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Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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Saudi Aramco Sticks With Big Dividend Despite Oil Crash

Saudi Arabia’s oil giant Aramco said it will distribute dividends of $18.75 billion for the second quarter despite taking a severe hit to its earnings from the oil price crash and the coronavirus pandemic that savaged demand for oil products.

The company said it had earned a net $6.6 billion during the second quarter, down from $24.7 billion a year earlier. Free cash flow stood at $6.1 billion at the end of June this year, versus $20.6 billion a year earlier. Given this discrepancy between available cash and the size of the dividend, Aramco may have to look for money elsewhere to cover its dividend commitment.

“We will continue to pursue our long-term growth and diversification strategy to capture unrealized and additional value from every hydrocarbon molecule we produce – driving global commerce and enhancing people’s lives,” Aramco’s chief executive Amin Nasser said in comments on the second-quarter report.

Saudi Arabia shouldered the biggest portion of the OPEC+ production cuts aimed at propping up oil prices after the Kingdom decided in March to teach Russia a lesson by turning up the taps with notoriously bad timing as it turned out. The cuts worked to an extent, and Aramco could afford to raise its official selling prices for oil after China began to emerge from its lockdown and demand for oil picked up.

Yet the OPEC+ cuts did nowhere near enough to boost prices to their pre-crisis levels, which, to be fair, were already lower than peaks reached last year. The company’s second-quarter results reflected this failure of the producer cartel. Now, Aramco may need to cut the price of its oil once again. The recovery of demand that oil producers praised earlier this year has proved to be more uneven than they might have liked, and refining margins are still tight, so Aramco would need to sell oil more cheaply to keep its market share in the key Asian markets.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on August 10 2020 said:
    While Saudi Aramco is the most profitable oil supermajor in the world, it should still take a leaf out of other supermajors’ experience vis-à-vis dividends.

    Supermajors like Shell, BP and Equinor were recently forced to cut dividends drastically because the alternative would have been to sink deeper under the weight of their outstanding debts.

    Even a giant like Saudi Aramco has had to borrow substantially in order to finance its purchase of a majority share in Saudi Petrochemical SABIC. Therefore, instead of paying dividends of $18.75 bn for the second quarter despite earning only $6.6 bn, Saudi Aramco should have cut its dividends to only $3.3 bn, half of its earnings and used the balance to pay off part of its outstanding debts.

    This, in my opinion, is a far better business management than borrowing to pay dividends.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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