Total Is Down, but Not Out

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Big oil's first-quarter results have been a mixed bag so far. ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) reported lower production and an 11% drop in net income, while Chevron (NYSE: CVX) reported increased EPS and revenue. At the end of last week, French energy giant Total (NYSE: TOT) chimed in with its first-quarter numbers.

Earnings summary
It was not a great quarter for Total. The company missed slightly on revenue and missed badly on earnings per share. Analysts were expecting revenue of $63.48 billion and EPS of $2.17. Total reported revenue of $62.35 billion and EPS of $1.78. Let's take a closer look at what happened.

Good news
Production has been revived in Libya after last year's shutdown. Total has also ramped up production in Nigeria, at its Usan oil field. Overall, at 2.372 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, output was up slightly over last year's 2.371 million boe/d. In light of the adversity the company faced, which we'll get to in a minute, that's not a bad result, but it missed analyst estimates of 2.378 million boe/d.

Bad news
Total was forced to deal with interruptions to numerous assets this year, including a gas leak in the North Sea that sent shares plummeting. There was another leak in Nigeria, and an attack on gas installations in Yemen. A Europewide ban on production in Syria didn't help matters either.

On top of that, while many U.S. refiners are enjoying a strong 2012, the scene is not as pretty in Europe right now. Total's downstream sales were down 19% over the same period last year.

Foolish takeaway
The leaks in Nigeria and the North Sea will continue to affect the company's production through the second quarter. Total has stated that it will not bring its Elgin platform back online until it can do so safely. The leak in Nigeria is losing the equivalent of 20,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. Planned maintenance will cut into production even further, and as a result the company's production may remain flat in 2012.

2012 does not appear to be Total's year. That being said, the company will likely bounce back next year, and investors taking the long view may want to watch the stock price closely for an entry point.

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