Feb. 8 (UPI) -- French energy company Total said Thursday it was able to capitalize on the improvement in crude oil prices to report strong gains in net income.
The French supermajor is the latest to issue its quarterly reports, following its British counterpart BP in issuing solid figures for the fourth quarter. Total Chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanné attributed the performance to a $10 per barrel increase in the average price for Brent crude oil last year.
"The group demonstrated its ability to capture the benefit of higher prices by reporting adjusted net income of $10.6 billion, a 28 percent increase -- compared with a 24 percent increase in Brent -- from 2016, and a return on equity above 10 percent, the highest among the majors," he said in a statement.
On exploration and production in particular, the company said its operating cash flow improved by nearly 40 percent.
Total reported output in the fourth quarter improved close to 6 percent from the same period last year, thanks in part to an increase in operations at the Kashagan oil field in Kazakhstan, its takeover of the al-Shaheen oil field in Qatar and an improved position in U.S. shale.
Full-year 2017 production improved 5 percent over the previous year.
On Friday, the North Caspian Operating Co., the operator at Kashagan, said that, as of Jan. 30, it safely produced and exported around 73 million barrels of oil and condensate, a considerable accomplishment given the technological challenges at the field.
In production for more than two decades, al-Shaheen accounts for about 40 percent of Qatari oil production.
U.S. shale oil has pushed total U.S. crude oil production above 10 million barrels per day, beating Saudi Arabia.
RBC Capital Markets said most of the metrics reported Thursday by Total were better than expected. Net income of $2.8 billion for the fourth quarter was about 3.5 percent higher than anticipated. The company said it expects total production for the year, meanwhile, to improve by 6 percent from 2017.
"In typical Total fashion, the company has reported a resilient quarter ahead of expectations across all divisions, with Total having the additional positive in that the company has been able to convert this into cash generation," RBC's emailed commentary read.
Pouyanné said earlier this week that demand was accelerating faster than it has over the last three years, meaning more barrels will be needed to satisfy growth.