French energy group Total has approved its first major project in three years and raised its interim dividend thanks to a more than 50 per cent climb in net profits at the start of the year.

In a first quarter trading update, Total said it notched up a 56 per cent rise in its adjusted net income to $2.6bn in the three months ending in March, up from $1.6bn in the same quarter last year and beating a forecast of around €2.4bn.

Total has been boosted by a 58 per cent climb in Brent crude prices over the period to $53.7 a barrel and said it would be raising its interim dividend for the first time since 2014 by 1.6 per cent.

The company also approved the development of its Argentinian shale site at Vaca Muerta – its first major project since 2014.

“The strength of the balance sheet and relentless pursuit of cost reductions allows the Group to launch new projects and acquire resources while fully benefiting from the ongoing deflation in the oil sector”, said chairman and chief executive Patrick Pouyanné.

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