An international independent audit of the oil reserves of Saudi Aramco has more than confirmed the official figures released by Riyadh for three decades, putting the number at 270 billion barrels, two unnamed sources close to the company told Reuters.
The audit was conducted by companies including DeGolyer and MacNaughton, and Baker Hughes’ Gaffney, Cline, and Associates. It is being watched closely because the reserve base of the company will have a direct bearing on its valuation ahead of the much-hyped initial public offering.
The figure may come as something of a surprise because for thirty years, Aramco has been reporting unchanged reserves of about 261 billion barrels despite active production. Yet barrels are not the only factor considered in an oil company’s valuation as Bloomberg Gadfly’s Liam Denning noted in an analysis earlier this year, even though they are an important indicator of the company’s long-term viability and profitability.
Also Bloomberg this month took a look at Aramco’s accounts, reporting that the company booked a net profit of US$34 billion for the first half of 2017. The significance of the figures was naturally questioned by skeptic analysts aware that balance sheets can be adjusted to present the information about a company’s performance in the most favorable way. Related: Can India Break Its Oil Addiction?
Bloomberg itself made a note of pointing out that despite Aramco’s negligible debt levels and super-low production costs, the company is Saudi Arabia’s cash cow: cash flow is not great because such a large part of the Saudi economy and society literally depend on Aramco. Interestingly enough, Aramco said the numbers were inaccurate, adding that they were mere speculation.
The company is also understandably sensitive to oil prices, which is why Saudi officials have been pushing so vehemently for higher oil prices ahead of the IPO. Now they seem to be aiming for US$100 a barrel as the IPO, according to Crown Prince Mohammed, should take place in late 2018 or 2019.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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