News | Oil & Gas: Saudi Aramco's first-quarter profit slides 25% as the collapse in oil prices bites
In a release published Tuesday, the company said net income slid to 62.5 billion riyals ($16.6 billion) in the first three months of the year, down from 83.3 billion riyals over the same period in 2019. This was “primarily reflecting lower crude oil prices, as well as declining refining and chemicals margins and inventory re-measurement losses,” the company said in a statement.
Aramco said it would pay a dividend of $18.75 billion in the first quarter, despite the fall in profit. The company had pledged to issue a $75 billion dividend annually for five years as part of its pitch to investors before going public, and it does not appear to be rolling that back yet despite cuts to capital spending.
The company said free cash flow in the first quarter was 56.3 billion riyals, down from 65.1 billion riyals over the same period last year.
“The Covid-19 crisis is unlike anything the world has experienced in recent history and we are adapting to a highly complex and rapidly changing business environment,” Aramco President and CEO Amin Nasser said in the release.
“Aramco has demonstrated resilience during economic cycles and has an unparalleled position due to a strong balance sheet and low-cost structure.”
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Fresh oil production cuts amid demand crash
The April deal came after oil prices plunged amid the pandemic-led demand drop and a temporary oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia that began in early March after the two couldn’t agree on cuts to boost prices. That dispute saw Saudi Arabia increase production and exports, as well as slash its selling prices to buyers to increase its market share.
The cut announced Monday means that Saudi Arabia will be producing 4.8 million bpd less than its April level — 7.492 million bpd, according to the Saudi energy ministry, its lowest in 20 years. The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait also announced further cuts, following the kingdom’s example.
Aramco’s IPO: a different world
While the massive valuation was seen as a win for the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who spearheaded the IPO, it lacked the international interest the kingdom had hoped for, relying instead on local investors after the company canceled overseas roadshows in London and New York. The local listing on the Saudi Tadawul comprised 1.5% of the company.
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“Now we have to remember that Q1 financials really only include about three weeks of this current oil crisis. So it doesn’t include the month of April where Aramco overproduced in order to try to shore up revenue,” Wald told CNBC’s Capital Connection on Tuesday ahead of company’s earnings announcement.
Second-quarter earnings will be when the full force of the crisis in oil markets and the global demand crash manifests itself, she said.
“Based on what we’ve seen from other oil majors like Exxon in previous weeks, we can expect a big drop ... That will be indicative of what’s to come in the second quarter where we’re going to start to see the full effects of the demand crisis and the demand shock on Aramco.”