Saudi Aramco – the oil colossus

  • Dec 08, 2019
  • Investing

State-run oil giant Saudi Aramco has priced its initial public offering (IPO) at the top of its indicative range, making it the world’s biggest flotation by raising more than Alibaba’s $25 billion (£19.49 billion) listing in 2014.

Explorers from the Rockefeller family’s Standard Oil Company struck oil in Saudi Arabia in 1938. The venture became known as the Arabia American Oil Company and crude oil production hit500,000 barrels per day in 1949.

By 1980, the Saudi government had bought out all the original shareholders and owned 100% of the company. Eight years later, the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco) was officially established.

Aramco has fuelled decades of prosperity in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is the de facto leader of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, helping engineer price moves on world oil markets.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants to diversify the Saudi economy away from oil. Announcing plans for an Aramco IPOin 2016, he said the kingdom must end its “oil addiction” to ensure it was no longer at the mercy of commodity price volatility.

Aramco had 260.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent in 2017,larger than the combined reserves of Exxon Mobil Corp,Chevron Corp, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, BP Plc and Total. The reserves have an estimated life of 54 years.

The company produced 10.3 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude last year, touting the lowest production cost in the world, at $2.80 a barrel, according to company documents. Italy produced 1.1 million barrels of natural gas liquids and 8.9billion standard cubic feet per day of natural gas.

Almost three-quarters of Aramco’s crude exports, about 5.2million bpd, were delivered to customers in Asia last year, where it believes demand will grow faster than elsewhere in the world. Its Asian buyers include China, India, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Its crude deliveries to North America reached more than 1 million bpd last year; to Europe, 864,000 bpd.

To diversify its oil business, Aramco is expanding in refining and petrochemicals with the aim of almost tripling its chemicals production to 34 million tonnes per year by 2030 and raising its global refining capacity to 8-10 million bpd from more than 5 million bpd.

The company produces, refines and exports oil from Saudi Arabia, but also has refining operations across the globe. Aramco’s U.S. oil refining subsidiary Motiva Enterprises[MOTIV.UL] owns the 607,000 bpd Port Arthur refinery in Texas, the largest in the United States. In 2017 the company announced plans for $18 billion in investments in its operations in the Americas over five years.

Aramco is also expanding its oil refining and downstream capacity, particularly in rapidly growing countries such as China and India. Aramco had a net refining capacity of 3.1million barrels per day in 2018.

The state-owned firm is the world’s largest oil producer, pumping 10% of the world’s supply, and the most profitable company with its half-year net profit rising 12% to $46.9billion.

Last year, Aramco made an annual net profit of $111 billion, over a third bigger than the combined net income of the five “super majors” Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, Chevron and Total.

With 76,000 employees in 2018, Aramco has energy industry operations, research facilities and offices scattered across the globe, in Asia, Europe and the Americas. It has country offices in Beijing, New Delhi, Singapore, New York, London, Houston and elsewhere.

Source: Reuters (Reporting by Saeed Azhar; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)