Saudi state oil giant Aramco reported a stunning 288% increase in net income to $25.5 billion for the second quarter, while maintaining its dividend of $18.8 billion, as big oil benefits from higher prices and a recovery in worldwide demand.
Aramco’s net income of $25.5 billion for the quarter compares to $6.6 billion in the same quarter of 2020. The result beat expectations, with analysts expecting a median net income of $24.7 billion for the quarter.
“Our second quarter results 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 president and CEO Amin Nasser said in a company statement published Sunday.
Aramco said net income for the first half of the year was $47.2 billion, compared to $23.2 billion in the first half of 2020, representing a 103% increase. The company said the results were supported by the global easing of Covid-19 restrictions, vaccination campaigns, stimulus measures and accelerating activity in key markets.
“While there is still some uncertainty around the challenges posed by Covid-19 variants, we have shown that we can adapt swiftly and effectively to changing market conditions,” Nasser said.
Aramco said free cash flow was $22.6 billion in the second quarter and $40.9 billion for the first half of 2021, compared to $6.1 billion and $21.1 billion, respectively, for the same periods in 2020.
This is significant, because free cash flow has now risen above the quarterly dividend of $18.75 billion for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The improving outlook has prompted some analysts to call for the dividend to increase.
“A dividend increase is needed to stay competitive,” BofA analysts said in a research note ahead of the earnings release. “Higher oil prices and OPEC+ driven production increases should support a significant free cash flow increase over the next couple of years,” it added.