Saudi Aramco eclipses Apple as world’s top-earning company

Aramco is buying a 70 percent stake in Saudi Basic Industries Corp. from the kingdom’s wealth fund for $69.1 billion. (Saudi Aramco)
Updated 02 April 2019
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Saudi Aramco eclipses Apple as world’s top-earning company

  • Aramco intends to issue its first US dollar-denominated bonds in the second quarter to help finance its acquisition of a stake in SABIC
  • At the end of 2018, Aramco’s cash balances exceeded its balance-sheet debt, Fitch said

DUBAI: Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil producer, made core earnings of $224 billion last year, almost three times as much as Apple, figures from the state-owned company showed on Monday ahead of its debut international bond issue.
Aramco revealed its financials in order to obtain a public rating and start issuing public international bonds.
Despite the huge profit, the state-owned oil giant was rated by credit agencies at par with Saudi Arabia, meaning the Kingdom’s economy will weigh on Aramco’s cost of borrowing as it prepares its bond market debut.
Saudi energy minister Khalid Al-Falih said earlier this year the planned bond sale would raise around $10 billion, but banking sources said the transaction could be larger.
Rating agencies Fitch and Moody’s rated Aramco A+ and A1 respectively, but both said that without sovereign rating constraints Aramco would be in the same league as better-rated international oil companies like Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Shell.
Fitch put Aramco’s standalone credit profile at “AA+.”
Credit ratings allow investors to compare and assess the credit quality of bond issuers and their debt securities, and are important in determining how much borrowers have to pay.
The planned bond deal is Aramco’s inaugural transaction in international markets. It still plans to launch an initial public stock offering or IPO in 2021, expected to generate $100 billion, having postponed its flotation from 2018.
“Saudi Aramco has many characteristics of a Aaa-rated corporate, with minimal debt relative to cash flows, large scale of production, market leadership and access in Saudi Arabia to one of the world’s largest hydrocarbon reserves,” said Rehan Akbar, senior credit officer at Moody’s.

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The group has 257 billion barrels of oil equivalent, representing over 50 years of reserves based on current production levels, according to a company presentation given to investors and seen by Reuters.
Aramco will start meeting international bond investors this week for the much anticipated debt transaction, expected to attract hefty demand from global investors.
The planned bond sale follows the announced acquisition of a 70 percent stake in Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC), the world’s fourth-largest petrochemicals maker, from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), in a deal worth $69.1 billion.
The bond sale, which may be split into tranches with maturities ranging from three to 30 years, is not linked to the SABIC acquisition, Aramco said.
Aramco intends to pay for the acquisition in tranches, with 50 percent at the closing of the transaction and the remainder over a two-year period, from internal cash generation and, potentially, other resources, the company said in its presentation.
Aramco had earnings before interest, tax and depreciation (EBITDA) of $224 billion in 2018. By contrast Apple, which according to Forbes was the world’s top company in terms of profits last year, had normalized core earnings, or EBITDA, of $81.8 billion.

Moody's Investors Service said Aramco posted a net profit of $111.1 billion in 2018 — far higher than the combined net earnings of the five international oil majors — and generated $359.9 billion in revenues. Last year, Apple posted nearly $50 billion in net profits.
“Saudi Aramco has an extremely strong liquidity position,” Moody’s said, with $48.8 billion in cash against $27 billion in reported debt.
“The company’s balance sheet leverage has been conservatively managed,” said the agency, adding it has $46.8 billion of bank facilities, of which about $25.5 billion was still available.
Aramco representatives will meet with investors in Asia, Europe and the US through Friday, April 5, according to a document issued by one of the banks leading the deal.
The roadshow has no planned stop in the Middle East, showing the transaction is mostly aimed at international buyers.
“The blue-chip company is extremely profitable, free cash flow positive, has low leverage and strong reserves for the future, making it a compelling investment case for global investors,” said Parth Kikani, fixed income director at Emirates NBD Asset Management.
Aramco is presenting itself to global investors as an “anchor of global energy” and a global energy provider of systemic importance, producing one of every eight barrels of global crude, according to the investor presentation.
It had $86 billion in free cash flow at the end of 2018.
The SABIC acquisition, at the heart of Aramco’s push to expand in the downstream business, will not impact Aramco’s rating, the company said in the presentation.
Aramco has hired Lazard as financial adviser for the planned bond deal, and JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley as global coordinators. They are joined by Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, HSBC and NCB Capital as bookrunners. 


