Saudi oil giant Aramco posts 25% fall in full-year profit

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Logo of Aramco, officially the Saudi Arabian Oil Group, Saudi petroleum and natural gas company, seen on the second day of the 24th World Petroleum Congress at the Big 4 Building at Stampede Park, on September 18, 2023, in Calgary, Canada. 

Artur Widak | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Saudi Arabia’s state oil giant Aramco reported a 25% decline in profit to $121.3 billion in 2023, down from $161.1 billion in 2022.

“The year-on-year decrease can be attributed to lower crude oil prices and volumes sold, as well as reduced refining and chemicals margins, partially offset by a decrease in production royalties during the year and lower income taxes and zakat,” Aramco said in a statement. 

Aramco said total revenue also fell 17% to $440.88 billion, down from $535.19 billion last year.

The result still represents Aramco’s second-highest ever net income. Free cash flow also fell to $101.2 billion in 2023, compared to $148.5 billion in 2022. 

“Our resilience and agility contributed to healthy cash flows and high levels of profitability, despite a backdrop of economic headwinds,” Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said. 

Changing Hands

The earnings come after the Saudi government transferred an additional 8% of Aramco shares, worth $164 billion, to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). Yasir Al-Rumayyan is both the Chairman of Aramco’s Board of Directors and the Governor of the PIF. 

The share transfer to PIF is one of the largest transactions Aramco has undertaken since listing, and will allow the PIF to benefit from Aramco’s mega dividend payout policy. PIF already owned 4% of Aramco, and controls Sanabil, a financial investment firm, which owns 4% of Aramco as well. 

Aramco said total dividends of $97.8 billion were paid in 2023, up 30% from 2022. It declared a base dividend of $20.3 billion for the fourth quarter, to be paid in the first quarter of 2024. Aramco also pays performance-linked dividends, worth $10.8 billion this year.  The full year performance-linked dividend to be paid in 2024 is expected to be $43.1 billion.

The PIF’s 16% state in Aramco, worth an estimated $328 billion, is set to strengthen its financial position and boost its ability to deploy capital to invest on behalf of the Saudi state. The new stake also pushes PIF closer to achieving its end-2025 target of $1 trillion in assets under management. 

More Investment

Aramco confirmed it would halt plans to raise its oil production capacity from 12 million barrels per day to 13 million barrels per day — a move expected to reduce capital investment by approximately $40 billion between 2024 and 2028.

“The recent directive from the government to maintain our Maximum Sustainable Capacity at 12 million barrels per day provides increased flexibility, as well as an opportunity to focus on increasing gas production and growing our liquids-to-chemicals business,” Nasser said. 

Aramco’s average hydrocarbon production was 12.8 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2023, including 10.7 million barrels per day of total liquids.

Aramco aims to ramp up its investments in gas, and has a target to increase gas production by more than 60% by 2030, compared to 2021 levels. Its flagship investment is the Jaffoura project — the largest gas play in the Middle East — with an estimated 200 trillion standard cubic feet of natural gas.