TotalEnergies to Talk about Namibia Oil Exploration, Share Buybacks

The Maersk Voyager drillship, at the time owned by Maersk Drilling,  was used to make TotalEnergies' Venus discovery offshore Namibia in 2022. Photo from Maersk Drilling.
The Maersk Voyager drillship, at the time owned by Maersk Drilling, was used to make TotalEnergies' Venus discovery offshore Namibia in 2022. Photo from Maersk Drilling.

TotalEnergies is expected to lay out the potential for its oil discoveries in Namibia at an investor day next week as the French energy firm continues to bet on oil and gas to boost profits while also growing its low-carbon business.

The group said this month it is considering a $9 billion oil and gas project in Suriname. Analysts are now keen to hear more about its recent exploration activity offshore Namibia - which has no oil and gas output now but could become one of the top 15 oil producers by 2035.

"Namibia could become the largest ever deep-offshore discovery for TotalEnergies, potentially surpassing Block 17 in Angola - the last "golden" block of TotalEnergies," Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Bertrand Hodée said.

He estimates that two new blocks in Namibia, where Shell has also announced offshore oil and gas discoveries, could hold 4 billion barrels of reserves. That would take the total at the Venus field to 12 billion barrels, with a potential value of $4.1 billion for the French group.

While rivals BP BP.L and Shell aim to cut or maintain steady oil output by the end of the decade, TotalEnergies aims to grow production by 1.5% by 2027.

The French company, which booked a record profit in 2022, has also been investing in renewables and low-carbon energy and has a significantly higher wind and solar power generation capacity than rivals. 

Yet TotalEnergies expects its absolute emissions to remain at around 400 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year by 2030.

Scientists say the world needs to cut emissions by 43% by 2030 from 2019 levels to stand any chance of meeting the 2015 Paris Agreement.

TotalEnergies aims to reach net zero emissions by 2050 at the same time as producing around 1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day with gas taking the lion's share.    


SHAREHOLDER RETURNS    

At the Sept. 27 investor day, TotalEnergies is expected to give an update on how much money it will return to shareholders. 

The group has flagged it could hike the payout to more than 40% of its cash flow - from a previous 35%-40% range. It made a  profit of $36.2 billion in 2022.

TotalEnergies has rewarded investors with quarterly share buybacks of $2 billion since the third quarter of last year, and that is expected to continue.

"The longer oil prices stay where they are...the longer they are able to keep distributing at the current level," HSBC analyst Kim Fustier said. "We believe management will point to upside above 40% for 2024," she added.

CEO Patrick Pouyanne is also expected talk about liquefied natural gas (LNG) and oil production growth past 2027.

LNG sales forecasts may increase after a recent deal with developer American NextDecade, Jefferies said. 

Like last year, the group's forecasts will exclude Russia, where it has held on to minority holdings in the Yamal and Arctic-2 LNG projects, unlike other Western energy majors that exited the country in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine.

(Reuters - Additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla and Ron Bousso in London, editing by Silvia Aloisi, Kirsten Donovan)

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