Has the pandemic helped national oil outperform international peers?

Has the pandemic helped national oil outperform international peers?

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Second-quarter earnings from international oil companies (IOCs) were generally disappointing to investors. That is hardly surprising given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global energy demand.

That disappointment was reflected in the removal of ExxonMobil from the Dow Jones Industrial Average index for the first time in 90 years.

Not too long ago, in 2011 to be precise, ExxonMobil was rated as the world’s biggest company and it was a leader in this elite club of US corporate titans.

Not any more.

Still, ExxonMobil remains as one of the larg- est international oil refining companies with a total global refining capacity of around 5 million barrels per day.

It fell out of the Dow Jones Industrial Aver- age index after it posted a negative free cash flow of $4.4 billion and paid out $8.1 billion to shareholders. The company made it clear that the refining industry did not cope well with the adverse impact of the demand shock caused by the pandemic on refined petroleum products.

According to an IEEFA report, the big IOCs cannot afford to pay dividends after five “supermajors”: ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron and Total, collectively paid $16.9 billion more to shareholders than they generated from their core energy business operations.

At the same time, the pandemic has highlighted how National Oil Companies (NOCs) can endure low oil prices for longer than their international peers.

The big international players are increasingly struggling with what some see as an existential crisis.

In Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom’s oil producer, Saudi Aramco, demonstrated it had sufficient operational elasticity to cope with the demand-sapping impact of the pandemic during a second quarter in which it recorded an outstanding performance on all fronts and against all odds.

It showed itself to be a fully integrated and diversified energy player covering exploration, production, distribution, refining, petrochemicals, and renewable energy — as well as being a pioneer in energy efficiency.

Indeed it is navigating through these challenging times by adding more strings to its bow in the form of non-oil revenues. That is not only good news for Aramco but for the broader Saudi economy as it also seeks to diversify its revenue base.

• Faisal Faeq is an energy and oil marketing adviser. He was formerly with OPEC and Saudi Aramco. Twitter:@faisalfaeq

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