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The 1990s have been a decade of success for the TOTAL Group, and this success enabled the company to acquire PETROFINA and ELF in 1999, thus creating the fourth largest major international oil company. This success has largely been established thanks to an exceptionally fast growth in the upstream activities of the group during the decade, whether measured in physical terms—i.e., production and reserve—or in financial terms.

This chapter attempts to explain the overall approach and the strategy of TOTAL in developing its upstream portfolio. This strategy has focused on three aspects: reinforcement of exploration and production activities in well-established provinces, the use of innovative technology, and contractual flexibility in countries that have opened or reopened for exploration or development activities. Obviously such countries present higher contractual or political risks than more traditional countries, but they can also offer satisfactory rewards provided proper portfolio management and risk management are considered to be strategic priorities.

However, whatever strategies are applied, their successful implementation is the key, and TOTAL has no special recipes to offer in this domain. It has simply, but persistently, tried to stick to common sense recipes: to attract and develop the best possible people, to put the right people in the right jobs, and to mix technical opportunities with commercial reality.

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