Total CEO says planned buy of Anadarko's Africa assets 'perfectly fitting'

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - French energy giant Total SA’s planned acquisition of U.S. firm Anadarko’s African assets is “perfectly fitting” with the company’s overall strategy and helps play to its strengths, Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanne said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Patrick Pouyanne, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Total, attends a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russia May 25, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo

Total agreed to buy all of Anadarko’s oil-and-gas-producing assets outside the United States, including its biggest future expense, a multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas project in Mozambique, for $8.8 billion.

The deal is contingent on the wider, $38 billion proposed takeover of Anadarko Petroleum Corp by Occidental Petroleum Corp, which last month outmaneuvered rival Chevron, the No. 2 U.S. oil producer, which had also bid for Anadarko.

Speaking at an event in Washington, Pouyanne said the oil major has had its eyes on Anadarko’s Africa assets, which stretch from Algeria to South Africa, for more than a year.

“What we tell to investors is we play to our strengths. What are the strengths of Total? It is the Middle East, Africa, North Sea, Deep Water. ... It is just fitting exactly and perfectly with what we announced,” Pouyanne said.

Pouyanne’s move to buy Anadarko’s assets, the French firm’s biggest acquisition since taking over Elf almost two decades ago, will bolster his effort to refocus Total on operations in Africa, the North Sea, deep offshore and liquefied natural gas.

“In fact...we have been looking at these assets more than a year. We have had some discussions before with Anadarko,” Pouyanne said. “It was not a lot of creativity to fix that these assets are not very well fitting for upstream and that there was a potential match between Oxy and Total.”

“So it’s just a matter of sending an email to my colleague, then I was ringing her,” Pouyanne said, in apparent reference to Occidental CEO Vicki Hollub, who put together a strategy that beat Chevron, which is nearly five times larger than Occidental.

Total has built up a strong balance sheet under Pouyanne since the 2014 oil price crash, giving him the firepower to swoop on Anadarko’s assets. The company has made acquisitions worth almost $20 billion in the past five years, under Pouyanne’s leadership.

It took Pouyanne and a small group of advisers just days to line up Total’s bid for Anadarko’s Africa assets and by keeping those in the know to a minimum, the French CEO was able to stay flexible in negotiations, take a swift decision and ensure there were no leaks before the announcement.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Leslie Adler