Total Energies posts record annual profit at $21.4 billion

PARIS  -  French group TotalEnergies reported on Wednesday the highest profit of its his­tory for 2023, underpinned by perfor­mances in its liquefied natural gas and electricity divisions. Net profit came in at $21.4 billion, an increase of four per­cent over 2022.

Its bottom line put the French energy conglomerate ahead of its global peers Shell, BP, Exxon-Mobil and Chevron which all reported lower earnings in the face of weaker energy prices. But To­talEnergies’s 2022 net profit had been weighed down by a huge exceptional charge -- $15 billion -- from its with­drawal from Russia following that coun­try’s invasion of Ukraine.

Once non-recurring items were stripped out, profits suffered a sharp downturn last year, with adjusted net profit falling 36 percent to $23.2 billion. Oil and gas prices dropped some 10 percent on average last year from 2022 when spiking oil prices had boosted earnings at energy companies world­wide. Chairman Patrick Pouyanne called the results “robust”, saying in a state­ment they had been achieved in “an uncertain environment”. Hydrocarbons had performed well, he said.

Still, the 2023 net profit figure fell short of forecasts by financial analysts, who had been looking for a figure of up to $23.7 billion. The company’s share price dropped around 1.5 percent in early Paris stock exchange trading in reaction. TotalEnergies has pursued its diversification towards low-carbon electricity production, but continues to be criticised by environmental groups for its ongoing investment in fossil fuels because of their climate impact.

The group announced in September that it would increase hydrocarbon production by an annual two to three percent over five years. Several court cases against the com­pany are pending, including for its land acquisition practices for controversial projects in Uganda and Tanzania slammed by environmentalists. TotalEnergies is pushing ahead with its Tilenga drilling project in Uganda and the 1,443-kilometre (897-mile) East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) to transport crude to the coast in Tanzania. Tilenga targets oil under the Murchison Falls nature reserve in western Uganda with a planned 419 wells, trigger­ing fears for the region’s fragile ecosystem among the people who live there and envi­ronmentalists. Drilling began in mid-2023 and production is slated for 2025. TotalE­nergies has argued that such projects are needed to meet world demand for energy, and points to its efforts to transition to low-carbon production, notably in solar and wind energy. The energy giant pro­posed a 7.1 percent increase in its annual dividend paid out to shareholders.

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