PARIS, May 5 — Total said today its quarterly profit fell by 99 per cent because of dropping oil prices and announced it would slash investments in response to ongoing turmoil in crude markets.
The French oil major reported a net profit of US$34 million for the first quarter, against US$3.1 billion a year earlier.
Oil prices suffered a sharp drop in the first quarter due to overproduction and a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, falling to US$50.1 from US$63.1 a year earlier.
The sharp fall in oil and gas prices depressed Total’s cash flow from operations by nearly two thirds.
Since the end of March, oil has been hit further by a collapse in demand due to the economic impact of the coronavirus, even going negative at one point last month, when sellers had to pay buyers to take oil off their hands.
“The Group is facing exceptional circumstances: The Covid-19 health crisis which is affecting the world economy and creating major uncertainties, and the oil market crisis, with the sharp drop in oil prices since March,” CEO Patrick Pouyanne said in a statement.
Total said it was setting a new savings target and would cut both its investment and crude production objectives.
Investments would now be less than US$14 billion for this year, down a quarter from what the group had announced in February.
Total did, however, decide to pay out an interim dividend of €0.66 per share, the same level as a year earlier.
Also on Thursday, Spanish oil group Repsol reported a deep loss for the first quarter, citing similar factors as its French peer for the downturn.
Repsol’s net loss came to €487 million (US$530 million), compared to analysts’ forecasts of a profit of 328 million and the 608 million net profit it made a year earlier.
“The volatility of the international commodities prices has impacted the valuation of the company’s inventories to an extraordinary degree,” Repsol said.
The company added, however, that its balance sheet was solid and that it was sticking to its commitment of paying out a dividend of €1 per share for 2020. — AFP