Saudi Aramco quarterly profit falls on lower prices but beats estimates
Producer approves distribution of $19.5bn in a quarterly base dividend, as well as a second $10bn performance-linked payout
Dubai — Saudi Aramco on Tuesday reported a 23% fall in third-quarter net profit on the back of lower oil prices and volumes sold, marginally beating analyst estimates and helping prop up its shares in early trade.
Net profit fell to $32.6bn for the quarter to September 30, above the $31.8bn expected by 12 analysts in a company-provided forecast.
The Saudi oil producer said lower oil prices and volumes were partially offset by a reduction in production royalties.
The group’s shares, up about 15% this year, pared earlier gains to inch up 0.3% to 33.55 riyals on Tuesday.
Chevron and ExxonMobil last month reported sharp year-on-year falls in third-quarter profit as energy prices cooled.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter and de facto leader of the Opec group of oil-producing nations, said on Sunday it would continue with its voluntary oil output cut of 1-million barrels per day (bpd) until the end of the year. It said it would review the decision again next month.
Aramco said total hydrocarbon production in the quarter was 12.8-million barrels of oil equivalent a day.
Aramco’s reported its revenue fell to $113.09bn in the quarter from $144.99bn a year earlier, while royalty and other tax payments fell to $14.7bn from $24.3bn.
It declared a quarterly $19.5bn base dividend, which is paid regardless of performance. A second $9.87bn distribution of performance-linked dividends will be paid out in the fourth quarter, based on 2022 and the first nine months of 2023.
The Saudi state remains overwhelmingly Aramco’s biggest shareholder, and heavily relies on its generous payouts.
The government directly holds 90.19%, the sovereign Public Investment Fund (PIF) 4% and PIF subsidiary Sanabil another 4%, according to LSEG data.
Saudi Arabia last week reported a budget deficit of about $9.5bn in the third quarter. That compared with a budget surplus of almost $30bn in the whole of 2022.
Saudi Arabia is midway through an economic transformation plan known as Vision 2030, targeting private sector expansion and non-oil growth.
“Energy demand is likely to increase over the mid to long term,” Aramco said, adding it continued to invest “through the largest capital programme in its history”.
The company said its capital expenditure in the quarter rose to $11bn from $9bn a year earlier, but RBC Capital Markets said in a note that Aramco narrowed its 2023 capex forecast to $48bn-$52bn from an earlier $45bn-$55bn range.
Aramco’s initial public offering in late 2019 was the world’s largest, raising $25.6bn, with more shares later boosting the haul to $29.4bn.
The company is considering selling a stake worth as much as $50bn through a secondary share offering on the Riyadh bourse, the Wall Street Journal reported in September.
Back in 2021, Saudi Arabia’s ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, said that Saudi Aramco would sell more shares, with the proceeds going to bolster the PIF, the Vision 2030’s main funding source.
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