Saudi oil giant Aramco’s first quarter net profit dropped 19% from a year earlier to 119.54 billion riyals ($31.88 billion), it said on Tuesday, due to lower crude prices.
Profit still beat analysts’ median forecast of $30.8 billion, according to Refinitiv data, and Aramco said the decline was partially offset by lower taxes including in the zakat Islamic tax and a rise in finance and other income.
Net profit was 3.75% higher than in the fourth quarter.
The world’s top oil exporter made a record profit of over $161 billion for 2022 on higher energy prices and production.
Crude petroleum and natural gas contributed 32.7% of Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product last year, with petroleum refining making up another 6%.
The production cuts and lower oil prices are expected to weigh on Saudi growth, with the IMF projecting GDP growth to more than halve this year to 3.1% from 8.7% in 2022, among the highest in the G20.
Aramco will pay $19.5 billion in dividends for the first quarter, in line with the previous quarter.
CEO Amin Nasser in a statement said Aramco was looking at introducing performance-linked dividends, in addition to its base distribution.
The additional payouts would target 50%-70% of annual free cash flow, net of the base dividend and other amounts including external investments, the company said.
Aramco reached deals to expand its downstream business abroad in the first quarter, including investments in China and completing a $2.76 billion acquisition of Valvoline Inc’s products business.
“We are also moving forward with our capacity expansion, and our long-term outlook remains unchanged as we believe oil and gas will remain critical components of the global energy mix for the foreseeable future,” Nasser said.
The company’s compression projects at the Haradh and Hawiyah fields are expected to begin initial production and achieve full capacity during 2023, it said.