France's Total Posts Forecast-Topping Profit

Total, the world's fourth-largest Western oil group, reported a 20 percent rise in second-quarter adjusted net profit, buoyed by record oil prices and the start of production at new oil and gas fields.

The Paris-based major earned 3.723 billion euros ($5.82 billion) in net profit -- adjusted to strip out gains from changes in the value of fuel inventories and one-off items -- against 3.1 billion euros in the second quarter of 2007.

This was slightly above the 3.646 billion euro average forecast of a Reuters poll of 11 analysts.

Total again bucked a trend of flat or falling oil and gas production among rivals like Royal Dutch Shell and BP.

The start-up of its Jura gas and condensate field in the UK North Sea, and of the 90,000 barrel a day Moho Bilondo offshore oil field in the Republic of Congo helped lift Total's output by 1 percent to 2.353 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Operating income rose 35 percent to 7.786 billion euros on sales up 23 percent to 48.2 billion euros.

When expressed in dollars, Total's net income was up 39 percent, and operating income rose 41 percent on sales that came 43 percent higher.

A 76 percent year-on-year rise in the price of crude in the second quarter, to an average of $120 a barrel, underpinned the upstream business of France's biggest listed company with a market capitalization of just about $180 billion.

The group made no comment on its outlook.

It had previously said its oil and gas production would rise on average by closer to 3 percent between 2006 and 2010, rather than 4 percent earlier envisaged.