Total CEO shrugs off weak earnings, upbeat on 2014

Reuters with CNBC
We were better than our competitors: Total CEO
We were better than our competitors: Total CEO

French oil company Total insisted 2013 had been a good year despite posting weaker earnings in the final quarter of 2013, and was upbeat on the outlook for this year.

The group posted a 19 percent drop in fourth-quarter adjusted net profit to 2.47 billion euros ($3.38 billion) on Wednesday. Analysts on average expected adjusted net profit of 2.69 billion euros, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

CEO Christophe de Margerie told CNBC that the group's earnings were better than those of its competitors and pointed out that the economic environment had been worse than expected.

Mark Renders | Getty Images

The group attributed the 19 percent fall in profit to the deterioration of European refining margins but remains positive on the outlook in the medium to long-term. It raised quarterly and full-year dividends by 3.4 percent and 1.7 percent respectively to 0.61 euros and 2.38 euros.

"We will improve,"de Margerie added. "Not the refining margins, because they are market driven, but what we are improving is our costs."

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In the accompanying press release, the oil major reaffirmed its commitment to cost cutting by reducing operating costs and it also announced that the investments budget would be reduced in 2014 to $26 billion, from $28 billion the previous year.

"We were better than our competitors because we have real solid results from the new structure we put in place in 2012", the CEO said.

The Paris-based group said production reached 2.299 million barrels a day in 2013, down 0.04 percent from a year ago, while revenue dropped 4 percent from the same period a year ago to 47.8 billion euros.

"Globally", de Margerie said, "we had production in 2013 equal to 2012" as some production had to be cut because of geopolitical events in Libya and Nigeria.

Last year Total dropped an earlier target for 2-3 percent growth in oil and gas output, saying it still expected an increase depending on production at the much-delayed Kashagan field in Kazakhstan.

Brent crude oil prices have been on a downward trend since September, averaging $108.8 per barrel in 2013, almost $3 down from the average of the previous year, and were last trading near $109.

The group also announced that from January 2014 onwards, its accounts will be published in U.S. dollar to avoid weaker dollar headwinds, even though, the CEO underlined "the impact of the dollar on our accounts is very limited" as all its activities, "revenues and costs, are in dollar."

(Read more: BP profit falls but beats own forecast)

Reuters contributed to this report.