Oil prices rise on gains prompted by tensions between US and Iran

Updated 25 June 2019
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Oil prices rise on gains prompted by tensions between US and Iran

  • Russian energy minister praises international cooperation to stabilize oil markets

LONDON: Oil prices rose on Monday, extending large gains last week that were prompted by tensions between Iran and the US, as Washington was set to announce new sanctions on Tehran.

West Texas Intermediate crude was up 50 cents, or 0.87 percent, at $57.93 a barrel.

Brent futures were up 9 cents, or 0.14 percent at $65.29 a barrel by 1040 GMT.

US President Donald Trump said on Friday he called off a military strike in retaliation for the shooting down of a US drone by Iran, saying the potential death toll would be disproportionate, adding on Sunday that he was not seeking war.

Oil prices surged after Iran shot down the aircraft on Thursday that the US claimed was in international airspace and Tehran said was over its territory.

Brent racked up a gain of about 5 percent last week, its first weekly gain in five weeks, and WTI jumped about 10 percent, its biggest weekly percentage gain since December 2016.

But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “significant” sanctions on Iran would be announced on Monday aimed at further choking off resources that Tehran uses to fund its activities in the region.

British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said the UK believed neither the US nor Iran wanted a conflict but warned tensions could lead to an “accidental war.”

Also boosting prices, global supply may remain tight as OPEC and its allies including Russia appear likely to extend their oil cut pact at their meeting July 1-2 in Vienna, analysts said.

“An extension of OPEC+ production cuts through the end of the year seems highly likely given recent price action,” US investment bank Jefferies said in a note.

“The market expects an extension though, and any failure could see oil price gap down. The probabilities favor restraint however,” it added.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak on Monday said international cooperation on crude production had helped stabilize oil markets and is more important than ever.

“There is a good example of successful cooperation in balancing the oil market between the OPEC countries and non-OPEC. Thanks to joint efforts, we today see a stabilization of world oil markets,” Novak said.

Boosting oil demand, prospects of a near-term interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve aimed at bolstering the US economy have weakened the dollar.

Oil is usually priced in dollars, and a slide in the value of the weaker greenback makes it cheaper for holders of other currencies.

Separately, Iranian crude exports have dropped so far in June to 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) or less after the US tightened the screws on Tehran’s main source of income, industry sources said and tanker data showed, deepening global supply losses.

The US reimposed sanctions on Iran in November after pulling out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and six world powers. Aiming to cut Iran’s sales to zero, Washington in May ended sanctions waivers to importers of Iranian oil.

Iran has nonetheless sent abroad about 300,000 bpd of crude in the first three weeks of June, according to two industry sources who track the flows. Data from Refinitiv Eikon put crude shipments at about 240,000 bpd.

“It’s a very low level of real crude exports,” said one of the sources.

The squeeze on exports from Iran, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, is a key factor for the producer group and its allies, which meet on July 1-2 to decide whether to pump more oil in the rest of 2019.

Iran’s June exports are down from about 400,000-500,000 bpd in May as estimated by the industry sources and Refinitiv and a fraction of the more than 2.5 million bpd that Iran shipped in April 2018, the month before President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the nuclear deal.

Iranian exports have become more opaque since US sanctions returned in November, making it harder to assess volumes.

Tehran no longer reports its production figures to OPEC and there is no definitive information on exports since it can be difficult to tell if a vessel has sailed to a specific end-user.

Refinitiv Eikon data showed Iran has exported 5.7 million barrels of crude in the first 24 days of June to the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Singapore and Syria, although these may not be the final destinations.

Kpler, another company which tracks oil flows, estimates that Iran loaded 645,000 bpd of crude and condensate, a light oil, onto tankers in the first half of June, of which 82 percent are floating in Gulf waters.

That would put actual crude exports in the first half of the month even lower than 300,000 bpd.

“American restrictions are having a clear effect on Iran’s ability to sell into global markets,” Kpler said.