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    TotalFina Rules Out U.S. Expansion

    French oil company says market consolidation would make growth difficult&for now.

    LONDON -- Persistent speculation that France's TotalFinaElf will make a U.S. acquisition to secure its status as a world oil power is wide of the mark, according to its Chief Executive Thierry Desmarest.

    "It's not obvious," the head of France's largest company said in an interview with Reuters. "First, after consolidation of the industry there are not so many targets remaining... and second, generally a merger only works for both the target shareholders and the acquirer if there are a lot of synergies.?

    "We have very little in the way of synergies to offer there," he added.

    Total's European rivals BP and Royal Dutch Shell have 30-40 percent of their business in the United States.

    Total, meanwhile, made just two percent of operating profit in the U.S. last year. The primary sources of its revenue stream come from Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America, Reuters reported.

    Speculation had been fueled that Total might try to swipe Conoco Inc. before it finalizes its planned merger with Phillips Petroleum Co. Though shareholders at Conoco and Phillips approved the merger last week, the deal still requires federal approval. Also, Total had been linked by press reports with another popular takeover target of recent months, Husky Energy of Canada.

    As chief executive since 1995, Desmarest has taken Total from a mid-sized European player to one of the five largest oil concerns in the world through two takeovers, Belgium's PetroFina in 1999 and Elf of France in 2000.

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