The West’s five biggest oil producers made almost £100 billion in profits last year despite falling energy prices.
Total Energies yesterday reported its biggest haul in its 100 years and became the latest major to post excellent numbers.
The French company said profits amounted to £17 billion in 2023, up 4 percent from the previous year but below predictions of around £19 billion.
The update completed another notable earnings season for the industry, although total profits fell well short of a record year in 2022.
This week, BP posted profits of £11bn for 2023, half what it earned in 2022 but the second highest in a decade.
Gushing profits: French company TotalEnergies posted a £17bn profit – the biggest take in its 100-year history – and became the latest major company to post bumper figures.
And Shell said last week that profits were down 30 per cent year-on-year, to a still-impressive £22bn.
In total, the top five Western oil companies, which also include Exxon Mobil and Chevron, made £95 billion in profits in 2023.
This was down from the £142bn they earned in 2022 after the Russian invasion of Ukraine sent oil and gas prices soaring.
But this didn’t stop the companies from lavishing generous rewards on shareholders: the five Western oil giants returned more than £88 billion in dividends and buybacks in 2023.
That figure was slightly higher than the £87 billion they distributed to investors in 2022.
“During a time of geopolitical upheaval and economic uncertainty, our goal remained unchanged: safely deliver higher returns and lower carbon emissions,” Chevron CEO Mike Wirth told investors last Friday.
BP has been under particular pressure to keep investors on its side following the scandal surrounding former chief executive Bernard Looney.
He was forced to resign in September after failing to be “fully transparent” in his relationships with colleagues.
The board later found Looney guilty of gross misconduct and stripped him of £32 million in wages and bonuses.
He has since been replaced by Murray Auchincloss.
But these large payouts to company shareholders have long drawn criticism as consumers face a declining cost of living and money is needed to confront the threat of climate change.
Danni Hewson, head of financial analysis at AJ Bell, said the sector has a “huge public relations problem”.
“There are 95 billion reasons why many cash-strapped households might feel a little miffed by the good fortune of the five major Western oil producers,” he said.
“Between them, BP, Shell, Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Total Energies have enjoyed another year of extraordinary profits, not as mind-blowing as last year, but still a huge amount of cash at a time when a lot of people are still fighting.’
Kathleen Brooks, head of research at trading platform XTB, said Total’s update had “little mention of renewables” but focused mainly on “sweeteners for shareholders.”
Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne said the performance of its natural gas unit was particularly “strong,” thanks to strong production.
This helped offset falling margins and weak demand for chemicals in Europe, he said.