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Martin Tillier

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Why I Have Gone From Bear To Bull On Total S.A. (TOT)

When the names of the companies approved to bid on the newly available Mexican oil leases were released this week the list contained little of any real use to potential investors. It consisted largely of privately held and joint venture companies that offer no opportunity to most of us. In addition, the usual suspects such as Chevron (CVX) and Exxon (XOM) were there, but while the shallow water fields concerned have great potential, any production and profit from them will, in the grand scheme of things, have little immediate overall effect on the giant multi-nationals.

There was one name that stood out to me, though. The large French integrated company, Total S.A. (ADR: TOT) was among those granted permission to bid. Now, in the past, I have been bearish on Total, even going so far as to caution investors not to get involved when oil was set to rebound from the mid $40s in January. It has been my least favored multinational, integrated oil stock. If I may be permitted to toot my own horn a little, that worked out pretty well as TOT failed to participate in the subsequent bounce amongst other big oil stocks.

The reason for my negativity was that Total was concentrated on Europe and the troubles there looked far from over. To some extent that is still the case, but if they are successful in bidding for leases in Mexican waters it will give a large boost to their penetration in both North and South America. There is still the risk of Europe lurching to another…

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