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Total Q2 profit rises 15% on high oil prices

Total SA, Europe's third-largest oil company, said profit rose 15% in the Q2 as record crude prices cushioned a drop in production. Profit excluding changes in the value of a stake in drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis SA increased to €3.36 billion, from €2.91 billion in the year-earlier period, the Paris-based company said today in a statement on its Web site. Profit was expected to be €3.42 billion, according to the median estimate from 13 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News. Total CEO Thierry Desmarest, benefited from a 33% rise in Brent crude prices in the period, to an average of $70.43 a barrel. "With the oil price this high, the upstream earnings must be really good," Ralph Herre, an oil analyst at Landesbank Baden-Wuerttemberg in Stuttgart, said before the release. "Production was hit with problems in South America. They will come back to production growth, but it will take a few quarters," said Herre, who has a "buy" recommendation on Total shares.
The company's debt is ranked Aa1 by Moody's Investors Service and AA by Standard & Poor's. "Investors are looking for production growth momentum," said Gene Pisasale, who helps manage $25 billion at Mercantile Bankshares in Baltimore. "Any improvement is a positive and the opposite is negative."
The company on Feb. 15 said production would grow "close to" 4% from 2005 to 2010 as fields in Angola, Nigeria and Norway are tapped. BP Plc, Europe's biggest oil company, on July 25 said Q2 earnings rose 30% to a record $7.27 billion while production fell 2.3%. Royal Dutch Shell Plc, the region's second-largest oil company, on July 27 said Q2 profit climbed 40% to $7.32 billion as production slid 7.7% to 3.25 million barrels of oil equivalent a day. Total last month reported crude-processing margins in the Q2 fell to $38.30 a ton from $45 a ton a year earlier. The average gas price in Q2 was $5.75 per million British thermal units, 31% higher than a year earlier and down 0.6% from the first quarter, Total said. Total's results are the first since spinning off the Arkema chemicals unit to investors in May. Total holds about 173.3 million shares in Sanofi, the world's third-largest drugmaker, according to stock exchange filings from May. (Bloomberg)