By Benjamin Mallet
(Reuters) – TotalEnergies could up to double its share buybacks this quarter, it said on Thursday, after soaring oil and gas prices as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drove a sharp rise in quarterly earnings.
The French oil and gas major, which is bolstering its renewables and electricity portfolios, said it would now buy back up to $2 billion of its own shares by the end of June, after repurchasing $1 billion during the first quarter.
TotalEnergies Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanne told analysts on a call that the group would be monitoring its share buybacks on a quarter-by-quarter basis. It had previously planned to buy back just $2 billion in the first half of the year.
Shares in TotalEnergies were up 4% at 1310 GMT.
The company warned that prices could remain high if more production from the United States and members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) fails to offset an expected drop in Russian crude and refining output.
OPEC+ is likely to stick to its existing deal and agree another small output increase for June when it meets on May 5, six sources from the producer group told Reuters, even as Russia expects its output to shrink further.
Russia on Wednesday halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland for not paying in roubles, while the EU warned that complying with the demands could breach sanctions.
TotalEnergies has stopped short of joining rivals in plans to divest assets in Russia, where it holds stakes in the Yamal LNG project and Arctic LNG 2, even as Western sanctions caused it to book a $4.1 billion impairment.
“We never stated we will stay in Russia”, Pouyanne said, adding: “We have just not stated that we will exit from Russia, which is a little different.”
He said the group should continue to grow its LNG portfolio even if it had to fully exit Russia, although it planned to fulfil contracts there unless sanctions demand otherwise.
Pouyanne said it was unclear whether the group would be able to access a dividend payout from its roughly 20% stake in Novatek, Russia’s largest LNG producer.
The company posted a quarterly adjusted net income up 32% quarter on quarter to $9 billion, with a core profit up 22% at $17.4 billion, though its net income fell 15% to $4.9 billion.
It said it had mobilised two rigs in Denmark and would be making more investments to support short-term gas production in the North Sea as it looks to replace volumes from Russia.
It also forecast higher production in Brazil from next month after quarterly hydrocarbon production levels fell 1% year on year to 2.843 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.
TotalEnergies maintained earlier plans to make net investments of about $15 billion this year, with a quarter of that directed to its renewable and electricity divisions.
Confirming a 5% increase to its interim dividend for this year, it proposed a first payout of 0.69 euros per share.
(Reporting by Benjamin Mallet, Sarah Morland and Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by David Goodman, Chizu Nomiyama and Alexander Smith)