Saudi Aramco boosts dividends despite profit fall

Saudi Aramco has reported a steep decline in profits, after the energy giant cut production and oil prices fell sharply in 2023.

Its profits fell 25% to $121bn (£91bn) profits after a record-smashing year in 2022.

But the figure is still the second-highest profit ever for the state-backed company.

The firm said it was boosting its payments to shareholders and looking for opportunities to invest in China.

Dividends will increase to $98bn, a rise of almost a third compared to 2022, when it banked a record $161bn in profit, thanks to the impact Russia's war in Ukraine was having on energy prices. Oil prices hit $130 a barrel in 2022.

The Saudi state owns nearly 95% of the company, so the bumper profits resulted in a budget surplus for the kingdom in 2022.

In 2023 oil prices fell back to $85 a barrel. Moreover, Saudi Aramco has cut back on production to help support the oil price, providing a further challenge to profits.

"In 2023 we achieved our second-highest ever net income. Our resilience and agility contributed to healthy cash flows and high levels of profitability, despite a backdrop of economic headwinds," Aramco's chief executive Amin Nasser said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia is aiming to diversify the country's economy, using income from its energy sector to fund the transition.

Mr Nasser said the firm would make some announcements this year on renewables investments in Saudi Arabia.

But he also said the oil giant was looking for opportunities to invest in China, where demand for oil was growing.

"So far we are in the early part of 2024, demand is healthy and growing in China," Mr Nasser told journalists.

Saudi Aramco already has investments in Chinese refineries.

He said he expects the oil market to be "fairly robust" in 2024 with demand just marginally higher than last year.

He also said discussions were taking place over a stake in the tie-up with French carmaker Renault and China's Geely which make hybrid car engines.

Source: BBC

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