Saudi Aramco announces $75bn dividend despite ‘unprecedented, difficult’ year

Saudi Aramco announces $75bn dividend despite ‘unprecedented, difficult’ year
Earlier the world’s biggest oil company reported a 44.4 percent drop in net income to $49 billion in 2020. (Supplied)
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Updated 21 March 2021

Saudi Aramco announces $75bn dividend despite ‘unprecedented, difficult’ year

Saudi Aramco announces $75bn dividend despite ‘unprecedented, difficult’ year
  • Aramco, like other major oil producers, felt the impact of lower crude oil prices and weakened refining margins

DUBAI: Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, made a profit of almost $50 billion in a year described by CEO Amin Nasser as “unprecedented and difficult.”

Announcing full year results for 2020 — during which global oil markets plunged as the coronavirus pandemic impacted demand — Nasser said that net income came in at $49 billion, “one of the highest earnings of any public company globally.”

Nasser said that the company “displayed strong financial resilience in one of the most challenging periods for the industry, during which revenues were impacted by lower crude oil prices and volumes sold, and weakened refining and chemicals margins.”

In 2019, before oil prices crashed and members of the OPEC+ alliance, including Saudi Arabia, cut production in response to falling demand, Aramco made $88.2 billion net income.


 

Despite the fall in profit, Aramco made good on its pledge at the time of its initial public offering to pay $75 billion in dividends to shareholders. Nasser told Arab News that Aramco planned to maintain dividends at that level and that there were no plans of an increase, as some analysts have speculated.

 

“We have declared $75 billion and that’s our planner this year, and there is no intention this year to declare any additional dividend beyond the $75 billion. These are always evaluated by the board and subject to board approval,” he said.

Capital expenditure will be cut to about $35 billion in 2021, he said, lower than previous guidance of as much as $54 billion.

“I am proud that despite the many challenges from COVID-19, Aramco demonstrated its unique value proposition through its considerable financial and operational agility,” he said.

The Aramco chief said that he was confident that demand for energy would rebound as global economies continue their recovery. “We foresee increased oil demand in 2021,” Nasser added, indicating that global demand for crude would be back to pre-pandemic levels of about 100 million barrels per day next year.

 

 

“Looking ahead, our long-term strategy to optimize our oil and gas portfolio is on track and, as the macro environment improves, we are seeing a pick-up in demand in Asia and also positive signs elsewhere. We remain confident that we will emerge on the other side of this pandemic in a position of strength,” Nasser said.

But demand from Europe, which is facing a third wave of coronavirus infections and renewed lockdowns, is lagging behind demand recovery in Asia and the US.

Asked about the effect on Aramco’s business of the recent attacks on facilities in Saudi Arabia, Nasser said that safety is the company’s top priority, adding that the Saudi government had been very successful in stopping attacks before they reached the Kingdom. “The most important thing is the readiness of our people,” he said.

“We are capable under any scenario of putting the facility back on stream,” he added, in reference to an attack last week that hit a facility in Riyadh, causing a small fire that was quickly put out with no impact on supply.

“Aramco continued its strong track record of supply reliability, despite disruptions caused by COVID-19, by delivering crude oil and other products with 99.9 percent reliability in 2020,” Nasser said.

Aramco achieved two milestones in 2020: The biggest single day of production of 12.1 million barrels in April after the OPEC+ cuts were briefly abandoned, and a daily record for gas production of 10.7 billion cubic feet.

Aramco borrowed more money in 2020, partly to help finance the $70 billion acquisition of SABIC, “a significant step forward in Aramco’s ambition to further expand its downstream business.”

Khalid Al-Dabbagh, Aramco’s chief financial officer, said that fuller details of borrowing would be available on Monday when detailed financial figures are published, but that gearing — the ratio of borrowing to equity value — would be slightly higher than the 21.8 percent level declared at the end of the third quarter.

Cash flow from operating activities in 2020 amounted to $76 billion, while free cash flow reached $49 billion.

Aramco’s international bond issuance in the fourth quarter achieved record demand for a 50-year tranche and was 10 times oversubscribed compared to its initial offering size. This global investor interest demonstrated market confidence in Aramco’s long-term strategy and performance outlook, the company said.

“Through its flexible capital program and prudent financial management, the company was able to adjust spending and focus on high-return opportunities. Capital expenditure in 2020 was $27 billion due to the implementation of optimization and efficiency programs, representing a significant saving on capital expenditure of $33 billion in 2019,” it added.

