Total: UK Open to Mitigating Effect of Oil Tax Rise

PARIS (Dow Jones Newswires), Apr. 6, 2011

The U.K. government appears willing to consider measures to mitigate the effect of a recent large increase in tax on oil and gas producers, following a meeting with oil industry representatives last week, a senior executive at French oil company Total said Wednesday.

Representatives of the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Treasury "realized that the concerns of industry are real...not just a selfish reaction," said Patrice de Vivies, Total's vice president of Exploration and Production in northwestern Europe.

Oil companies and many industry analysts have said the increase in the supplementary tax charge on their profits to 32% from 20% will hurt investment in the North Sea.

The measure was introduced in response to the rise of oil prices above $100 a barrel, but De Vivies said there is no justification for imposing the tax on gas fields, for which the price is equivalent to $55 a barrel.

"[They] will have to give extra incentives to gas fields," which make up the bulk of remaining U.K. resources, or face declining investment, he said. Total is reviewing all of its potential new projects in the U.K. following the change, he said.

Total Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie will meet soon with U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to discuss the tax increase, De Vivies said.

Dow Jones Newswires put De Vivies' comments to the U.K. Treasury, who responded by referencing statements made by ministers in the wake of last week's meeting.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said at the time: "We're going to be considering some of the points that they [the industry] made. There are elements of what the Chancellor announced which were up for consultation, including the issue of the oil price at which the fair fuel stabilizer operates."

Separately, RWE Dea, the oil and natural gas unit of German utility RWE, said Wednesday the planned tax increase is "unpleasant" and should be retracted.

"We've learned about the U.K. government's plan to increase the tax and indeed found ourselves very flatfooted," said RWE Dea Chief Executive Thomas Rappuhn at the company's annual press conference in Hamburg.

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