Total takes $6.5B impairment, slashes costs

French oil major Total took a $6.5 billion writedown in the fourth quarter, mainly on its North American oil sands and shale assets, and announced cost cuts across the board to cope with weaker oil prices.

The company said its net adjusted profit fell 17 percent to $2.8 billion in the quarter, compared with the same period a year ago, a lower drop than analysts had expected. Its revenue fell 19 percent to $52.5 billion.

Total, whose long-serving Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie died in a plane crash in Moscow last October, is the last of the Western world's five big oil majors to publish fourth-quarter results.

Its results echo the shrinking profits and capital spending reductions announced by its rivals as contend with a plunge in crude prices since last summer.

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Total said it would increase cuts to operational costs by $400 million to $1.2 billion this year, compared with its previous target, while spending 30 percent less on exploration work and reducing organic investments by up to 13 percent to $23-24 billion.

The group also intends to raise more money this year from selling assets than previously planned, targeting $5 billion in disposals.

Like its peers, Total decided to maintain its shareholder payouts with a fourth-quarter dividend of 0.61 euros a share despite the decline in profits.

Chief Financial Officer Patrick de La Chevardiere told reporters on Thursday the oil major was cutting its breakeven point by $40 per barrel to about $70.