Saudi Arabia’s state-controlled oil giant Aramco on Sunday reported a record net income of $161.1 billion for 2022 — the largest annual profit ever achieved by an oil and gas company.
Aramco said net income increased 46.5 percent over the year, from $110 billion in 2021. Free cash flow also reached a record $148.5 billion in 2022, compared with $107.5 billion in 2021.
“This is probably the highest net income ever recorded in the corporate world,” Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said on a Sunday earnings call.
The results are nearly triple the profit that oil major ExxonMobil posted for 2022, bolstered by soaring oil and gas prices through last year, along with higher sale volumes and improved margins for refined products.
Oil and gas prices surged at the start of 2022, with western sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine steadily tightening access to Moscow’s supplies, particularly seaborne crude and oil products.
Oil prices have since pulled back more than 25% year-on-year, with hot inflation and rising interest rates overshadowing a more bullish demand outlook from China. Brent and WTI prices fell 6% last week alone. Brent last traded at around $80 dollars per barrel.
“We are cautiously optimistic,” Nasser said. “If you consider China opening up, the pickup in jet fuels and the very limited spare capacity, we are cautiously optimistic in the short to mid-term [that] markets will remain tightly balanced.”
Aramco raised its fourth-quarter dividend by 4% to $19.5 billion, to be paid in the first quarter of 2023. Aramco also said it would issue bonus shares to eligible shareholders as a result.
“We’re aiming to sustain [the dividend] at this level,” Aramco Chief Financial Officer Ziad Al-Murshed told the earnings call. “We have the financial strength to go through the ups and downs of the cycle.”
Nasser also used the results release to repeat his warning about “persistent underinvestment” in the hydrocarbons sector.
“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,” Nasser said on Sunday, echoing comments made during a recent interview with CNBC.
At both a ministerial and Aramco level, Saudi Arabia has been a proponent of avoiding short-term fuel shortages through the dual funding of fossil fuel supplies and the green transition.
“We don’t see enough investment getting into the markets right now,” he reiterated on the Sunday call. “We encourage the industry, policymakers, investors… to avail additional investment to really increase the amount in the sector, so that we can meet future demand.”
Aramco said average hydrocarbon production last year was 13.6 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, including 11.5 million barrels per day of total liquids. Saudi Arabia most recently produced 10.39 million barrels per day of crude oil in January, the International Energy Agency found in the February issue of its Oil Market Report.
As chair of the influential OPEC+ producers’ alliance, Saudi Arabia has been leading by example the group’s efforts to collectively reduce their output targets by 2 million barrels per day, agreed in October and reaffirmed at technical and ministerial meetings since. The group’s move towards limiting supply availabilities has put OPEC+ at odds with some international consumers, sparking a war of words with Washington towards the end of the last year, as U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration stressed the need to easing the burden on households.
Long-time rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran on Friday struck a China-brokered deal to resume diplomatic relations. Iran has previously been blamed for a major attack on Aramco’s facilities in 2019 that caused a dramatic spike in prices and undermined the stability of global supplies. Tehran has denied involvement.
“The deal will hopefully result in less geopolitical tension and enhance regional stability, which will definitely have a positive impact on the global market,” Nasser said in response to a question about the Saudi-Iran development.
The company reaffirmed it would continue to invest to increase its maximum production capacity to 13 million barrels a day by 2027.
Capital expenditure rose by 18% to $37.6 billion last year, and is expected to increase to $45 billion to $55 billion in the coming years, anticipating increases “until around the middle of the decade.”
“Our focus is not only on expanding oil, gas and chemicals production, but also investing in new lower-carbon technologies with potential to achieve additional emission reductions in our own operations and for end users of our products,” Nasser said.