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Aramco profit falls 12% on lower oil prices

Saudi Aramco maintained its position as the world's most profitable company on Monday even as it reported a 12% drop in first-half net income to $46.9 billion due to lower oil prices.

By comparison, Apple, the world's most profitable listed company, made $31.5 billion in the first six months of its financial year.

Aramco said it generated total revenues, including other income related to sales, of $163.88 billion in the first half of this year, down from $167.68 billion a year earlier.

Aramco, the world's biggest oil producer, is also taking a 20% stake in the oil to chemicals business of India's Reliance Industries, Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani said on Monday, in one of the biggest ever foreign investments in India.

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State-run Aramco disclosed its closely guarded financials for the first time ever earlier this year, revealing its 2018 earnings in order to obtain a public rating and start issuing international bonds.

The figures showed that Aramco was the most profitable company in the world, surpassing US behemoths such as Apple and ExxonMobil. The Saudi national oil company plans to launch an initial public stock offering or IPO by 2020 to 2021, having postponed its flotation from 2018.

Compared to Aramco's first half earnings, US oil giant ExxonMobil made around $5.5 billion in the first half of the year, while Shell reported $8.8 billion.

"Despite lower oil prices during the first half of 2019, we continued to deliver solid earnings and strong free cash flow underpinned by our consistent operational performance, cost management an fiscal discipline," Aramco's president and chief executive officer Amin Nasser said in a statement.

Aramco said the drop in earnings was mainly due to a drop of 4% in the average realised price of crude oil from $69 to $66 per barrel and an increase in purchases, producing and manufacturing costs, and depreciation and amortisation costs.

The drop was partially offset by a decrease of $2.62 billion in income taxes, the oil company said.

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Aramco said it had a crude output of 10 million barrels a day in the first six months of the year, little changed from the same period in 2018.

Saudi Arabia has been restricting its output under an Opec-led pact to reduce global oil supply to support prices.

Saudi Arabia pumped below 10 million barrels per day for most of 2019.

Despite a drop in income, Aramco paid a dividend of $46.4 billion to the government including a special dividend of $20 billion, up from $32 billion a year earlier.

This shows Saudi Arabia's strong dependence on the oil producer to finance the kingdom's budget needs as well as the lavish lifestyles of its royal family.

The Aramco IPO is a centrepiece of Saudi Arabia's economic transformation drive to attract foreign investment and diversify away from oil.

Work on the IPO was halted in 2018 when Aramco shifted its attention to the acquisition of a 70% stake in petrochemicals maker Saudi Basic Industries.

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