Oil and gas company Total makes utility sector splash

Oil and gas company Total makes utility sector splash

April 18 (UPI) — A “friendly takeover” of a French power company gives oil and gas supermajor Total a bigger footprint in the region’s utility sector, its CEO said Wednesday.

Total made an agreement with the controlling shareholders of French utility Direct Energy to take a 74.3 percent stake in the company for $1.73 billion, its biggest investment of this kind to date. The offer represents a 30 percent premium to Tuesday’s closing share price for the utility.

“This friendly takeover is part of the group’s strategy to expand along the entire gas-electricity value chain and to develop low-carbon energies, in line with our ambition to become the responsible energy major,” Total Chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanné said in a statement.

The French supermajor said its client base would swell considerably through the acquisition. Pouyanné said the deal opens a pathway for his company to become a electricity supplier in the French and Belgian markets. By 2022, Total could have more than 7 million utility customers, giving it a position that would challenge French electricity supplier EDF.

Direct Energie has a total installed power capacity of 1.35 gigawatts, with the majority of that coming from gas-powered options. About 550 megawatts of its capacity comes from renewable energy.

The French supermajor is already ahead of the curve with its spending on renewable and other technologies, said Valentina Kretzschmar, a research director at consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

“Total’s acquisition of Direct Energie shows that the company is serious about its ambition to build value across the electricity value chain, with both gas and renewables playing a key role,” she said in emailed comments.

The French supermajor in September made a $284.7 million investment to take an indirect 23 percent stake in renewable power company EREN RE. Total said it could eventually take the company over completely within the next five years.

The momentum from EREN RE allowed Total to accelerate its growth in solar energy and support a potential move into the wind power market.