Saudi Aramco profit dwarfed the biggest global companies in 2018

Chief Executive Officer of Saudi Aramco, Amin al-Nasser. (AFP pic)

LONDON: Saudi Aramco was the world’s most profitable company in 2018, easily surpassing American behemoths including Apple and Exxon Mobil, according to an extract of the firm’s accounts published by Fitch Ratings.

The Saudi state oil producer generated earnings before interest, tax and depreciation of US$224 billion last year, Fitch said Monday, rating Aramco as A+ ahead of its debut in the international bond market. That’s significantly above the US$82 billion of Apple or the US$40 billion of Exxon Mobil.

The credit rating, a first for Aramco, offers the first glimpse into the accounts of the company, which have remained secret since its nationalisation in the late 1970s.

They provide investors with the first publicly available set of data to assess the possible value of a once-in-a-generation deal for financial markets: Aramco’s proposed initial public offering, originally targeted for 2018 but last year delayed until 2021.

The oil giant has mandated banks to hold a roadshow for dollar-denominated notes from April 1, potentially including tranches from three to 30 years, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The company is raising debt in part to pay for the acquisition of a majority stake in domestic petro-chemical group Sabic worth roughly US$69 billion.

With Aramco generating the bulk of Saudi Arabia’s revenue, the accounts also provide sovereign bond investors with a unique insight into the kingdom’s financial health amid relatively low oil prices.