Total sees deep water, Liquid Natural Gas acquisition potential as oil falls

Total LNG

Total SA said it may take advantage of the slump in crude to make acquisitions that build on the strengths of Europe’s third-biggest oil company in deepwater offshore fields and LNG.

“When we are in a low price environment, it’s natural and not surprising that big oil companies are opportunistic,” Yves-Louis Darricarrere, president of upstream at Total, said at the CIS O&G conference in Paris on Wednesday. “We are second to none on deep offshore and LNG and we have a clear strategy to keep and reinforce these strong points.”

Total’s appetite for acquiring reserves was illustrated this year by its renewal of an oil concession in Abu Dhabi, said Darricarrere, who declined to say whether the French oil company is considering any deals. Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s $70-billion move for BG Group Plc this month could trigger a wave of industry transactions after crude prices fell by half, analysts including Jean-Luc Romain of CM-CIC Securities have said.

Total has developed deepwater fields in Angola and has LNG projects in Australia and Papua New Guinea.

“If there are good opportunities Total could act,” CEO Patrick Pouyanne said April 16. “We have a financial situation that means that in today’s environment of cheap money we could do everything. The question is whether we would.”

Total wants to raise $5 billion through asset disposals this year, and is targeting a total of $10 billion through 2017. Former CEO Christophe de Margerie began a wave of sales that saw Total divest pipelines, producing fields and refinery stakes. So far, there haven’t been any major acquisitions.

Bit Early

“It’s a bit early for me,” Pouyanne said last week. “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.”

Total is sticking to a forecast for production growth of 8% this year as eight projects start, Darricarrere said. The company is “putting pressure” on spending including on exploration and lowering the break-even point for projects partly through cost-cutting in response to lower crude prices, he said.

The French company has said it will become more selective in drilling exploration wells after years of expanding its budget failed to result in major finds.

source: Bloomberg/Tara Patel

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