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Saudi Aramco profits soared in the first quarter after a rally in global oil and gas markets, allowing the state-owned company to maintain its dividend.
The world’s largest energy company maintained its quarterly payout, almost all of which goes to the Saudi government, at $ 18.8 billion. Money is a vital source of liquidity for the kingdom as it tries to reduce a budget deficit that exploded last year, with the coronavirus pandemic driving oil prices down and shutting down local businesses.
The exceptional results follow last week’s results from major oil companies such as Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc, whose profits have returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Read: Big oil companies revive pre-pandemic levels of cash flow and profits
Aramco’s adjusted net profit for the quarter was 78.6 billion riyals ($ 21 billion), up 24% year-over-year and higher than analyst estimates of around 18 billion. dollars. Free cash flow was $ 18.3 billion, almost reaching dividend level.
The company, based in Dhahran, eastern Saudi Arabia, seeks to reduce debt that skyrocketed last year due to slump in profits and has chosen to keep the annual dividend at $ 75 billion. of dollars.
Gearing, a measure of net debt over equity, fell from minus 5% at the start of 2020 to 23% at the end of the year. It remained at that level at the end of March, but is expected to decline this quarter after Aramco announced last month that a US-led group would invest.$ 12.4 billion in its pipelines. It is also considering the sale of a stake linked to itsnatural gas pipelines.
Aramco’s downstream business, which now includes contributions from a chemicals manufacturerSaudi Basic Industries Corp., made a profit as higher commodity prices pushed up refined product margins. The unit’s earnings before interest and taxes were $ 4.4 billion, compared to a loss of $ 5 billion a year earlier.
The downstream branch, which Aramco wants to expand, recorded full-year losses in 2019 and 2020. The company bought Sabic from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund for $ 69 billion last year, the main reason its debt has soared. increases.
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