TotalFinaElf To Differentiate Retail Brands

TotalFinaElf, Europe's third largest publicly floated oil company, is looking to improve returns from its retail fuel business amid the industry's biggest slump in a decade or more. The French based international is “reorganizing” its networks, Thomas Fell, a spokesman for the company, said in an interview, declining to be more specific. The Figaro newspaper reported last Saturday that Total will use the Elf name as a discount fuel retailer in towns, renaming other outlets under the Total brand. “It's not a bad idea to differentiate the two brands within France,” said Ignace De Coene, a fund manager at Fortis Investment Management in Brussels, who oversees 110 billion euros ($99 billion) of assets. “What they will try to do now is keep the Total brand as a premium brand and with the Elf brand just go for low prices. It is a pretty sensible thing to do.” Oil companies such as BP and Royal Dutch/Shell Group have said their first quarter results, expected to be announced this week, will reflect the worst refining and marketing environment in more than ten years.

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