Nasser said that Aramco’s long-term strategy to optimize its oil and gas portfolio is on track, and that a special corporate unit to examine the possibility of selling parts of the business or entering into joint venture arrangements with international partners was still under consideration.

Aramco highlighted its initiatives in the cleaner energy sector. “Technology and innovation are key to delivering more energy with fewer emissions. Aramco continued to make advances in cutting-edge technology and received a company record of 683 US patents in 2020 — among the highest in its industry,” the company said.

 

 

Aramco maintained one of the lowest upstream carbon footprints in the industry, achieving an estimated upstream carbon intensity of 10.5 kilograms of CO2 per barrel of oil equivalent in 2020. The company’s estimated upstream methane intensity was 0.06 percent.

“These accomplishments are the result of the company’s decades-long reservoir management and production approach, which includes leveraging advanced technologies and minimizing emissions and flaring,” it said.

The company is well positioned to capitalize on developments in hydrogen, given its scale, infrastructure, low costs and low upstream carbon intensity.

One promising area is the conversion of hydrocarbons to hydrogen and then to ammonia, while capturing the CO2 created during the process. In August, Aramco exported the world’s first shipment of high-grade blue ammonia to Japan for use in zero-carbon power generation, a significant step towards sustainable hydrogen usage, the company said.

Aramco’s shares, quoted on the Tadawul exchange in Riyadh and the best performing of listed oil company stocks during the pandemic, rose 0.57 percent to SR35.40 ($9.44) after the results were announced.

Nasser paid tribute to the Aramco workforce in a difficult year. “Our exceptional performance during such testing times owed much to the unwavering spirit and resilience of our employees, who set operational records and continued to meet the world’s energy needs both safely and reliably.”


Saudi public debt up 5.6% to $240.4bn in Q1 2021

Saudi public debt increased about 5.6 percent during the first quarter of this year nearly amounting to SR901.4 billion ($240.4 billion). (Shutterstock)
Saudi public debt increased about 5.6 percent during the first quarter of this year nearly amounting to SR901.4 billion ($240.4 billion). (Shutterstock)
Updated 06 May 2021

Saudi public debt up 5.6% to $240.4bn in Q1 2021

Saudi public debt increased about 5.6 percent during the first quarter of this year nearly amounting to SR901.4 billion ($240.4 billion). (Shutterstock)
  • he debt grew by 24.6 percent compared to the same period in 2020, which amounted to SR723.46 billion

RIYADH: Saudi public debt increased about 5.6 percent during the first quarter of this year nearly amounting to SR901.4 billion ($240.4 billion), compared to the end of the fourth quarter of last year.

This recorded the fastest growth rate since the second quarter of last year, which was caused by the pandemic repercussions, Al Eqtisadiah reported.

The debt grew by 24.6 percent compared to the same period in 2020, which amounted to SR723.46 billion.

About 57 percent of the debt comes from internal debt nearly amounting to SR513.74 billion, while the external debt amounted to about SR387.63 billion, Al Eqtisadiah reported citing data of the Ministry of Finance.

The volume of debt to GDP increased to 35.6 percent at the end of the first quarter of this year compared to the end of last year at 32.3 percent, based on the GDP at constant prices.  

The rise in the debt comes despite the budget recording its lowest deficit for the first quarter of this year since the third quarter of 2018 at SR7.44 billion, due to the 9 percent decline in oil revenues on an annual basis, despite the growth of non-oil revenues.

Saudi Arabia was able to raise funds to pay its deficit by about SR29.55 billion, which exceeds the actual deficit for the first quarter, as it intends to use the rest of the funding to pay the deficit for the remainder of the year. 

Saudi Arabia is trying to take advantage of the lower interest rates in the debt markets.

The Ministry of Finance previously estimated that this year's public debt reaches SR937 billion, as the Corona crisis increased the target level of public debt.


Occupancy rate of Makkah hotels sees over 30% rise in second half of Ramadan

Saudis and expatriates used to spend the last 10 days of the holy month in Makkah for worship, but many of them put the habit on hold since the pandemic started. (Shutterstock)
Saudis and expatriates used to spend the last 10 days of the holy month in Makkah for worship, but many of them put the habit on hold since the pandemic started. (Shutterstock)
Updated 06 May 2021

Occupancy rate of Makkah hotels sees over 30% rise in second half of Ramadan

Saudis and expatriates used to spend the last 10 days of the holy month in Makkah for worship, but many of them put the habit on hold since the pandemic started. (Shutterstock)
  • Makkah is the main artery of hotels in Saudi Arabia, alone accounting for more than 64 percent of the sector

JEDDAH/MAKKAH: The occupancy rate at the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan varied between 10 and 20 percent, while in the second half it rose to 30-38 percent, Rayan bin Osama Filali, chairman of the Hotel Committee, an affiliate of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry told Arab News.

