TotalEnergies records largest profit, refinery strikes recommence

TotalEnergies records largest profit, refinery strikes recommence
TotalEnergies oil refinery in Antwerp. Credit: Belga / Jonas Roosens

French major oil company TotalEnergies on Wednesday announced a net profit of $20.5 billion (around €19.08 billion) for 2022 – the largest in the company's history. The statement was made as unions confirmed that strikes at the companies' French refineries would continue.

Just several days after British oil and gas multinational Shell recorded the largest profit in its 115-year history, news that was criticised as “obscene” and “outrageous” by political and environmental campaigners as UK households face soaring energy costs, French TotalEnergies shared its 2022 results, once again confirming the "super-profits" of the energy sector.

Even taking into account the losses incurred from the company's gradual disengagement from Russia (estimated at €13.96 billion), the company's adjusted net profit amounts to $36.2 billion (€33.68 billion). Not only is this the strongest performance in the company's history, it also is one of the highest in the history of the CAC 40, a benchmark French stock market index.

The fruits of war

In 2022, "the company has taken full advantage of its global LNG portfolio," the group's CEO Patrick Pouyanné put in a statement. Like its American and British competitors, the French company has benefited enormously from the rise in the price of fossil fuels, particularly gas, following the war in Ukraine.

Pouyanné referred to a "favourable environment" that the company could capitalise on. The company paid a total of just $1.7 billion (€1.58 billion) for the European Solidarity Contribution, the Energy Profits Levy in the United Kingdom on deferred tax, and the electricity generation infra-marginal income contribution in France.

Tweet translation: TotalEnergies announces a historic profit of 19 billion... Well, that's exactly what would be missing from the pensions budget, isn't it?

Earlier this month, it was confirmed that the solidarity contribution – "excess profit tax" – collected from the gas and oil sector will yield almost €435 million to the Belgian treasury this spring, money which will likely be used to fund the measures it has taken to help ease people's energy bills.

Despite the staggering profits recorded by fossil fuel companies, many continue to criticise the measure, while US energy giant ExxonMobil, which also booked record profits, is even suing the EU in a bid to stop its new windfall tax on oil firms.

Continued strike action

The statement was made as the CGT union confirmed strikes would continue at most of TotalEnergies refineries in France against the French government's divisive pension reform bill. Initially, a shutdown of the refineries and therefore of fuel production was envisaged, however, employees were reportedly not ready for this.

The union counted 100% strikers among the morning shift operators at the Flandres fuel depot (Nord), near Dunkirk, 80% at the Donges refinery (Loire-Atlantique), 70% at the Feyzin refinery (Rhône) and 56% at the Normandy refinery. This will lead to the suspension of fuel shipments from refineries to fuel depots.

A protest march in Ecaussines (Wallonia) to support the large-scale blockade of an oil infrastructure of TotalEnergies, Sunday 09 October 2022. Credit: Belga/ Nicolas Maeterlinck

The movement is taking place in line with the national days of mobilisation on Tuesday and this Wednesday, the third of its kind since the government presented the plan in January to raise the pension age by two years to 64.

A meeting "with all the CGT oil unions," extended to include the pharmaceutical sector, is planned for Thursday to try to extend the movement to other sectors of activity.

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