BusinessDay

World’s largest oil firm posts 39% surge in profit

...as cash flow hits record high

Saudi Aramco posted a 39percent yearly surge in net income for the third quarter and generated record free cash flow as higher oil prices and higher production helped it beat the analyst consensus.

Aramco, the world’s biggest oil firm in terms of both production and market capitalization, said this week that its third-quarter net income jumped by 39 percent year over year to $42.4 billion, while free cash flow surged to a record $45.0 billion from $28.7 billion for the third quarter of 2021.

The profit from this past quarter is Aramco’s second-highest as a listed company, following the record $48.4 billion net income for the second quarter this year.

“Market conditions slightly softened in the third quarter as continued economic uncertainty driven by inflationary pressures slowed crude oil demand growth. Despite this, Aramco delivered strong earnings and record free cash flow reflecting its ability to generate significant value through its low-cost Upstream production and strategically integrated Downstream business,” Aramco said in a statement.

“While global crude oil prices during this period were affected by continued economic uncertainty, our longterm view is that oil demand will continue to grow for the rest of the decade given the world’s need for more affordable and reliable energy,” Aramco’s president and CEO Amin Nasser said, commenting on the Q3 results.

The top executive of the Saudi state oil giant also noted that “Against the backdrop of global underinvestment in our sector, we are extending our long-term oil and gas production capabilities while also working towards our previously stated ambition to achieve net-zero Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions from our wholly-owned operated assets.”

Read also: Africa needs $40bn annual grid investments for stable electricity – Adesina

Aramco declared a cash dividend of $18.76 billion for the third quarter, in line with its dividend policy to pay shareholders, the biggest of which with 98percent is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

With robust profit and record free cash flow, Aramco joins the international majors who reported strong and – in some cases – record earnings for the third quarter. Big Oil’s profits prompted renewed criticism from U.S. President Joe Biden who said on Monday that the record profits of the likes of Exxon were “a windfall of war” and if oil companies don’t increase output, “they’re going to pay a higher tax on their excess profits and face other restrictions.”

On Monday, Saudi Arabia reported a preliminary estimate of 8.6 percent economic growth in the third quarter of 2022 compared to the same period last year, “mainly due to the increase in oil activities”.

The International Monetary Fund has said Saudi Arabia’s GDP is expected to expand by 7.6 percent this year.

Yet a slowdown in China and recession fears in Europe and the United States could make it difficult for Aramco to maintain its current momentum, even after accounting for the OPEC+ cuts that would slash supply by two million barrels per day and a European ban on Russian crude imports due to take effect in December.

“The controversial production cut announcement by OPEC+ was driven in large part by concerns that energy prices were not exactly where oil-producing countries like Saudi Arabia wanted them to be,” said Robert Mogielnicki, of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

“There are absolutely going to be headwinds associated with Aramco trying to realise the profits that they generated in previous quarters.”

Long-term, Saudi Arabia plans to increase daily oil production capacity by more than one million barrels to exceed 13 million by 2027.

Aramco floated 1.7 percent of its shares on the Saudi bourse in December 2019, generating $29.4 billion in the world’s biggest initial public offering.