TotalFina Chairman Thierry Desmarest said that relations with rival Elf Aquitaine had entered a more relaxed phase and said he would seek a friendly end to their takeover fight in the coming weeks.
"The atmosphere has become more relaxed over the past week," Desmarest said. "What we still have to do better is to try to pass from this phase of offers and counter-offers to the friendly solution we will try to negotiate in the coming weeks."
Desmarest confirmed he was ready to raise his offer if a friendly deal could be reached. "In order to secure a deal, if we want to move more quickly, we need to accept that there is room for discussion," he said.
TotalFina launched a 42 billion euro hostile bid for Elf on July 5 and Elf responded with a 50 billion counter-bid two weeks later.
Desmarest said that negotiations between the two oil giants had not yet begun. But asked if he had spoken with Philippe Jaffre, chairman of Elf, he said the two had never lost contact. "Even if there are periods of tension, it is always necessary to keep in contact," he said.
After weeks of exchanges in the press, Desmarest said progress would now depend on more discretion.
He repeated that the differences between the two projects were only "artificial" apart from the companies' respective plans for the chemicals divisions.
Elf has intentions to spin off
the combined groups' chemical activities. Jaffre has said that TotalFina lacked a chemicals strategy but he welcomed TotalFina's recognition that the chemicals division could be given separate legal status.
Desmarest said that even in this area a reasonable solution could be found. He said TotalFina had shown "signs of openness" on the question and believed they had been heard by Elf.