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TotalEnergies ‘seriously’ looking at moving listing from Paris to New York

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The chief executive of TotalEnergies has said the French oil major could move its primary listing from Paris to New York as US investors were more positive about the company and supportive of its fossil fuel strategy.

Patrick Pouyanné, Total’s boss for the past decade, has previously complained to investors behind closed doors that the company’s European listing was a drag on its valuation versus US peers, echoing similar complaints by Shell.

On Friday, he said publicly that the 100-year-old French group, which was founded by the state and is the biggest energy group in Paris’s blue-chip Cac 40 index, was seriously considering a move. He has previously dismissed the idea as politically difficult even if Total is no longer state-owned.

“There was a discussion with the board on the matter of a US listing, we all agree that we have to seriously look at it,” Pouyanné told analysts. “We have more and more US shareholders, thinking of having a clear listing in New York is obviously a move which the board asked me to look at.” He added that he would report back to the board by September.

He also clarified that the company’s headquarters would remain in Paris.

US investors now make up nearly half of Total’s shareholder base, up from a third 10 years ago. “It’s clear that in the energy and the oil and gas field, US shareholders are buying the shares and European shareholders are not buying in the same way,” Pouyanné said.

At Total, he has maintained a strategy of pursuing profitable oil projects while shifting more into gas as the company’s core fossil fuel. The proceeds from these two businesses have also been used to invest in renewable energy.

But the group has faced criticism from some shareholders who argue it is not moving fast enough in its transition to cleaner energy. It also came under political pressure to support customers with fuel price cuts, after energy costs shot up in the aftermath of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Pouyanné’s public discussion of a listing move comes after the French government floated the idea of taxing gains from share buybacks.

Total, which posted a slightly better than expected 22 per cent drop in adjusted first-quarter net profit to $5.1bn on Friday on tumbling gas prices, said it would launch a $2bn buyback programme in the second quarter.

Its board also backed Pouyanné to stay on as joint chair and chief executive, after a coalition of shareholders called for a non-binding vote on splitting the roles at the company’s shareholder meeting in May. The board rejected the motion, Total said.

In London, Shell has expressed similar frustration with valuations and in 2021 it explored moving its listing to New York. At that time the Anglo-Dutch group decided instead to consolidate its listing in London.

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