Dubai — Saudi Aramco's crude production averaged 8.6 million b/d in the first quarter, down 12.2% from 9.8 million b/d in Q1 2020 due to OPEC+ production cuts and dwindling demand due to the pandemic, the company said in its quarterly financial results May 4.
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Aramco's total hydrocarbon production averaged at 11.5 million boe/d in Q1. The company's downstream business consumed 43.8% of Aramco's crude oil production in Q1, up from 35.5% in the same period a year earlier.
Net profit rose 30.3% year on year to SAR 81.44 billion ($21.72 billion) in Q1, driven by higher crude oil prices, improved downstream margins and the consolidation of SABIC's results, partly offset by the lower crude oil volume sold, the company said.
Cash flow from operating activities and free cash flow was $26.5 billion and $18.3 billion, respectively, while Q1 capital expenditure stood at $8.2 billion, the company said.
Aramco said it expects capex for the year to be about $35 billion, down from original guidance of $40 billion–$45 billion.
"Aramco's results of operations and cash flows are primarily driven by market prices and the volumes sold of hydrocarbons, and refined and chemicals products," the company said in the results statement. "Global demand for petroleum products continued to recover from the lows of 2020, though still remains below pre-pandemic levels. The prices for hydrocarbons, and refined and chemicals products, improved in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020."
Upstream, Aramco's capex for Q1 rose 18.6% year on year to $6.50 billion. This increase was due mainly to the commencement of the initial phases of construction and procurement activities relating to ongoing increment projects, the company said.
The company's capex for its downstream activities in Q1 fell 15% year on year to $1.56 billion, with Aramco attributing the decline mainly to projects nearing completion and portfolio-wide optimization efforts, partly offset by the consolidation of SABIC's capital expenditures.
Aramco fulfilled its dividend commitment to shareholders, paying out $18.76 billion in Q1. As part of its pitch to investors during the 2019 IPO, Aramco pledged to issue a $75 billion dividend annually for five years. The Saudi government, which owns 98.5% of the company, is the primary benefactor of this payment. Therefore, the new scheme will see Aramco funds diverted away from the government's budget.
The burden of the $75 billion dividend plus the weak oil price environment due to the pandemic weighs heavy on the company's operations. This has meant it has had to delay payments to its contractors by several months, S&P Global Platts reported in January.
The company may be reducing this dividend commitment early, following an April announcement by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that companies must reduce shareholder payments and funnel money into the local economy instead.