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Total reports 20% profit drop, lifts dividend

PARIS--French oil giant Total reported on Wednesday that 2013 net profit dipped 20 percent to 8.4 billion euros (US$11.45 billion), on the back of higher exploration charges and crumbling refining margins in Europe.

Adjusted net income, a key measure that excludes some volatile or non-recurrent items, was down 12 percent to 10.7 billion euros.

Total sales fell 5 percent to 189.5 billion euros, the group said.

Production was stable for last year, instead of showing the increase Total had forecast.

Chairman and CEO Christophe de Margerie said “the significant deterioration of European refining margins was partially offset by a more favorable environment for petrochemicals.”

Total's spree of capital expenditure peaked in 2013 and was to fall this year and going forward.

“The intensive investment phase that we embarked on ... reached a peak of US$28 billion in 2013,” Margerie said.

“The significant deterioration of European refining margins was partially offset by a more favorable environment for petrochemicals,” he said.

Despite the setback for production, the group said it was holding to its target of raising output steadily to 2017 and beyond with new projects in Africa, Canada, Russia and Brazil.

Even though the annual results fell short of expectations, the group said that it intended to increase its dividend for 2013 by 1.7 percent to 2.38 euros per share from 2.34 euros in 2012.

The price of shares in the group was showing a gain of 1.09 percent to 44.06 euros in mid-morning trading. The overall French stock market as measured by the CAC-40 index was up 0.47 percent.

One stock trader who declined to be named said: “The results have been affected mainly by problems in refining and over the exchange rate. This does not affect the core business.”

The share had risen mainly because of the slight increase in the dividend, and was also helped by an overall firm trend on the market, he said.

Total is the biggest company by capitalization quoted on the CAC-40 index.

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