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Saudi Aramco Q3 profit slumps 44.6% as pandemic chokes demand

Staff Report/Dubai
Filed on November 3, 2020
An employee looks on at Saudi Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia. Aramco said it would distribute a dividend of $18.75 billion for the quarter, in line with its plan to pay a base dividend of $75 billion for 2020.

(Maxim Shemetov)

Weaker refining and chemicals margins also hit Aramco’s net profit, which fell to $11.79 billion for the three months ended September 30

Saudi Arabian state oil giant Aramco on Tuesday reported a 44.6 per cent drop in third-quarter net profit as the coronavirus crisis continued to choke demand and weigh on crude prices.

Share prices of global oil companies have been hammered this year as investors fret over the impact of the pandemic on energy demand and the long-term shift away from fossil fuels.

Oil prices have recovered only slightly since tumbling to their lowest in almost two decades in March, prompting Aramco and other majors such as Shell and BP Plc to slash capital expenditure this year and next.

Weaker refining and chemicals margins also hit Aramco’s net profit, which fell to SR44.21 billion ($11.79 billion) for the three months ended September 30, in line with an analyst estimate of SR44.6 billion provided by Refinitiv but down from SR79.84 billion in the same period of last year.

“We saw early signs of a recovery in the third quarter due to improved economic activity, despite the headwinds facing global energy markets,” Saudi Aramco chief executive Ofoicer Amin Nasser said in a statement.

Aramco’s shares rose as much as one per cent and were 0.6 per cent higher at SR34.4 by 0830GMT. Although down 2.3 per cent year to date, Aramco has outperformed the likes of Exxon, BP and Shell, which are down by more than 50 per cent while Chevron is down by 40 per cent.

Analysts say that is partly because of the broader performance of the Saudi stock market, on which Aramco is listed, but also because the company has guaranteed its dividend payment.

Aramco said it would distribute a dividend of $18.75 billion for the quarter, in line with its plan to pay a base dividend of $75 billion for 2020.

But equity analyst Yousef Husseini at investment bank EFG-Hermes said Aramco would likely have to increase its debt financing in the short- to medium-term, or further cut capital expenditure, in order to be able to maintain the dividend unless oil prices recovered to at least $55 a barrel.

Dividends from the world’s top oil producing company, which went public last year, play a critical role in helping the Saudi government manage its fiscal deficit.

Aramco’s net profit almost doubled from SR24.62 billion in the second quarter, which the company attributed to higher oil prices, although it noted that was partly offset by a drop in volumes sold.

Saudi Arabia has slashed its crude production since May under a global supply cut pact with Opec and its allies, a group known as Opec+, to support oil prices and demand.

Aramco had free cash flow of $12.4 billion in the third quarter, compared with $6.1 billion in the second quarter.





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