The world’s third-biggest company just saw its profits plummet 38%—but it still paid shareholders $19.5 billion in dividends

Saudi Aramco, the third most valuable company in the world, saw its profits plummet 38% in the second quarter of the year as energy prices cooled.

Spiraling energy costs have squeezed household budgets over the past year while huge windfalls were recorded by oil and gas producers—including Aramco, which raked in a $161 billion profit in 2022, the highest ever recorded by an energy firm.

However on Monday the company—which is valued at more than $2.1 trillion, making Apple and Microsoft the only public companies in the world with higher valuations—reported that its net profit had fallen to 113 billion riyals ($30 billion) for the three months to June, a drop of almost 40% from a year earlier.

Aramco, which was recently ranked in second place on Fortune’s Global 500 list, cited lower crude oil prices and weaker margins in refining and chemicals as the drivers behind the decline.

Despite shrinking profits, Aramco said it would be paying a $19.5 billion dividend to shareholders for the second quarter—with the payout set to be delivered in the third quarter of the year. That was up from its $18.8 billion dividend payout for the second quarter of 2022.

Shareholders will also be receiving $19.5 billion in dividends for the first quarter of the year, the company added—meaning investors in the company would get a $39 billion payout for the first half of 2023, up from $37.5 billion a year earlier.

From the third quarter onward, Aramco said it would begin paying performance-based dividends, a move that will continue for six consecutive quarters and begin with a $9.87 billion payout.

The company labeled its dividend payouts “sustainable and progressive.”

“Our strong results reflect our resilience and ability to adapt through market cycles,” Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said on Monday. “We continue to demonstrate our long-standing ability to meet the needs of customers around the world with high levels of reliability. For our shareholders, we intend to start distributing our first performance-linked dividend in the third quarter.”

The Saudi state is Aramco’s biggest shareholder. The government directly owns more than 90% of the company, while the sovereign Public Investment Fund and its subsidiary Sanabil hold a further 8% of the firm’s shares, according to news agency Reuters.

Turbulent times

Aramco isn’t the only energy giant to have boosted dividends amid falling profits, with the Saudi powerhouse—the largest exporter of oil in the world—following in the footsteps of Shell and BP.

Much of the world, particularly Europe, was plunged into an energy crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Feb. 2022. The ostracizing of Moscow, given its position as a major energy producer, shook already undersupplied energy markets thanks to economic sanctions that included a ban on imports of Russian oil.

Oil giants scored record profits last year in the wake of the energy crisis, but more recently have seen their revenues dented by cooling energy costs.

Brent crude oil prices edged slightly lower on Monday, trading at just below $85 a barrel by 9:30 a.m. EST.

Used as a benchmark for much of the oil traded around the globe, Brent has been staging a recovery in recent weeks after dipping below $72 a barrel—a far cry from mid-2022, when the price surpassed $100.

Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist for LPL Financial, told Fortune on Monday that Aramco wasn’t wrong to project a resilient market for oil going forward.

“The global economic backdrop, as central banks complete their respective rate hike campaigns, coupled with a softer dollar, is expected to provide a markedly more resilient underpinning for oil prices,” he said.

He added: “With tighter supplies, oil prices have begun a steady ascent with expectations that prices will end the year higher as momentum—and the global economy—continue to recover. Saudi Arabia, the de facto head of OPEC+, has signaled it will continue to adjust production in order to ‘stabilize’ prices, but it’s clear they want to propel prices toward $90 a barrel.”

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