World Bulletin / News Desk
France confirmed on Wednesday it would impose a one-off tax on the oil sector to raise some 550 million euros ($693 million), helping depleted government coffers.
"This should, in principle, be a one-off tax," Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac told reporters at a news conference presenting the amended bill for France's 2012 budget.
The tax, which the new Socialist government said would tap a sector whose margins have been boosted by the sharp rise in oil prices, will hit all owners of oil stocks in mainland France, from refiners to supermarket petrol stations and traders.
The tax will amount to 4 percent of the value of average crude and fuel stocks owned in the last three months of 2011, the bill document showed.
That includes refineries of oil majors such as Total , which had a total net profit of 12.3 billion euros in 2011, and petrol stations owned by supermarket chains such as Carrefour.
However, the targeted French oil distribution industry had a net margin of about 500 million euros last year, according to statistics from the Comite Professionel du Petrole industry think-tank, equivalent to the amount sought by the government.
The head of France's oil industry body UFIP Jean-Louis Schilansky told Reuters last month the tax would be a severe blow for the ailing refining sector.
European refiners have been struggling for years due to poor margins and weak demand for fuel products, prompting Total to shut its Dunkirk, northern France, refinery at the start of 2010 and Petroplus to end refining at its Reichstett plant in eastern France in May 2011. ($1 = 0.7933 euros)
Volatility eased as traders focused on the world economy and corporate earnings after a week dominated by the dramatic spike in tensions over North Korea, which triggered a global sell-off before prices bounced back Monday.
Investors greeted the more conciliatory tone after US stocks dropped three days in a row last week on President Donald Trump's vow of "fire and fury" if North Korea continued to pursue its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
The ultra-conservative kingdom has moved to diversify its traditionally oil-dependent economy following a sharp fall in crude prices.
In its monthly report on the global oil market, the International Energy Agency said, however, that it believes the supply glut is easing, partly because demand is growing faster.
US stocks have been in retreat since President Donald Trump Tuesday issued a fiery warning to North Korea to halt its nuclear program.
The move by one of Japan's best-known firms greatly reduces the chance of an embarrassing delisting from the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE).
London's benchmark FTSE 100 index weakened by 0.5 percent to 7,503.39 points.
The approval by the European Commission comes just over two months after the European Central Bank -- which took on the role of the eurozone's banking supervisor in 2014 -- allowed the sale to go ahead for a symbolic fee of one euro.
BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and Total have all published results in recent days, showing they pocketed $23 billion in net profit in the first half fo the year.
Higher cereal, sugar and dairy prices pushed food price index by 10.2 percent annually in July
HSBC was also a big riser, gaining three percent at £7.65 ($10, 8.5 euros) in late morning trade after the British banking giant announced a share buyback plan alongside a rise in first-half profits.
Both main crude contracts made strong gains, with WTI testing $50 a barrel for the first time since late May and Brent heading towards $53, while mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto saw their share price rise as commodities strengthened.