The state-owned oil giant officially disclosed its financials for the first time on April 1, revealing that it is the world’s most profitable company.
The disclosure comes in advance of Saudi Aramco’s debut on the international bond market. The company generated more than $111 billion in net income last year, far surpassing Apple, which generated $59.5 billion in net income in 2018. In the context of the oil sector, Saudi Aramco easily bested Royal Dutch Shell, with $23.9 billion, and Exxon Mobil, which earned $20.8 billion.
While Saudi Aramco is incredibly profitable, it also carries the risks of being tightly bound to one country and to the price of oil. In 2017, the oil sector accounted for over 60% of Saudi government revenue. Saudi Arabia is seeking to lessen its dependence on oil and gas revenue, and in an effort to diversify the country’s economy, the sovereign wealth fund has been investing in technology firms like Uber and Tesla.
Diversification is a primary reason for Aramco’s bond sale, from which the company looks to raise as much as $15 billion. Aramco plans to use this capital to purchase a $69 billion majority stake in state-owned petrochemical company Saudi Basic Industries, the country’s largest listed company, from the sovereign wealth fund. Doing so would effectively shuffle state assets.
It is also likely that Aramco wants to restructure itself into a broader energy producer, according to the New York Times. This would make it more attractive, should the government decide to sell part of the company. (A stock sale by Aramco was expected last year, but postponed.) Chief Executive Amin Nasser has said that Aramco is looking into acquisitions in areas such as liquefied natural gas.
Notably, Aramco has achieved its enormous size and profitability without borrowing or selling stock to investors, at least so far. Moody’s Investors Service, which recently issued a credit rating for Aramco, attributes the company’s profitability in part to economies of scale from the massive production volumes it extracts from oil and gas assets that are unmatched in size. Aramco produced an average of 13.6 million barrels per day in 2018.
Moody’s rated the company A1, which is strong but below that of large Western oil companies including Exxon Mobil and Shell. David G. Staples, a managing director at Moody’s, said the lower rating reflects the concentration of Aramco’s operations in Saudi Arabia, as well as the government’s dependence on oil and gas revenue.