Filali explained that for the first time, a relatively mild increase in the prices during the last days of Ramadan was witnessed — an unprecedented occurrence, as prices often increase by 300 percent during the last 10 days of Ramadan, compared with the rest days of the month.

“The size and impact of the pandemic caused the cancellation of offers promoted by hotels in the last 10 days of Ramadan,” Filali noted. The fact that only a small percentage of hotels was able to operate “showed the extent of the damage to the sector due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which disrupted the entire system, causing losses that are likely to cast a shadow for years to come.”

The chairman of the Hotel Committee said that the pandemic had directly disrupted much of the hotel sector’s dynamism, as it is one of the most productive, stimulating and job-creating market sectors.

He also said that only 26 hotels in Makkah’s central region are operating this Ramadan season with average prices dropping by 55 percent.

Makkah is the main artery of hotels in Saudi Arabia, alone accounting for more than 64 percent of the sector, which, according to Filali, needs at least four years to recover from the present crisis.

He also noted that the economic implications on the 1,200 hotels were extreme and that most hotels suspended their activities completely, closing their facilities and sending thousands of workers home.

“These workers are still waiting for hotels to open their doors after the end of the pandemic or the completion of the inoculation campaign of the entire community,” he added.

According to Filali, the hotel sector generates huge financial returns for all the countries of the world, and the holy capital depends mainly on the permanence of an industry that creates thousands of jobs annually.

Filali remarked that the sector was awaiting a major expansionary boom but that the virus threatened the industry despite the efforts of the Saudi leadership to maintain the salaries of its employees for several months with the unemployment insurance program “Saned.”

“The lack of demand on bookings and the high operating volume and cost of food have paralyzed the tourism sector, which has led many hotels to suspend their operations until the pandemic ends,” said Filali.

READ MORE

Hotels surrounding the courtyards of the Grand Mosque in Makkah were on Tuesday authorized to issue Umrah permits to guests during Ramadan as part of an initiative to help revive the holy city’s struggling hospitality sector. Click here for more.

Bassam Khanfar, general manager of the Shaza Makkah Hotel, told Arab News that over 17,000 rooms remained vacant due to the pandemic.

He said that a gradual resumption of operations and purchasing power must be taken into account so that the sector can recover with the least possible losses.

He noted out that the average price of a room in the first 20 days of Ramadan was SR 1,300, increasing to an average of SR 1,900 in the last 10 days of the holy month.

Khanfar’s hotel offered a discount of 50 percent to health practitioners in recognition of their great efforts in fighting the virus — efforts echoed in the performance of the Kingdom as a whole in addressing the pandemic.

Saudis and expatriates used to spend the last 10 days of the holy month in Makkah for worship, but many of them put the habit on hold since the pandemic started.

Ahmed Al-Ghamdi, a Jeddah cafe owner, told Arab News: “Before the pandemic, I was keen to perform Umrah in the last 10 days of every Ramadan, especially on the 27th night, which is when Laylat Al-Qadr (Night of Power) is believed to have occurred.”

He added that the Grand Mosque normally would see hundreds of thousands of worshippers during the last 10 days of Ramadan, in pre-COVID-19 times.

“Unluckily, I can’t perform Umrah this time because I have not yet received the first dose of the vaccine despite my attempts to get vaccinated. But it’s to be expected, as millions are trying to register for the vaccine,” he said.

Al-Ghamdi’s friend, retired army officer Salem bin Saleh, said he was lucky to get the first doses and is planning to perform Umrah in the few coming days.

“Performing Umrah in the last 10 days of Ramadan has been one of my habits for over 30 years,” Saleh told Arab News.

He said that performing Umrah in Ramadan is equal in reward to performing Hajj, as Prophet Muhammad said.

“The feeling you get during and after performing Umrah in Ramadan is indescribable,” Saleh added.


