent to 46.03 billion euros.

Total is the biggest company by capitalisation on the French CAC 40 index.

Net profit after payments to minority interests rose by 51.0 percent to 3.9 billion euros.

Total, in common with other oil groups, has benefited from a surge of oil prices caused in part by unrest in the Middle East and North Africa. In the first quarter the price of a barrel of Brent quality North Sea oil was $105.4, or 38.0-percent higher than the average in the same period of last year.

But Total said that its production of hydrocarbons fell by 2.3 percent from the figure 12 months earlier to 2.371 million barrels a day. The group has targeted stable production for the whole of this year.

The fall of output reflected mainly the rise in the price of oil. In some countries, Total has to reduce output when prices rise.

Unrest in Libya reduced production by Total by 0.5 percent in the quarter.

Total said: "Group production continues to be affected by the halt of output in Libya which accounts for about 2.0 percent of group production in a full year."

In the refining sector, the volume of crude oil processed rose by 1.0 percent but margins fell by 17.0 percent.

But the group made an operating profit on these activities of 276 million euros, an increase of 78.0 percent, owing to improved use of refineries in Europe.

Activity in the first quarter of last year had been constrained by technical problems and strikes, the company recalled.

In the chemical sector, operating profit rose by 70.0 percent on improved trading conditions.

Total said that this year it would complete a programme of divestments totalling about $10.0 billion.

These divestments, alongside acquisitions made recently, asserted the group's strategy of redirecting activities while maintaining strong finances, the firm said.

Overnight, Total said that it was making a friendly bid of $1.38 billion for the US maker of solar panels SunPower in order to become a world leader in the field of solar energy.

© 2011 AFP

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