February 13, 2013 / 7:16 AM / 5 years ago

Total to raise exploration budget, sell more assets

French oil company Total CEO Christophe de Margerie delivers a speech during the company's 2012 annual result presentation in Paris February 13, 2013. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

PARIS (Reuters) - Total (TOTF.PA) plans to lift its exploration budget in 2013, betting on an aggressive investment policy to take advantage of historically high oil prices, financed by a large-scale asset-sale plan.

The world’s No. 5 oil major by market value posted a 13 percent rise in fourth-quarter adjusted net profit to 3.08 billion euros ($4.2 billion), thanks to high oil prices and a bump in refining margins.

But the French major struggled in 2012 to keep production of oil and gas at year-ago levels, with output sliding by 2 percent to 2.3 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.

The group confirmed a target announced last September to grow output by about 3 percent a year on average for 2011 through 2015.

French oil company Total CEO Christophe de Margerie delivers a speech during the company's 2012 annual result presentation in Paris February 13, 2013. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

“The environment remained favorable in the upstream, with Brent prices above $110 per barrel and, in the downstream, refining margins benefited from a temporary rebound at mid-year,” Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie said in a statement.

Brent crude oil prices have been on an upward trend since November, averaging $111.6 per barrel in 2012 and trading near $118 on Wednesday.

The group said it would spend $2.8 billion in exploration in 2013, up from $2.5 billion the previous year, with prospects to drill in Ivory Coast, Gabon, Kenya and Brazil.

The company said it also expected to have reached the lower end of its asset-sale target by the end of this year, with the completion of the sale of its Nigerian Usan field and other divestments.

Total planned to sell assets worth between $15 billion and $20 billion in the period up to 2014. Net investments were seen at $22 billion in 2013, unchanged from the previous two years. ($1 = 0.7427 euros)

Reporting by Michel Rose and Muriel Boselli; Editing by David Holmes

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