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Oil major TotalEnergies swings to profit thanks to surging commodity prices

This photograph taken on May 28, 2021 shows the new TotalEnergies logo during its unveling ceremony, at La Defense on the outskirts of Paris.
CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT | AFP | Getty Images

French oil major TotalEnergies on Thursday reported a sharp upswing in full-year profit, boosted by a huge rebound in commodity prices.

The oil and gas giant said full-year 2021 adjusted net income came in at $18.1 billion, while net income came in at $16 billion. That compared with adjusted net income of $4.1 billion and a net loss of $7.2 billion the previous year.

Analysts polled by Refinitiv had expected full-year 2021 adjusted net profit to come in at $17.1 billion.

For the final quarter of 2021, TotalEnergies reported adjusted earnings of $6.8 billion, beating analyst expectations of $6.1 billion.

TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyann? said in a statement that the firm’s “multi-energy model demonstrated its ability to take full advantage of the very favorable environment, particularly in the LNG and electricity sectors.”

A surge in global gas prices through the final months of 2021, coupled with an oil price rally to seven-year highs, has seen the world’s largest fossil fuel giants rake in bumper revenues.

British oil major BP reported Tuesday that profits soared to an eight-year high of almost $13 billion, while rival Shell posted annual revenues of $19.3 billion. U.S. competitors Chevron and Exxon Mobil recorded full-year net profits of $15.6 billion and $23 billion, respectively.

It marks a dramatic shift from 2020 when the oil and gas industry endured a dreadful 12 months by virtually every measure.

Share buybacks

TotalEnergies also announced a final dividend of 0.66 euros ($0.75) per share, taking the total for 2021 to 2.64 euros per share.

The company outlined an increase in interim dividends of 5% in 2022 and said it plans $2 billion in share buybacks for the first half of the year.

Net debt was reduced to $20.8 billion by the end of 2021, down from $29.3 billion when compared to the end of 2020.

Energy analysts have warned that investors are likely to harbor a “tremendous degree” of skepticism over the industry’s long-term prospects, however, particularly amid persistent pressure to massively reduce fossil fuel use.

To be sure, the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and gas is the chief driver of the climate emergency. Climate scientists have repeatedly stressed that the best weapon to tackle rising global temperatures is to cut greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible.

The world’s largest oil and gas companies have all sought to strengthen their climate targets in recent years, but so far none have given investors confidence their business model is fully aligned to Paris Agreement targets.

The aspirational goal of the landmark Paris accord is to pursue efforts to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. To have any chance of achieving this objective, the world needs to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

TotalEnergies has outlined plans to become a net-zero carbon emissions company by 2050. However, Climate Action 100+, the influential investor group, has found the firm’s targets only partially align with the Paris Agreement.

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