Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, said on Sunday that its quarterly earnings plunged more than 73 percent compared to a year ago, as lockdowns imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic drastically cut the demand for oil and slammed prices.
Despite the steep fall in earnings, to $6.6 billion from $24.7 billion, the company said it would continue paying a quarterly dividend of $18.75 billion, almost three times its cash flow. Aramco is locked into paying such a large amount — $75 billion a year — because of commitments made in the run-up to its initial public offering last year.
Nearly all of the dividend money will go to the Saudi government, which owns more than 98 percent of the company.
“While other oil companies are taking the opportunity to reset the dividend, Aramco are somewhat locked into the IPO commitments,” said Neil Beveridge, an analyst at Bernstein, a market research firm. Mr. Beveridge estimated that Aramco is likely borrowing around $12 billion to pay the dividend.
Recently, a surging Apple dethroned Saudi Aramco as the world’s most valuable company. Apple now has a market capitalization of about $1.9 trillion compared to about $1.76 trillion for the Saudi company.