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Cost cuts Total Q3 profit beats estimates on refining margins

Company raises 2015 production-growth target to at least 9%

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Total SA posted a third-quarter profit that beat analysts’ forecasts as rising oil and gas production and growing profits from its refining operations helped the French company weather a slump in crude prices.

Total’s adjusted net income fell to $2.76 billion in the third quarter, a decline of 23 percent from $3.56 billion a year ago, the company said in a statement Thursday. That beat the average $2.46 billion estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Net income dropped 69 percent to $1.08 billion as the company wrote down the value of inventories and took a charge on an asset it’s selling.

“This is another robust set of results from Total, emphasizing the resilience across many of its businesses,” Jefferies International Ltd. analysts Marc Kofler and Jason Gammel said in an e-mailed note. “Low tax somewhat flatters earnings.”

Total has joined other major energy producers in cutting costs and spending this year as oil prices plunged amid a global oversupply. The company said it remains on track to exceed its savings target of $1.2 billion this year and reiterated its goal to reduce 2015 capital expenditure to $23 billion to $24 billion.

Production Growth

“In a context where the oil price has fallen by 50 percent in one year, Total was able to demonstrate its resilience,” Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanne said in a statement. “The group is benefiting from its integrated model, production growth and discipline on both investments and operating costs.”

Oil and gas production increased by 10 percent from a year earlier to 2.34 million barrels of oil equivalent a day as projects in countries including Australia and Canada started, the company said. Average output is now expected to rise by at least 9 percent for the whole of 2015, up from a previous goal of more than 8 percent, it said.

Total’s refining and chemicals division was “able to take full advantage of favorable margins” in the quarter, Pouyanne said. The unit’s adjusted net operating income almost doubled from a year earlier to $1.43 billion, the company said.

Tax Rate

The results were aided by an effective tax rate of just 30 percent, including a favorable one-time tax adjustment in Nigeria of about $100 million, according to Jefferies.

Shares of the company gained as much as 2.7 percent in Paris and were little changed at 43.94 euros ($48.15) at 10:14 a.m. local time.

France’s second-biggest company by market capitalization said it’s keeping its interim dividend unchanged at 0.61 euros a share, payable in April next year.

Last month, Total announced increased cost cuts, investment cutbacks and project delays in a bid to protect its dividend. The company said the measures will allow it to fund shareholder payouts in 2017 from the cash it generates pumping, refining and selling oil without the need to take on debt, even with crude at $60 a barrel. It plans to raise $5 billion through asset disposals this year and is targeting a total of $10 billion through 2017.

Source: Bloomberg

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