Company news in brief

04 January 2019 | Business

Total starts production at Nigerian oilfield

Total SA said on Wednesday it had started production from the Egina oilfield off Nigeria's coast, part of a shift by the French energy firm towards deepwater oil and gas projects to its drive cash flow.

Output from Egina, which is located in waters about 1 600 metres deep, is expected to plateau at 200 000 barrels per day of oil, Total said. That rate is equivalent to about 10% of Nigeria's current production.

"Egina will significantly boost the group's production and cashflow from 2019 onwards, and benefit from our strong cost reduction efforts in Nigeria where we have reduced our operating costs by 40% over the last four years," Total's head of exploration and production, Arnaud Breuillac, said.

Total is betting on profitable deepwater oil and gas fields in Sub-Saharan Africa, Brazil and the US Gulf area. In Africa, the company is ramping up deepwater projects in the Republic of Congo and Angola.

Total forecasts output from deepwater projects will reach 500 000 barrels of oil equivalent per day by 2020 and account for more than 35% of cash flow in coming years, compared with about 15% now.

Total also said it would take a decision this year on whether to invest in developing the Preowei field, located in the same block as the Egina field. – Nampa/Reuters

Qatar Airways acquires stake in Chinese airline

Qatar Airways has acquired a 5% stake in China Southern Airlines, the state-owned Gulf carrier said on Wednesday, in a move to gain access to the fast-growing mainland Chinese market.

Qatar Airways also owns a 20% stake in British Airways-parent International Consolidated Airlines Group, 10% of South America's LATAM Airlines Group SA, 49% of Italy's Meridiana and 9.99% stake in Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific.

Qatar's flagship airline has sought new partners and routes after it was blocked last year from flying to the lucrative markets of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates because of restrictions imposed by those countries.

Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, imposed a political and economic boycott on Qatar since June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism, which Doha denies.

China Southern in a separate statement said Qatar Airways may consider increasing its stake in the airline in the next 12 months. Qatar had no previous investment in the Chinese airline.

Qatar Airways is the second foreign carrier that has a stake in China Southern, after American Airlines. The Chinese carrier left the Skyteam airline alliance at the start of the year. – Nampa/Reuters

UBS chairman pours cold water on Deutsche Bank talk

Swiss bank UBS is not looking to merge with any other bank, chairman Axel Weber told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, dismissing speculation that UBS could join forces with Deutsche Bank.

"There is a lot of talk in Europe and the United States about mergers but nothing happens. These are all simulation games," he said in an interview published yesterday.

Asked specifically about whether UBS, the world's largest wealth manager, was running simulations about Germany's biggest lender, Weber said: "Every company has to think things over, but it makes little sense to consider mergers at group level now. These paralyse companies for years.

"UBS is much stronger today than before the financial crisis, but combining with another bank - no matter which - would be premature at this moment. We want to grow primarily organically and we surely have to be able to walk before we want to run."

Weber, a former Bundesbank chief who joined UBS in 2012, said he could imagine remaining in his post until 2022. – Nampa/Reuters

Sinking Apple shares a wish come true

Billionaire Warren Buffett has said he would love to see Apple Inc shares decline in price so he could buy more. He is getting his wish.

Apple's warning on Wednesday about weak iPhone demand in the holiday quarter due to slower sales in China sent its stock down 7.5% during after-hours trading. Class B shares of Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc traded down 2% in the same session on Wall Street.

Including its after-hours drop on Wednesday, Apple's stock market value has tumbled to below US$700 billion from over US$1.1 trillion at its peak in October. Although Apple has fallen behind Amazon.com Inc and Microsoft Corp in value, it remains one of Wall Street's most widely held companies.

Shares of Berkshire itself have held up well even as the broader market sank last quarter. Last year, Berkshire returned 2.8%, while the S&P 500 fell 4.4%, including reinvested dividends.

But the US$3 billion hit to Berkshire's Apple shares in evening trading on Wednesday could show in future reported earnings. Those figures do not reflect any long-term gains on Berkshire's investments, and Buffett has encouraged investors to ignore the profit statistic mandated by US accounting practices. – Nampa/Reuters

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