If you've assumed the energy industry has become comatose, clobbered by a now nearly year-long oil and gas price plummet, you haven't been paying attention to the activities of France's Total S.A. (NYSE: TOT ) .
Total has a couple of significant things going on -- either of which could benefit the company significantly. One is a three-way round of talks with Venezuela's state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela SA and China National Petroleum Corp. The threesome would work to develop about 200,000 barrels a day of heavy crude from Venezuela's Orinoco Basin, before shipping it to China for final processing at a yet-to-be-built refinery in Guangdong. There it would be turned into gasoline and other refined products.
Obviously, Hugo Chavez and his partisans are strapped for cash, especially in the face of lower crude prices. Also not helping was the 2007 eviction of such western Big Oil companies as ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) , ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP ) , and Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) , along with Norway's StatoilHydro (NYSE: STO ) from the Orinoco region.
Success in the latest three-way deal would supply much-needed funds for Venezuela. Further, it would likely benefit the relationship between China and Total at precisely the time when a major Chinese gas project is under consideration -- one where Total could get involved.
And as if this weren't enough, Total is chasing Canada's UTS Energy, an Alberta oil-sands developer. Total had bid C$1.30 a share originally, but earlier this week, Total stepped up its bid for UTS to C$1.75 a share. The new bid would constitute an offer of about $830 million Canadian (U.S. $676 million). The revised offer will expire on April 27.
I'm forced to admit to becoming a progressively bigger fan of Total, and I hope that Fools will give it a prominent position on their watch lists. In addition to its new initiatives, it operates in nearly 130 countries, has a forward P/E of less than eight times 2010 earnings estimates, and pays a 5.5% dividend yield. To my way of thinking, those metrics, along with its potential new adventures, make it well worth your Foolish attention.
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