Economic environment

The operating results and future rate of growth of the Group are exposed to the effects of changing commodity prices.

Prices for oil and natural gas may fluctuate widely due to many factors over which TOTAL has no control. These factors include:

  • variations in global and regional supply and demand of energy;
  • global and regional economic and political developments in resource-producing regions, particularly in the Middle East, Africa and South America;
  • the ability of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producing nations to influence global production levels and prices;
  • prices of unconventional energies as well as evolving approaches for developing oil sands and shale oil, which may affect the Group’s realized prices, notably under its long-term gas sales contracts and asset valuations, particularly in North America;
  • cost and availability of new technology;
  • governmental regulations and actions;
  • global economic and financial market conditions;
  • war or other conflicts;
  • changes in demographics, including population growth rates and consumer preferences; and
  • adverse weather conditions (such as hurricanes) that can disrupt supplies or interrupt operations of the Group’s facilities.

Substantial or extended declines in oil and natural gas prices would significantly and adversely affect TOTAL’s results of operations by reducing its profits. The year 2014 was marked by a sharp oil price decline in the second half, which continued in early 2015. For more detailed information on this oil price decline and its impact on the Group’s 2014 results, financial position and outlook, refer to chapter 3.

In addition, sensitivity to market environments are described above and discussed in greater detail in point 1.1. of this chapter. In addition to the adverse effect on revenues, margins and profitability from any fall in oil and natural gas prices, a prolonged period of low prices or other indicators could lead to a review of the Group’s assets and oil and natural gas reserves. Such review would reflect the Company’s view based on estimates, assumptions and judgments and could result in a reduction in the Group’s reported reserves and / or a charge for impairment that could have a significant effect on the Group’s results in the period in which it occurs. Lower oil and natural gas prices over prolonged periods may also reduce the economic viability of projects planned or in development, impact the asset sale program of the Group and reduce liquidity, thereby decreasing the Group’s ability to finance capital expenditures and / or causing it to cancel or postpone investment projects. If TOTAL is unable to follow through with investment projects, the Group’s opportunities for future revenue and profitability growth would be reduced, which could materially impact the Group’s financial condition.

Conversely, in a high oil and gas price environment, the Group can experience significant increases in cost and government take, and, under some production-sharing contracts, the Group’s production rights could be reduced. Higher prices can also reduce demand for the Group’s products.

The Group’s earnings from its Refining & Chemicals and Marketing & Services segments are primarily dependent upon the supply and demand for refined products and the associated margins on refined product sales, with the impact of changes in oil and gas prices on earnings on these segments being dependent upon the speed at which the prices of refined products adjust to reflect movements in oil and gas prices.