French energy giant Total's profits rise 20% to $5.1bn

Total oil truck Image copyright Getty Images

French oil major Total has reported a 20% increase in annual net profit to $5.1bn, compared with $4.2bn a year earlier.

As with other oil firms, the rise in net profit came thanks to its oil refinery business, which saw a 96% increase to $4.9bn in the year.

But profits from Total's oil exploration business plunged more than 50% in the year to $4.8bn.

Total hailed its results as the "best performance among the oil majors".

Oil prices have fallen some 30% in the last year alone, forcing major oil firms to cut back on investment in exploration and denting profits from oil extraction.

"This resilience in a degraded environment demonstrates the effectiveness of the group integrated model and the full mobilisation of its teams," said chairman and chief executive Patrick Pouyanne.

Total has also bought its first spot cargo from Iran since Western sanctions were lifted, said chief financial officer Patrick de la Chevardiere.

The oil major signed an agreement in late January to purchase up 200,000 barrels per day of Iranian crude.

Total estimated that its cash break-even in terms of oil was $45 a barrel. Brent crude, the global benchmark for oil prices, is currently trading at about $30 a barrel.

The oil firm plans to cut capital spending to about $19bn in 2016 and said it was targeting asset sales worth around $4bn.

Total said it planned to pay an annual dividend of €2.44 a share. Shareholders will have the option of receiving the fourth-quarter dividend payment of €0.61 per share in cash or new discounted shares.

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