Total reports sharply lower 4th quarter earnings

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PARIS (AP) — French oil company Total SA says its earnings slid nearly 30 percent in the fourth quarter as oil prices stagnated under $110 a barrel and production slipped into reverse.

The company reported fourth quarter profit of $2.18 billion, down 28 percent from $3.04 billion a year earlier. The drop followed earnings declines at fellow European oil majors BP and Royal Dutch Shell, as falling refining margins and a sluggish European economy weighed on demand.

Total said Wednesday production slipped to 2.284 million barrels a day in the quarter, down 0.5 percent from a year earlier. Total blamed "normal decline" and security issues in Nigeria and Libya for the drop.

Brent crude oil prices were down 1 percent at $109.2 a barrel in the quarter, Total said.

Total said it's on track to achieve a targeted increase in production to 2.6 million barrels a day by 2015, and possibly 3 million barrels a day by 2017.

Production will benefit this year from new projects in Angola, the North Sea and Nigeria, Total said.

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