March 19, 2020 / 8:28 PM / 18 days ago

Exclusive: Total boss tells staff it will cut spending and freeze recruitment

FILE PHOTO: Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne attends a hearing of French parliament's economic commission at the National Assembly in Paris, France, September 17, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - French oil major Total (TOTF.PA) will freeze recruitment, boost costs savings and halt its share buyback programme due to tumbling oil prices, chief executive Patrick Pouyanne told staff in a video message on Thursday, according to a union official.

The group is the latest oil and gas producer to slash investment plans and cut costs following a slide in oil prices to 20-year lows on the back of a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, and a slowdown in global demand linked to the coronavirus.

A Total representative was not immediately available to comment.

Total plans to cut its investment programme in all segments by about 20% and find additional costs savings of around $400 million this year, Pouyanne said in the video message, CGT union delegate Thierry Defresne told Reuters.

The group had planned around $18 billion of net investments in 2020 and to buy back around $2 billion worth of shares.

Defresne, who watched the video, said CEO Pouyanne confirmed the share buyback programme will be halted.

He said Pouyanne told staff that there was a $9 billion hole to be plugged and the measures taken will cover around $5.5 billion. He said Total intended to borrow to cover the remaining shortfall.

Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by David Goodman and Jan Harvey

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