Saudi Aramco maintains $31bn dividend despite drop in first-quarter profit

The company's net income for the three months to the end of March fell to $27.3 billion

Saudi Aramco's first-quarter revenue fell by about 4 per cent to $107.2 billion. Reuters
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Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil-producing company, expects to pay $31 billion in dividends to the Saudi government and its shareholders despite reporting a lower profit in the first quarter on dwindling sales.

Net profit for the three months to the end of March declined by 14.4 per cent annually to $27.3 billion, the company said on Tuesday in a filing to the Tadawul stock exchange, where its shares are traded.

Revenue fell by about 4 per cent year on year to $107.2 billion, driven by “lower crude oil volume sold, partially offset by an increase in crude oil prices during the period”, the company said.

Aramco plans to pay a base dividend of $20.3 billion for the first quarter, followed by a performance-linked dividend distribution of $10.8 billion in the second quarter.

It expects $124.3 billion worth of dividends to be declared in 2024, including a base dividend of $81.2 billion and a performance-linked dividend of $43.1 billion.

The Saudi government is the majority shareholder in Aramco, with a stake of 82.2 per cent, and relies heavily on the company’s payouts for the diversification of its economy.

“Our first-quarter performance reflects the resilience and strength of Aramco,” the company's president and chief executive, Amin Nasser, said.

“We also continue to execute our long-term strategy, and in the first quarter, made significant progress on expanding our gas business and growing our globally integrated downstream value chain, while maintaining our focus on consistently delivering value for our shareholders.”

Aramco said its cash flow from operating activities in the first quarter stood at $33.6 billion, down from $39.6 billion during the same period last year.

Saudi Arabia and other Opec and non-Opec members have been cutting oil production to shore up oil prices amid continued demand concerns as world economies grapple with rising interest rates.

In April, the Opec+ group decided to extend the voluntary output cuts of 2.2 million barrels per day until the end of June.

Saudi Arabia's economy contracted in the first quarter of the year on the back of a slump in the oil sector, despite an expansion in non-oil activities during the period.

The kingdom's real gross domestic product contracted by 1.8 per cent annually in the January-March period, according to flash estimates released by the General Authority for Statistics this month.

In January, the Saudi government directed Aramco to maintain its maximum sustainable capacity (MSC) at 12 million bpd, instead of 13 million bpd, as was previously announced, amid the kingdom's plan to redirect revenue to the government instead of investing in new capacity.

“This directive will have no impact on announced, near-term projects, including the Dammam development and the Marjan, Berri and Zuluf crude oil increments,” the company said.

“Production from these projects will be used to maintain MSC at 12 million bpd, which provides operational flexibility to increase production and supports Aramco’s … ability to rapidly respond to changing market conditions.”

Last month, Finance Minister Mohammed Al Jadaan said Saudi Arabia, the Arab world's largest economy, was also looking to “downscale” or “accelerate” some of the projects being carried out under its Vision 2030 programme.

“A lot of the targets have been overdelivered. There are challenges obviously, and this is why I said we don't have any ego. We will change, we will adjust [or] extend some of the projects. We will downscale some of the projects [and] accelerate other[s],” he said at the time.

Saudi Arabia launched its Vision 2030 programme in 2016 to diversify its economy away from oil, support private-sector growth, improve female workforce participation and reduce unemployment among citizens.

The kingdom has also announced a host of ambitious new projects to support its plans, such as Neom and the Red Sea Project.

Updated: May 08, 2024, 6:18 AM