TotalEnergies SE raised its dividend and continued share buybacks, shrugging off a 31% drop in fourth-quarter earnings caused by weaker oil and gas prices and shrinking refining margins.
The French energy giant’s results, although slightly weaker than expected, mirror the trend of rising returns from Big Oil. The majors have become a cash cow for shareholders as earnings remain high by historical standards, even if profits are down from a year earlier in line with energy prices.
TotalEnergies raised its final quarterly dividend for 2023 to €0.79 ($0.85) per share, from €0.74 previously, resulting in a 7.1% increase in the full-year payout to €3.01 per share, according to a statement on Wednesday. The interim dividend for 2024 will also be €0.79 per share.
The company plans to buy back $2 billion of its shares this quarter and retain that amount as the “base level” going forward, after repurchasing $9 billion in 2023, according to the statement.
Shares of the company fell 1.5% to €59.38 as of 9:05 a.m. in Paris.
Earnings at the TotalEnergies’ liquefied natural gas business were “robust” thanks to strong production growth, Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanne said in the statement. That helped to offset declining refining margins and weak demand for chemicals in Europe, he said.
The company expects LNG markets to remain “in tension” this year due to limited growth in global production capacity and rising demand. TotalEnergies expects to make $17 billion to $18 billion of net investments this year, about a third of which will go into low-carbon energy, Pouyanne told reporters.
Adjusted net income fell 31% in the fourth-quarter from a year earlier to $5.23 billion, missing the average analyst estimate of $5.66 billion.
The oil and gas industry is undergoing a period of consolidation, with Exxon and Chevron embarking on giant acquisitions in the US intended to grow hydrocarbon output. In contrast, TotalEnergies focused on smaller deals last year to boost its oil production in the Middle East, grow its liquefied natural gas business in Qatar and the US, and expand in clean power from France to Brazil to India.