DHAHRAN: File handout picture shows Saudi Arabia's state-owned oil and gas company's Dhahran oil plants, in eastern Saudi Arabia. Aramco said yesterday its second quarter profits for 2021 nearly quadrupled compared to the same period last year. - AFP

RIYADH: Energy giant Saudi Aramco's second quarter profits for 2021 have bounced back to pre-pandemic levels due to higher oil prices, nearly quadrupling compared to the same period last year. The company's success comes after its debts climbed last year, when Saudi Arabia was hammered by the double whammy of low prices and sharp cuts in production triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Aramco said on Sunday its net profit rose to $25.5 billion in the second quarter of the year, compared to $6.6 billion in the same quarter of 2020, owing to a stronger oil market and higher refining and chemicals margins, and with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions. In the second quarter of 2019, before global economies were hit hard by Covid-19 restrictions, the company posted a net profit of $24.7 billion.

"Our second quarter results (for 2021) reflect a strong rebound in worldwide energy demand, and we are heading into the second half of 2021 more resilient and more flexible, as the global recovery gains momentum," Aramco chief executive Amin Nasser said in a statement. Aramco-like other global oil giants, including ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell and TotalEnergies-has reported stronger profits this year, riding a wave of higher prices amid recovering demand.

It reported "a 288 percent increase in net income from the same quarter of last year to $25.5 billion and declaring a dividend of $18.8 billion", according to the statement. Sunday's announcement comes approximately two months after the company said it raised $6 billion from its first dollar-denominated Islamic bond sale, posting earlier this year a 30 percent jump in first quarter profits.

Aramco-the kingdom's cash cow-said in May that its net profit rose to $21.7 billion in the first three months of the year. The energy giant posted a 44.4 percent slump in 2020 net profit, piling pressure on government finances as Riyadh pursues its multi-billion dollar projects to diversify the economy.

The world's leading oil producers agreed last month to continue to modestly boost output from August reaching a compromise after the United Arab Emirates blocked a deal. An OPEC+ meeting decided to raise output by 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) each month from August to help fuel a global economic recovery as the pandemic eases. The results come a day ahead of a UN report on climate change, which will give the international community its clearest ever warning about the dangers of accelerating global warming, according to Britain's COP26 President Alok Sharma.

Aramco opens up

Long seen as the kingdom's economic "crown jewel", Aramco and its assets were once tightly government-controlled and considered off-limits to outside investment. But with the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, who is accelerating efforts to implement his "Vision 2030" reform programme, the kingdom has shown readiness to cede some control.

Aramco previously sold a sliver of its shares on the Saudi bourse in December 2019, generating $29.4 billion for 1.7 percent of its shares. In April, the company said it had struck a $12.4-billion deal to sell a minority stake in a newly formed oil pipeline business, to a consortium led by US-based EIG Global Energy Partners. And in June, Aramco "successfully raised $6 billion, following the sale of US dollar-denominated sharia-compliant securities to leading institutional investors", the company said.

Earlier this year, Prince Mohammed said the kingdom would sell more Aramco shares. Some analysts have raised concerns at past drone and missile attacks on Aramco's facilities in the kingdom-claimed by Yemen's Huthi rebels. Aramco reassured on Sunday that it achieved "100 percent reliability in the delivery of crude oil and other products in the second quarter of 2021".

There are also increased fears over cyber attacks, with Saudi Aramco confirming last month that company data had been leaked from one of it contractors. However, the company said it had "no impact" on operations. When the coronavirus pandemic took hold early last year, oil prices plunged as demand for crude crashed. They have since recovered, currently trading above $70 per barrel. - AFP