Oil giant Saudi Aramco reported a 30% jump in net income Tuesday, in a sign of a continued recovery from the previous year’s oil market crash that saw full-year earnings for the state firm slashed in half. In a release published Tuesday, the company said net income rose to $21.7 billion in the first three months of the year, up from $16.6 billion in the same period last year.
It beat some analysts’ estimates of $17.24 billion, despite lower oil production in February and March. The figure nears the firm’s net income level in the first quarter of 2019, which was $22.2 billion. The company said free cash flow in the first quarter of 2021 was $18.3 billion, up from $15 billion over the same period last year.
Saudi Arabia’s behemoth oil producer also maintained its dividend, with $18.8 billion due to be paid out in both the first and second quarter. The earnings reflect a dramatically improved climate for oil markets since the first quarter of last year, when Aramco reported a 25% fall in net income as it grappled with the initial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and cratering global demand.
Aramco has been in talks to raise cash from other asset sales as well, including the $12.4 billion sale of its pipeline unit that could possibly free up cash to pay down debt. In mid-April, the company penned a the deal to sell a 49% stake in its pipelines to EIG Global Energy Partners, a U.S.-led consortium.