Cash recovery in Europe's oil sector isn't a Total success

Europe's major oil companies are starting to pay their own way, as spending cuts and improving operations finally mean at least some are covering their investment and dividends from operating cash flow.

Among Europe's big three, BP and Shell (RDS.A, RDS.B) have made clear strides: BP generated nearly $4B in H1 free cash flow, enough to cover its dividends, while Shell is largely funding itself internally after a dismal 2013, as it churned out $7B in H1 free cash flow against the $12B it pays out in dividends for the full year.

Total (NYSE:TOT), however, is beginning to falter: Cash flow from operations, excluding volatile movements in working capital, barely covered H1 spending, and TOT likely will struggle to hit its target of $10B in free cash flow for 2015 due to delays at non-operated large projects such as Kashagan.

Changes to its cash flow and production outlooks are likely at TOT's investor day in September, Heard on the Street's Helen Thomas writes.

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