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Saudi Aramco to unveil first annual results since IPO

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Riyadh (AFP)

Saudi Aramco is expected to announce a drop in profits as it unveils Monday its first annual results since its listing, as the energy giant grapples with sinking oil prices.

The 2019 financial results follow an initial public offering on the domestic stock exchange in December, which raised a record $29.4 billion from a sale of 1.75 percent of the company.

The results will not reveal the impact of the new coronavirus or the Saudi decision to slash crude prices after OPEC and its allies failed to reach a deal on production cuts, sending global markets into a tailspin this week.

In April 2019, the secretive company opened up its accounts to ratings agencies for the first time, revealing a net profit of $111.1 billion for the previous year.

The announcement confirmed its status as the world's most profitable company.

On Monday, Aramco will reveal its full-year results directly to investors and the public for the first time -- and it is expected to announce a drop in profits owing to lower crude prices.

The company's net profit for the first nine months of last year dived 18 percent to $68.2 billion, as its revenue fell due to lower prices.

The energy giant remains vulnerable to oil price fluctuations.

"This is Aramco's first set of earnings as a public company," Ellen Wald, author of the book "Saudi Inc.", told AFP.

"The real questions and insight won't arrive until the next earnings call when we learn how Aramco dealt with the current oil market drama and Saudi politics."

- Market turmoil -

As the coronavirus wreaks havoc in the global economy and oil prices, Aramco prepares to lift its crude supplies by 25 percent to 12.3 million barrels per day from April as part of an intense price war against Russia.

It also announced plans to raise output capacity by one million bpd to 13 million bpd, a significant move that would require investments worth billions of dollars.

The developments have sent oil prices sliding to $34 a barrel from around $65 at the time of IPO.

Forecasts for future crude prices and demand are also bleak.

In its latest monthly report, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries lowered its forecast for global average daily demand by 0.92 million barrels to 99.73 million barrels.

Saudi Arabia is also in the midst of a royal purge that saw King Salman's brother and nephew detained after sources said they were accused of plotting a palace coup to unseat the crown prince, heir to the Saudi throne.

"Energy analysts will be watching for Aramco's 2019 fourth quarter earnings but their minds will be on the first quarter of this year," Wald said.

Aramco shares rallied immediately after the listing on December 11, rising by 19 percent to 38 riyals ($10.1) and temporarily lifting the company's valuation above the $2 trillion mark, which was sought by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler.

But as oil prices tumble, Aramco shares have lost 29 percent from its highest point, slipping below the listing price.

On Thursday, Aramco's market value dropped to around $1.55 trillion, but it still remains the world's largest publicly listed company.

Ahead of last year's IPO, Aramco pledged to distribute dividends of at least $75 billion every year until 2024 in a bid to lure investors.

But shareholders, many of whom tapped lenders and sold personal assets to raise cash to invest in Aramco stocks, lamented the recent share drop.

One Twitter user posted a photo of a stunned man sitting atop an empty safe deposit box.

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