Aramco navigates through pandemic storm

Aramco navigates through pandemic storm

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An Aramco employee walks near an oil tank at Saudi Aramco’s Ras Tanura oil refinery and oil terminal in Saudi Arabia, May 21, 2018. (Reuters)

Despite the difficult time the world is going through due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the great damage it has caused to global financial markets, Saudi Aramco was able to report strong and solid first-quarter (Q1) results for this year.

Company president and CEO, Amin Nasser, said he “wasn’t surprised that the financial performance of the company in the first three months of 2020 was impacted by the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic as well as lower oil prices,” a statement I would agree with.

However, despite that, the company’s financials remained robust for Q1 with net income of $16.7 billion, earnings before interest and taxes of $34.2 billion, free cash flow of $15 billion, dividends of $13.4 billion paid in respect to Q4, 2019, gearing ratio of minus 4.9 percent, and a return on average capital employed of 26.3 percent.

By all means such financial results were strong considering the unprecedented negative impact of the virus outbreak, a global crisis on the scale of which has not been experienced since World War II.

Nasser was correct in pointing out that Aramco’s healthy balance sheet was down to prudent management and low-cost structure which had allowed the company to declare a dividend of $18.75 billion for the quarter to be paid in Q2 of this year.

It would appear that Aramco has managed to sail safely with its team through the COVID-19-induced economic storm with minimum negative impact.

Talat Zaki Hafiz

All this points to a company possessing the agility, strength, and resilience across different economic cycles to continue operating strongly and efficiently.

The chief executive added that the company had taken steps to optimize its planned 2020 capital spending, while working to identify opportunities to further improve operational productivity.

Such forward thinking and positive attitude has been significantly reflected in Aramco’s flexibility to further adjust its expenditures in order to respond to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to economic activity and demand for oil.

It would appear that Aramco has managed to sail safely with its team through the COVID-19-induced economic storm with minimum negative impact.

This successful business journey is due to the company’s focus on long-term growth and value creation.

  • Talat Zaki Hafiz is an economist and financial analyst. Twitter: @TalatHafiz
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