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TotalEnergies returns to profit after Covid crisis

PARIS (AFP) – French energy giant TotalEnergies yesterday rebounded from the Covid crisis with a huge 2021 profit as oil and gas prices soared – a performance that raised political hackles in an election year in France.

The company reported net profit of USD16 billion – the highest in at least 15 years – following a historic USD7.2 billion loss in 2020, when oil prices crashed.

Oil and gas firms slumped into the red in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic slashed energy demand and prices.

But the market rebounded last year as the global economy and demand recovered.

“We entered the year 2021 cautiously, we didn’t know we were headed at the start of the year and we saw the environment completely turn around,” Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanne said at a news conference.

TotalEnerges raked in USD16 billion in profits last year. PHOTO: AFP

“We took full advantage of this favourable environment, particularly in the second half of the year,” he said, noting that the company’s liquefied natural gas business did particularly well.

TotalEnergies’ adjusted net profit, which excludes certain one-time expenses, increased more than fourfold to USD18.1 billion – even as its oil production fell two per cent last year.

With a presidential election looming in April, French left-wing politicians criticised the soaring profits at TotalEnergies even before the annual earnings statement was released.

Green presidential election candidate Yannick Jadot railed against profits made “on the back of French men and women” while “gas and petrol bills rise for the benefit of shareholders”.

“We should just take it from them,” said left-wing leader Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Stellar results at oil majors BP and Shell prompted calls for a windfall tax on the British energy giants.

Pouyanne said TotalEnergies already makes sizeable contributions to governments.

“If more were taken, it would be at the expense of investments, workers or shareholders,” he said.

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