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TOTAL Sells Joslyn Oil Sands, Low Breakeven Project in Focus

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TOTAL S.A. (TOT - Free Report) , along with its partners, has agreed to sell the Joslyn oil sands project in Alberta, Canada, to Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNQ - Free Report) for a total cost of nearly $173.7 million (C$225 million).

TOTAL is the chief operator of the Joslyn Oil Sands project with 38.2% interest, and the other partners are Suncor Energy Inc. (SU - Free Report) , Joslyn Partnership and Inpex Canada Limited, holding 36.8%, 15% and 10% stakes each.

Fall in Oil Prices Impacts the Project

TOTAL, along with its partners, decided to go slow on the development of Joslyn oil sands project, after a drop in oil prices in 2014. Since then, investment in the project was only bare minimum to cover up regulatory requirements and ensure the safety of the site.

Management decided to sell the project but was waiting for an appropriate moment to strike the deal. The upward revision in oil prices provided the right opportunity to TOTAL for selling and exiting one of the high breakeven projects in its portfolio.

Focus on Low Breakeven Options

Production of oil from Canadian oil sands is much costlier than the conventional oil production. TOTAL always maintained the strategy to focus on low breakeven resources. The high-production assets were actually hurting the company in the low oil price environment.

TOTAL will gradually lower its holding in the Canadian oil sands region. Lowering its interest in the Fort Hills project, which is currently being operated by Suncor Energy, was the first step in this direction.

Currently, TOTAL has one of the best low-cost production growth profiles among the oil super majors, characterized by an upstream portfolio with above industry-average exposure to the faster growing hydrocarbon producing regions of the world.

Long-Term Goal of TOTAL

The company’s long-term outlook is likely to increase upstream production by an average of 5% per year between 2016 and 2022. The new low-cost startups that are coming online will help TOTAL to continue improving its production over the next few years.

The company has taken initiatives to lower overall expenditure, which is positively impacting its performance. After successfully achieving its target in 2016 and 2017, the company is well on course to surpass its 2018 savings target of $4 billion.

Zacks Rank & A Key Pick

TOTAL currently has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). A better-ranked stock in the same industry is Premier Oil PLC (PMOIY - Free Report) , carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see  the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here. Earnings estimates of Premier Oil have moved up 47.6% to 31 cents in the past 30 days.

Shares of both Premier Oil and TOTAL have outperformed the broader industry’s growth in a year’s time.


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