Total steps up investment growth plan to replace Russian gas
TotalEnergies is stepping up moves to sever links with Russia as it increases investments that will eventually help it replace gas supplies from the country.
Chief executive Patrick Pouyanné said on Wednesday that the company had “no future with Russia” in a strategy update that outlined higher payouts to shareholders.
Pouyanné said Total would increase its net investments in oil, gas and renewable energy over the next three years, as part of a growth plan that excludes business interests in Russia.
However, the French company has yet to fully break its Russian ties and is still receiving dividends from investments in the country.
Unlike rivals BP, Shell and Equinor, which left after the invasion of Ukraine, Total still has several holdings in Russia and exports liquefied natural gas to Europe.
Total has said so far that it will halt all new Russian investments and phase out purchases of the country’s oil this year, but Pouyanné maintained the group could only break its contracts were Europe to bring in specific sanctions.
He added that Total was still receiving dividends from a 19 per cent stake in independent Russian gas producer Novatek and a 20 per cent holding in Yamal LNG, a Siberian LNG project, but suggested these might end soon.
“It is not easy to receive cash. The financial circuits between Russia and the rest of the world are becoming complex for western companies. So, to be transparent, yes we have received something this year, but I see some complexity month after month,” Pouyanné said at an investor day at the New York Stock Exchange.
The dividends have been criticised by Ukraine as “blood money”. Two advisers to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote to Total asking the group to reject the dividends or spend the funds on Ukrainian reconstruction, the Wall Street Journal reported in September.
Europe is still scrambling to find alternatives to Russian gas. Pouyanné told the Financial Times in July that the French government had encouraged Total to keep gas flowing from Russia to Europe following the invasion of Ukraine.
Total has sped up investments in floating LNG facilities to help Europe diversify its imports and inked major longer-term contracts with the likes of Qatar to increase alternative supplies in the future.
The company said that by 2027 higher output from LNG facilities in Qatar and the US would allow it to replace its Russian flows, as it targets a 40 per cent increase in LNG production by 2030.
The French major has, like its peers, profited from rising commodities prices and set aside funds for bigger shareholder payouts.
Total investors will get an extra €1 per share special dividend in 2022, equivalent to €2.6bn, on top of regular quarterly payouts and a plan to buy back shares.
Its overall capital expenditure will grow to $14bn-$18bn a year until 2025, up from a $13bn-$16bn target previously, Total said, outlining a major push in renewable energy investments as well as spending on oil and gas.
The group forecasts that new oil projects would be needed until the mid-2030s to meet global demand.