France’s Total posted better than expected earnings in the fourth quarter as oil prices stabilised, but a hit from writedowns on assets due to the COVID-19 pandemic plunged it to a $7.2 billion net loss for 2020 as a whole.
Like its rivals, the oil and gas major suffered as fuel consumption plummeted during the pandemic. Total had already recorded the bulk of around $10 billion in charges, including related to write downs on its Canadian oil sands assets, in the first half of last year, and on an adjusted basis, net income came in at $4.06 billion for the year.
The group said the outlook remained uncertain and it would target another $500 million in cost cuts in 2021, after saving $1.1 billion last year.
Total, which has been investing heavily in buying renewable energy assets, said it planned to change its name to TotalEnergies, reflecting its bid to pivot away from its dependence on oil and gas.
The group said it has already spent more than $2 billion on acquisitions in the renewables sector this year, exceeding last year’s investments.
Adjusted net income for the fourth quarter, which strips out some one off items, was down 59% from the year earlier period to $1.3 billion. That was, however, an improvement from a steeper drop a quarter earlier and above analysts’ expectations, in contrast with some peers including Shell.
Shares were up 1.3% in early trading.
It said it would propose a payout of 0.66 euros per share for the October to December period, in line with previous quarters in 2020.
Reporting by Benjamin Mallet and Sarah White; editing by Jason Neely, Kirsten Donovan