The Strategist

French Total and Norwegian Statoil adapted to low oil prices

04/27/2016 - 15:15

Today, two major European oil and gas companies - France's Total and Norway's Statoil - reported their first quarter results. They occurred much better than analysts' forecasts. Observers note that the companies were able to adapt to the low oil prices by reducing costs and increasing operational efficiency.

Laurent Vincenti
Laurent Vincenti
Statoil’s statement showed that net income was $ 122 million, while analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expected a loss of $ 125 million. The company said that it has already managed to save $ 1.9 billion in the first quarter within its cost-cutting program. This is even more than the target of $ 1.7 billion set for the first quarter. In 2016 as a whole, the company intends to cut costs by $ 2.5 billion compared with 2015. Statoil’s operating and administrative costs in the first quarter already fell by 20% compared to the first quarter of the previous year. 

Earlier this year, Statoil, along other oil companies, faced a sharp drop in profits due to lower energy prices. After that, the company announced a large-scale anti-crisis program. In addition to reducing costs by $ 2.5 billion, the Norwegians declared its intention to curtail investment - from $ 14.7 billion last year to $ 13 billion this year. Special measures to encourage shareholders pleased investors, too. Besides keeping the dividend at the same level by reducing the investment, the company offered shareholders a special program in which they can receive dividends either in cash or as options to the company’s new shares at a discount of 5%.

"We believe that the main conclusion of Statoil’s reporting - the successful results of cost reduction on production projects, which led to good results as a whole", - Reuters quotes an analytical report of Bernstein investment company. Once the quarterly reports were published, Statoil shares on Oslo stock exchange rose by 3.6%.

The quarter report of the French Total, also presented today, was the second good news for the market. The company had a profit of $ 1.6 billion in the first quarter, while analysts polled by Reuters had expected lower earnings - $ 1.2 billion. On the back of low oil prices, the French also managed to effectively reduce costs. The company boasts that its spending in the segment of production is now the lowest among the leading market players. Total also reassured that the plan of cutting costs by $ 900 million is progressing well in 2016. Thanks to activating nine projects, Total in the first quarter was even able to increase production by 4%. In addition, the company in the first quarter successfully completed sale of assets totaling $ 900 million. 

Total’s management stressed that it achieved much success in the growth of the efficiency and profitability of the oil refining and chemical operations. As compared to the fourth quarter last year, earnings from these operations increased by 3% and amounted to a large part of the entire quarterly profits - $ 1.1 billion.

Refining and chemicals helped Total to finish 2015 better than many of its competitors. Then, the French company reported a profit drop of 28%, while ExxonMobil - 50%, and Shell - 80%. The French company’s shares after the publication of reporting rose by 2% on the Euronext trading today.