Why Total Went Nowhere in 2011

As 2011 comes to a close, it's a great time to look back at what happened to the stocks that interest you. By making sure you know the important things that a company accomplished -- as well as the setbacks it experienced -- you can make a better decision about whether it's a smart investment for your portfolio.

Today, let's take a look at Total (NYS: TOT) . Oil prices stayed relatively high in 2011 despite economic pressures around the world. But due in part to the European sovereign debt crisis, the French oil giant's shares didn't do much better than breaking even, leaving valuations and dividend yields at extremely attractive levels. Below, I'll take a closer look at the events that moved shares of Total this year.

Stats on Total

2011 Year-to-Date Return


Market Cap

$112 billion

1-Year Revenue Growth


1-Year Earnings Growth


Dividend Yield


CAPS Rating


Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Why did Total stay flat this year?
Overall, it's been a pretty good year for oil companies. U.S. giants ExxonMobil (NYS: XOM) , Chevron (NYS: CVX) , and ConocoPhillips (NYS: COP) have all posted double-digit percentage gains for their stocks on strong sales and earnings growth, as high prices masked some disturbing trends in actual production volume. Even within Europe, Norway's Statoil (NYS: STO) is up 11% for the year.

But Total faced some unique challenges in 2011. More than most of its peers, Total suffered from the Libyan uprising, which cut off oil production from the North African country early in the year.

Total has also made some moves that haven't yet borne fruit. Amid a horrible year for solar energy players, Total bought a majority stake in SunPower (NAS: SPWR) earlier this year and then boosted that stake last week. That's been a terrible investment so far, but in the long run, SunPower should benefit from Total's access to credit.

Solutions to the problems in Europe would undoubtedly boost Total's shares. But for now, the stock offers a dividend yield of nearly 6% with much lower earnings multiples than many oil companies around the world. Despite Total's challenges, that adds up to good value in my book.

Still, if you can't get enough good ideas in the energy sector, we've got another stock you shouldn't miss. Read about it right here in the Motley Fool's special free report on the energy industry and its best prospects, but don't wait until it's gone -- get it today.

Click hereto add Total to My Watchlist, which can find all of our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Total, Chevron, and Statoil. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Copyright © 1995 - 2011 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.