Saudi Aramco’s first-half profit fell to a mere $47 billion

Drilled-down results.
Drilled-down results.
Image: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
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Saudi Aramco provided a rare peek at its financial situation today, reporting half-year earnings (pdf) down 12% from a year earlier. Lower oil prices, along with pared back production, has weighed down the world’s largest oil and gas company.

But even so, Aramco’s net profit came in at a staggering $46.9 billion for the first six months of the year, confirming its position as the world’s most profitable company (in terms of absolute earnings). The company reported full-year financial results publicly for the first time in April, in conjunction with a bond sale.

For comparison, Berkshire Hathaway’s profit in the same period—flattered by movements in its equity holdings—was $35.7 billion. Tech giants Microsoft, Apple, and Alphabet, which are no slouches when it comes to generating profits, are even further behind. Moreover, the oil “supermajors” like Exxon and Shell don’t look so super or major in relation to Aramco. (China’s largest banks have yet to report half-year results, and while they would rank near the top of the list, they’d still likely trail Aramco’s results.)

India’s Reliance Industries announced today that Aramco is buying a 20% stake in the company, for about $15 billion. The purchase is one of the Saudi oil giant’s most sizable acquisitions to date, and could help it ramp up its refining capacity.

The purchase, along with greater transparency about its financial shape, is a sign the Saudi state-owned company is once again eyeing an IPO (paywall). Aramco had plans to go public in 2018—with New York, London, and Hong Kong’s stock exchanges as possible sites—potentially raising up to $100 billion. The decision was shelved last year, in part amid fears it couldn’t raise as much as it wanted at a sufficiently high valuation (it was aiming for $2 trillion).

Saudi Arabia is looking to diversify its economy away from oil, which currently accounts for roughly 50% of its GDP and 70% of exports. Funds from the listing are a core plank of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “Vision 2030” plan that features major investments in education, health, and infrastructure.