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Cablegate: Total Discusses Prospective Iranian Investment

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Lucia A Keegan 10/23/2006 10:34:37 AM From DB/Inbox: Lucia A Keegan

Cable
Text:


UNCLAS SENSITIVE PARIS 06921

SIPDIS
cxparis:
ACTION: ECON
INFO: SCIO POL ORA AMB AGR LABO ECNO UNESCO ECSO SCI
DCM ESCI ENGO TRDO FCS

DISSEMINATION: ECONOUT /1
CHARGE: PROG

APPROVED: ECON:TWHITE
DRAFTED: ECON:HSULLIVAN
CLEARED: ECON:SDWYER/EB/ESC:PSIMONS

VZCZCFRI522
PP RUEHC RUEHKO RUCNMEM RHEBAAA RUEHUNV RUEHBJ
RUEHNY RUEHIL RUEHKL RUEHMO RUEHNE RUEHCV
DE RUEHFR #6921/01 2931107
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 201107Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2376
INFO RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 2367
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES PRIORITY
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA PRIORITY 0547
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 1342
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 1416
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 0656
RUEHKL/AMEMBASSY KUALA LUMPUR PRIORITY 0236
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY 5649
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 1026
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0418

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 006921

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 1295A: N/A
TAGS: ETTC EINV EPET FIR IR

SUBJECT: TOTAL DISCUSSES PROSPECTIVE IRANIAN INVESTMENT

1. (SBU) Summary. On October 16, EB DAS for Energy, Sanctions, and
Commodities Paul Simons met with Total International Relations
Senior Vice President Hubert Loiseleur des Longchamps on Total's
prospective investments in Iran. Simons explained that Congress had
recently passed the Iran Freedom Support Act (IFSA). The State
Department had committed to informing Congress of our efforts to
discourage continued investment in Iran and of our progress in
discussions with companies with investments in Iran. des Longchamps
said that Total had no imminent plans to announce any new Iranian
investments. He did not know what firm would take over Japanese
firm Inpex's stake after the Iranian Government cut Inpex's stake
from 75 to 10 percent of the project, but noted that this project
was not a current priority for Total. End summary.

2. (U) On October 16, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy,
Sanctions, and Commodities Paul Simons met with Total International
Relations Senior Vice President Hubert Loiseleur des Longchamps to
disucss Total's prospective investments in Iran and other issues.
Total International Relations Vice President Yves Le Bail, State
Energy and Natural Resources Division Chief Peter Haymond, and
Econoff accompanied.

3. (SBU) Simons explained that Congress had recently passed an
extension of the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA), renamed the
Iran Freedom Support Act (IFSA). In the process of consulting with
Congress, the State Department had committed to informing Congress
of our efforts to discourage continued investment in Iran and of our
progress in discussions with companies with investments in Iran.
Total had been a particular focus of Congressional concern; given
the focus of the international community on Iran's unacceptable
behavior, we would be particularly concerned about any forward
movement by Total on pending business in Iran. The Government of
Iran (GOI), by its own actions, has raised the political risk of
conducting business in Iran without compensating firms for that
increased risk. Simons noted that investment in Iran has
consequently slowed.

----------------------------------------
Total -- Congressional Debate Affects Us
----------------------------------------

4. (SBU) According to des Longchamps, of all the major oil
companies, Total's business was the most geographically dispersed,
lacking a base in the Gulf of Mexico or the North Sea. Total's job
was to produce oil wherever it exists, considering the technical,
geological, and political risks of doing so. Total has a risk
committee that considers all relevant information, which drives
Total's decision making process. Total followed the Congressional
debate leading up to the passage of IFSA and factored this
information into its model. The legislation, he admitted, has a
direct impact on Total's business.

5. (SBU) Oil and gas markets were global, however, and prices were
determined by marginal production, "the last drop of oil produced."
He believed that actions that the GOI and Government of Russia were
taking today would create a gas shortage several years from now
since they were discouraging investment. Little spare capacity
existed, and the global market benefited from Iranian oil and gas
production in the form of lower prices.

--------------------------------------------
Total Has Not Decided on Iranian Investments
--------------------------------------------

6. (SBU) des Longchamps said that the Azadegan Project was not a
near-term priority and that Total had not been involved in any
recent negotiations with respect to Azadegan. He was unaware that
any international firm was able to replace Japanese petroleum firm
Inpex's potential investment in the Azadegan oil field. (Note:
Inpex, Japan's top oil explorer, had a 75 percent share in the
Azadegan oil field in an agreement reached with the GOI in February
2004. Azadegan has estimated crude reserves of 26 billion barrels.
On September 26, the GOI decreased the Japanese share to ten
percent. End note.) des Longchamps said that the GOI cut the
Japanese share because Inpex had failed to reach agreement with the
Iranians by a GOI-imposed September 25 deadline. The Government of
Japan, with a 29.35 equity stake in Inpex, was increasingly
unenthusiastic about the project, des Longchamps added. (Note: Oil
industry press reports cited Iranian pressure on Inpex to start work
on the project immediately, while Inpex was hesitating because of
the possibility of UN sanctions over Tehran's uranium enrichment and
reprocessing activities as well as a large number of mines that
needed to be cleared as a result of the Iran-Iraq war. End note.)


7. (SBU) Simons noted that, within the GOI, a debate existed about
the share that foreign oil companies should have in future projects.
Some advocated that Iranian firms should have more control. Simons
said that he was impressed by Total's June 2006 presentation to the
International Energy Agency (IEA) on its global natural gas strategy
in which Iran played only a minor role in the company's strategic
planning. He noted that most other global LNG forecasts tended to
downplay Iran's contribution because of the marketplace's lack of
confidence in Iran's likelihood to create the political and economic
incentives for LNG investment.

8. (SBU) des Longchamps replied that Total had already completed all
the Iranian natural gas projects that it had undertaken in the past,
transferring control over to Iranian firms upon completion. Total
was considering investing in the Pars Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)
Projects, but had not yet decided whether to proceed. He
acknowledged that the Iranians had been unsuccessful in attracting
foreign investment into any other LNG project.

--------------------------
Total's Long-Term Approach
--------------------------

9. (SBU) Total has a long-term approach to markets in which it
invests, even if the climate changes substantially, des Longchamps
said. For example, while Total sold its interest in conventional
oil firms, it has retained its ownership and operation of one of the
four extra heavy Orinozo Basin projects. It is continuing
negotiations with state-run Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PdVSA)
regarding arrangements for increasing the value of the PdVSA's stake
in Total's ventures from 37 to 51 percent.

10. (SBU) des Longchamps lamented the declining equity opportunities
for the major integrated oil firms. National oil companies were
underfunded, and they lacked sufficient managerial and technical
expertise. The integrated oil firms are exploring more in deep
water and fields that require more advanced technological solutions.


11. (SBU) des Longchamps said that major integrated oil firms can be
a positive force for change in the countries in which they invest.
For example, Angola's Ministry of Finance now publishes its oil
production statistics. This level of transparency was unthinkable
even two years ago. The change was undoubtedly due to the presence
of Total, BP, ExxonMobil, and Chevron in Angola, which pushed for
this change. If such companies withdraw from a market, firms from
China, India, and other countries are more than willing to fill the
vacuum. Such firms have little regard for Western geopolitical
interests or transparency. It is better for Western firms to remain
in these markets, des Longchamps concluded.

12. (U) DAS Simons cleared this cable.

STAPLETON

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