France's Total (NYSE:TOT) released its earnings for the second quarter after other big European-based oil and gas companies such as BP (NYSE:BP) and Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS-A), and it was more of the same.

As with the other major oil companies that had reported, the results for this solid company were hit by the decline in energy commodity prices, along with skinny refinery margins. For the quarter, with an average Brent crude price of $59.10 per barrel -- a 51% decline year over year -- the company achieved adjusted net income of $2.3 billion, down 60% from a year ago.

And to add insult to injury, hydrocarbon production declined more than 7% year over year. Nigeria, which has been fraught with internecine squabbling, was responsible for a 1.5% decrease in quarterly production by itself. However, OPEC curtailments and softer demand for gas around the globe were the biggest culprits, subtracting 4% in total.

The downstream segment fared at least as badly as did exploration and production. Refinery throughput declined by 5% from a year ago and 3% from the previous quarter. The declines were primarily because of (maintenance) turnarounds at several of the company's refineries. At the same time, the European refining margin slid a whopping 69% year over year.

While it was a less than spectacular quarter for Total, both the French company and Italy's Eni (NYSE:E) expect to increase their hydrocarbon production in the near term. For its part, Total is awaiting the startup of new production offshore Nigeria, along with Norway and the Gulf of Mexico. It also anticipates that liquefied natural gas projects will start to produce in Qatar, Yemen, and Angola. On that basis, the reduced output in the most recent quarter could be but a flash in the pan.

So Total ended up with the same sort of quarter as its European brethren, along with U.S. competitors ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), Chevron (NYSE:CVX), and ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP). The question then becomes whether you should begin to build a position in the company's shares.

As is the case with most stocks these days, the response depends in large part on your time frame. For my money, the company is well-managed, has an attractive 4.7% dividend yield, and trades at a lower P/E multiple than many of its Big Oil counterparts. So unless you're investing only for the near term, slowly acquiring Total shares could make awfully good sense.

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