Saudi AC distributor sees 30.5% increase in Q1 revenue

According to a report by research company Euromonitor, the Saudi AC market is set to grow by 2 percent in the next two years. (Shutterstock)
According to a report by research company Euromonitor, the Saudi AC market is set to grow by 2 percent in the next two years. (Shutterstock)
Updated 06 May 2021

Saudi AC distributor sees 30.5% increase in Q1 revenue

According to a report by research company Euromonitor, the Saudi AC market is set to grow by 2 percent in the next two years. (Shutterstock)
  • The quarterly rebound is in contrast to a net loss of SR3.3 million in the same period last year

RIYADH: Al Hassan Ghazi Ibrahim Shaker Co. (Shaker), a Saudi importer, manufacturer and distributor of air conditioners (ACs) and home appliances, has reported that revenue in the first three months of 2021 grew 30.5 percent year-on-year to SR288.3 million ($76.88 million), resulting in a net profit of SR4.5 million for the quarter.

The quarterly rebound is in contrast to a net loss of SR3.3 million in the same period last year.

Mohammed Ibrahim Abunayyan, CEO of Shaker, said in a press statement: “During the first quarter our team continued to demonstrate flexibility to operate in a challenging environment and deliver strong sales and earnings. At the beginning of the year, we rolled out our 2021-2023 strategy and we are pleased to already see the results of our growth plan.

“We continue to expand our footprint in our core segments – ACs and home appliances – by growing our portfolio and seeking new opportunities in the market. In the first quarter we welcomed Panasonic, a brand with which we have now entered the TV category. Meanwhile, we have pursued opportunities emerging from the government’s commitment to megaprojects across the Kingdom, and this is an area we will continue to place significant emphasis on.”

The company has also embraced new manufacturing techniques, such as robotics and artificial intelligence, at its LG-Shaker manufacturing facility in Riyadh, which has helped to increase production speed and accuracy and reduce sots, he added.

According to a report by research company Euromonitor, the Saudi AC market is set to grow by 2 percent in the next two years, while the home appliances market is expected to grow by 3 percent over the next three years

Growth will also be supported by government energy-efficiency programs including the Saudi Energy Efficiency Center’s high-efficiency AC initiative, and Tarsheed, the government’s National Energy Services Company.

Shaker also sees potential growth due to the launch of megaprojects such as NEOM and the Red Sea Project.


Bahrain’s Investcorp targets larger North American deals

Bahrain’s Investcorp targets larger North American deals
Updated 06 May 2021

Bahrain’s Investcorp targets larger North American deals

Bahrain’s Investcorp targets larger North American deals
  • Investcorp is the region's largest private equity and alternative asset manager
  • Investcorp plan to increase assets under management to $50 billion

RIYADH: Investcorp Holdings BSC is targeting larger private equity deals in North America as it seeks to boost assets under management to $50 billion, Bloomberg reported.

The biggest private equity and alternative asset manager in the Middle East sees buyouts in that region representing one of its best avenues to growth, David Tayeh, head of North America private equity, said in an interview.

The firm is also looking at more co-investments as a way of participating in bigger deals, he said.

“We want to grow our capacity to invest and broaden the top of the funnel of investments that we can look at from a size perspective,” said Tayeh. “At the moment there are deals that we really like that we don’t pursue because they’re outside our size range.”

Investcorp, which counts Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Development Co. as a major investor, outlined a plan to double its assets under management from about $25 billion in 2018 within seven years. It is targeting a combination of acquisitions and boosting its existing private equity, real estate and alternative investments units.


Abu Dhabi National Hotels first quarter profit more than doubles

Abu Dhabi National Hotels first quarter profit more than doubles
Updated 06 May 2021

Abu Dhabi National Hotels first quarter profit more than doubles

Abu Dhabi National Hotels first quarter profit more than doubles

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi National Hotels Company reported a more than doubling of net profit year over year in the first quarter as its financing costs fell.
First-quarter net profit was 40.7 million dirhams ($11.1 million), up from 16 million dirhams in the year earlier period, ADNH said in a filing to the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange.
Revenue fell to 224.7 million dirhams from 344.3 million dirhams, while costs dropped to 201.8 million dirhams from 294.1 million dirhams.
While financing costs fell to 9.5 million dirhams from 19 million dirhams, the big difference from a year ago was the 41.9 million dirhams settlement of a legal claim in Q1 2020 that was not repeated in 2021.
The legal claim related to construction of one of its hotels. The total settlement amount was 200 million dirhams against available accrual of 158 million dirhams, resulting in a loss of 42 million dirhams, ADNH said.
Profit from joint ventures, including ADNH Compass Middle East, was 44.3 million dirhams, up from 39.6 million dirhams a year earlier.
The company, which owns 12 hotels in the UAE, including two Radissons, a Sheraton, a Park Hyatt and a Ritz Carlton, ended the quarter with 89.5 million dirhams less cash or equivalents at 264.9 million dirhams.