Saudi Arabia hikes oil investments as it profits from price surge
Saudi Arabia's state oil company Aramco, under pressure from the West to boost output amid soaring prices, pledged on Sunday to hike investments by around 50% this year as it reported a doubling in 2021 profits.
Saudi Aramco benefited from a more than 50% surge in oil prices last year, as increased Covid-19 vaccination rates and loosening restrictions resulted in demand outpacing supply.
Prices then leapt above $100 a barrel last month to hit 14 year highs after Russia invaded Ukraine, leading Western nations to urge Saudi Arabia and other producers to raise output.
Aramco said it aimed to boost its capital expenditure (capex) to $40-50 billion this year, with further growth expected until around the middle of the decade. Capex was $31.9 billion last year, up 18% from 2020 — indicating an increase of about 50% for this year at the middle of the guidance range.
The company made $110 billion in net profit last year, up from $49 billion a year earlier. Analysts had expected a net profit of $106 billion, according to the mean estimate of analysts on Refinitiv's Eikon.
Aramco shares surged over 4% in early trade to a high of 43.85 riyals, valuing the company at 8.76 trillion riyals ($2.34 trillion).
A $2 trillion valuation was a goal sought by de facto Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman before the company's record $29.4 initial public offering in 2019.
He has announced plans to sell more Aramco shares.
The surge in Aramco's valuation on Sunday moved it above that of Microsoft, though it remains behind Apple's $2.68 trillion.
The Saudi government said last month that Crown Prince Mohammed, who is leading a huge investment drive to diversify the kingdom's economy, had transferred 4% of Aramco shares to the country's sovereign wealth fund.
Aramco has said it plans to raise its crude oil “maximum sustainable capacity” to 13 million barrels a day by 2027, and wants to boost gas production by more than 50% by 2030.
The company's average hydrocarbon production was 12.3 million barrels of oil equivalent per day last year.
Aramco also plans to develop a significant hydrogen export capability and become a global leader in carbon capture and storage technology, it said.
“Although economic conditions have improved considerably, the outlook remains uncertain due to various macroeconomic and geopolitical factors,” CEO Amin Nasser said in a statement.
“But our investment plan aims to tap into rising long-term demand for reliable, affordable and ever more secure and sustainable energy.”
Aramco said its free cash flow was $107.5 billion last year, compared with $49.1 billion in 2020. It declared a dividend of $75 billion for 2021, in line with its earlier pledge.