DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Oil giant Saudi Aramco said Sunday it earned a $161 billion profit last year, attributing its earnings to higher crude oil prices.
The firm, known formally as the Saudi Arabian Oil Co., said in its annual report that the profit represented “its highest annual profits as a listed company.”
“Given that we anticipate oil and gas will remain essential for the foreseeable future, the risks of underinvestment in our industry are real — including contributing to higher energy prices,” Saudi Aramco CEO and President Amin H. Nasser said in a statement.
Nasser said Aramco would spend $37.6 billion to expand its production capacity.
Aramco also declared a dividend of $19.5 billion for the fourth quarter of 2022, to be paid in the first quarter of this year.
In 2021, Aramco declared profits of $110 billion, as compared to $49 billion in 2020 when the world faced the worst of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, travel disruptions and oil prices briefly going negative.
Benchmark Brent crude oil now trades around $82 a barrel, though prices had reached over $120 a barrel back in June. Aramco, whose fortunes hinge on global energy prices, announced a record $42.4 billion profit in the third quarter of 2022 off the back of that price spike.
Those high prices have further strained ties between the kingdom and the United States, traditionally a security guarantor among the Gulf Arab states amid tensions with Iran. Before the midterm elections in November, the kingdom said the Biden administration sought to delay a decision by OPEC and allies including Russia to cut production that could have kept gasoline prices lower for voters — making public the typically behind-the-scenes negotiations common in the region.
President Joe Biden had warned the kingdom that “there’s going to be some consequences for what they’ve done” in terms of oil prices. However, those consequences have yet to be seen as Saudi Arabia and Iran went to China to strike a diplomatic deal Friday. U.S. gasoline prices now stand on average at $3.47 a gallon, down just about a dollar from last year.
Saudi Arabia’s vast oil resources, located close to the surface of its desert expanse, make it one of the world’s least expensive places to produce crude. For every $10 rise in the price of a barrel of oil, Saudi Arabia stands to make an additional $40 billion a year, according to the Institute of International Finance.
Shares in Aramco stood at $8.74 on Riyadh’s Tadawul stock exchange before it opened Sunday. That’s down from a high of $11.55 a share in the last year. However, that current price still gives Aramco a valuation of $1.9 trillion — making it the world’s second-most valuable company behind only Apple. The Saudi government still owns the vast majority of the firm’s shares.
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