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Global oil and gas exploration play, TOTAL SA (TOT - Analyst Report) will divest its 20% interest in Oil Mining Lease (OML) 138 Block located in offshore Nigeria to Chinese petroleum firm Sinopec Corporation for an amount of $2.5 billion. The agreement will be handled in cash and is subject to the sanction of the Nigerian authorities.

The Usan oil field is positioned 62 miles (100 kilometers) from the southeastern coast of Nigeria. The facility has witnessed production ramp-up with present capacity hitting roughly 130,000 barrels a day. Besides, the Usan unit has a storage capacity of 2 million barrels and a maximum production capacity of 180,000 barrels per day.

Operations at the field were initiated in early 2012 and have Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. as its concession holder along with partners like Chevron Corporation (CVX - Analyst Report), Esso E&P Nigeria Ltd and Nexen Petroleum Nigeria Ltd, a business wing of Canada’s Nexen Inc..

The oil stake sellout is part of the French company’s planned asset sales program of $15 billion to $20 billion through 2014. TOTAL intends to accumulate cash gains from these divestitures to invest in other high-return ventures which would add to its profitability. The company meanwhile is aggressively expanding its foothold in the Middle East through high-profile purchases and deals.

Recently, TOTAL signed an agreement with the management of Qatar Petroleum to extend its operations at the Al Khalij play for another 25 years. This will enable TOTAL to maintain its supply from the Qatari fields. Qatari production contributes substantially to TOTAL’s production from the Middle East operation. Middle East operation contributed 22% of the total production in the third quarter of 2012. 

The company was involved in acquisitions totaling $0.4 billion during the third quarter 2012. TOTAL is also seeking various business options in the Gulf of Mexico and in the West Coast of Africa and Kenya as well.

The Zacks Consensus Estimates for the fourth quarter and full year 2012 currently stand at $1.78 per share and $6.99 per share, respectively.

TOTAL is currently having a short-term Zacks #3 Rank (Hold rating). Another global operator, BP Plc. (BP - Analyst Report) presently has a short-term Zacks #3 Rank (Hold rating). The latter is currently concentrating in expansion of its operation and has ventured in offshore Nova Scotia, Canada by purchasing four exploration blocks.

With global oil price declines moderating, we believe this simultaneous asset shedding and high-quality agreements will provide a stable earnings stream for TOTAL. The company’s aggressive exploration strategies and diversified operations will balance its financials from the current downturn in the U.S. and European economies.

Based in France, TOTAL SA is one of the largest publicly traded, globally integrated oil and gas companies based on production volumes, proved reserves and market capitalization. The company has exploration and production operations spanning five continents.

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