Analysis: Total Nigeria needs a financial overhaul

The Oil Industry has had a particularly tough year, owing primarily to the novel pandemic. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that the global oil demand is expected to further decline this year as Covid-19 spreads around the world, constraining travel as well as other economic activities.

Organizations like Total depending on international trade will be forced to scale down operations until restrictions ease off. However, Total Nigeria’s Q1’20 results are a testament that some might have it worse than others.

The period recorded a revenue drop of 9.3% to N70.2 billion in the first quarter of this year compared to Q1 2019. Total earns its revenue from three main sectors namely: Networks, General Trade, and Aviation. Revenue from Aviation fell by 39.5%. The decline in Networks is attributed to the reduced demand as a result of the enforced lockdown and restriction on travel across the nation.

Yet, it is clear that the company had its own challenges pre-COVID-19. In the quarter, it attained a loss after tax of N163 million which was 65.6% better than the loss after tax of the comparative quarter; it is overwhelmed by a myriad of distinct issues.

First off, its revenue has experienced a steady fall over the years; reasons for this is tied largely to its lack of importation of petroleum products.

It is also burdened by inefficiencies in its operations evident in its high operational and direct expenses, as well as its high debt over the past years. The company has carried on huge loans and borrowings in its books: N40.6 billion in 2019 and only a marginal reduction of N2.2 billion in the current year.

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Even higher are its expenses after an 8.38% reduction in the just-released results, it arrived at N69.7 billion for Q1 2020. Amongst its high operational expenses is the high and increasing technical fees it pays to its parent company. From N251 million in the first quarter of last year, it incurred around N700m in the year under review. It also has cash flow issues with about N22b in negative cash and cash equivalents. In its 2019 report, it revealed that the year had been tough with its cost of doing business rising exponentially as evident in its interest expense, 395% higher than the previous year as a result of repayment for products and a high level of borrowing.

The company, in its last full year annual report, noted that to make significant savings to both operational and capital expenditure costs, a series of initiatives relating to cost efficiency, process optimization, and significant reduction of working capital requirement and finance costs, were put in place and are in motion for this year.

As Dr. Fatih Birol, IEA’s Executive Director put it “The coronavirus crisis is affecting a wide range of energy markets – including coal, gas, and renewables – but its impact on oil markets is particularly severe because it is stopping people and goods from moving around, dealing a heavy blow to demand transport fuels.”

However, Total’s position goes beyond the impact of the pandemic. Its rebound rests on its ability to carry on with cost control and lower debt commitments, together with the speed of the containment of the virus. That said, the company might need to raise capital soon while also coming up with formidable strategies to strengthen its business model.

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