Total, the French oil group, said lower gas prices, a weakening dollar and cost inflation led to a 10 per cent drop in underlying first-half earnings.

The Paris-based company said adjusted net profit, which strips out special items and one-off charges, fell from €6.7bn to €6.1bn for the six months to the beginning of March.

Total’s shares fell 2 per cent to €56.06 as investors reacted negatively to the company’s failure to update the market on its oil and gas production outlook.

Unlike larger rivals such as BP and Exxon Mobil, however, Total has bucked the industry-wide trend of falling oil and gas output. Production for the second quarter rose rose 1.4 per cent to 2.3m barrels a day, helped by the addition of a new 74,000-barrel-per-day offshore field in Dalia, Angola.

Yet in spite of the robust production growth during the first half, investors fear lower Opec quotas, renewed disruptions in Nigeria and halted production at its Nkossa offshore field in Congo could hold back production growth for the year.

Total has already trimmed its full-year volume growth target from 7 per cent to less than 6 per cent this year. Some analysts believe the company could trim its production target yet again.

“This morning’s results may be a sideshow to emerging risk on 2007 volume guidance,” said Mark Hume, analyst at Credit Suisse.

Robert Castaigne, chief financial officer, refused to be drawn on full-year output on Thursday.

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