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Saudi Aramco’s Profit Halved in Two Years, Market Cap $210B Below Apple’s

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Even before the pandemic, the oil and gas industry was faced with slumping prices. However, with a record collapse in oil demand amid the lockdowns, the COVID-19 crisis has further shaken the market, causing massive revenue and market cap drops for even the largest oil companies.

According to data presented by Finaria.it, the net income of the world’s biggest oil producer and one of the largest publicly listed companies, Saudi Aramco, dropped to $49bn in 2020, a 55% plunge in two years.

The COVID-19 Crisis and Oil Price War Cut Profits by Almost $40B in a Year

In preparation for its IPO, which took place in December 2019, Saudi Aramco had published 2018 profits. With a net income of $111.1bn, Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil giant ranked as the most profitable publicly listed company in the world.

Global macroeconomic concerns like the US-China trade war and the oil overproduction set significant price drops even before the coronavirus outbreak. In 2019, the company reported a profit of $88.2bn, a 20% drop year-over-year.

However, a standoff between Russia and Saudi Arabia in the first months of 2020 sent prices even lower and caused a massive hit for Saudi Aramco’s profits.

After global oil demand plunged in March, Saudi Arabia proposed a cut in oil production, but Russia refused to cooperate. Saudi Arabia responded by increasing production and cutting prices. Shortly Russia followed by doing the same, causing an over 60% drop in crude oil prices at the beginning of 2020. Although OPEC and Russia agreed to cut oil production levels to stabilize prices a few weeks later, the COVID-19 crisis already hit.

In March, Saudi Aramco announced full-year figures for the second time since going public, and the results revealed huge financial losses. In 2020, Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil company reported a net income of $49bn, almost a $40bn drop in a year.

While Saudi Aramco was the most profitable publicly listed company globally in 2019, the current result puts the company behind Apple, which reported a net income of $57.4bn in 2020.

Saudi Aramco’s Market Cap $210B Below Apple’s

In December 2019, Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil giant completed its long-awaited IPO and hit a staggering $2 trillion valuation on the second day of trading, nearly one trillion higher than the world’s next-largest publicly listed companies Microsoft and Apple. The initial public offering was an essential part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 program to transform the Saudi economy.

However, Saudi Aramco’s stocks were outperformed by Apple in 2020. After plunging to $1.61trn in March last year, the market cap of the Dhahran-based company jumped to $2.15trn in September. By the end of the year, this figure slipped to $2.05trn. Statistics show that Saudi Aramco’s market cap floated around this value for the last three months and then dropped to $1.87trn in April after the company revealed the full-year results.

Although valued one trillion less than Saudi Aramco at the time of its IPO, the world’s largest tech company, Apple’s, has seen its market cap surge last year. In January 2020, the combined value of shares of the US tech giant stood close to $1.4trn. After plunging to $1.1trn in March, Apple’s market cap soared to over $2.3trn in December. Although this figure slipped to $2.08trn last week, it still represents almost a 90% increase in a year.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Hamburg’s German African Energy Forum to jumpstart Africa’s Economic Transformation

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The African energy sector continues to solidify partnerships with German investors and technology with the aim of leading energy businesses from Germany, Europe and across the African continent. From upstream to downstream, Africa’s energy sector must accelerate its transition to net-zero, continue to adopt new technologies and start to embrace digitization and decentralization over the next decade.

The 14th German African Energy Forum in Hamburg hosted by Afrika Verein continues this dialogue and pushes for investment with a clear focus on highlighting the entire African energy mix, together with economic cooperation between Germany and Africa.

As stated by Afrika-Verein, “the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the ongoing digital transformation of economies need a green, smart and quick response from the energy sector. Power generation is still one of the main enablers for inclusive economic growth in Africa.” With this said, the African Energy Chamber strongly endorses and supports the 14th German African Energy Forum in Hamburg in its efforts to do so.

In the same manner, there is a strong need for German and African businesses and policymakers to support policies that create an enabling environment for investment in a fair and evolving industry. Germany’s march to net-zero transition can’t be met if Africa is behind. The African energy sector’s ability to support the rapidly increasing demands for electricity, the deployment of smart infrastructure to manage energy more effectively, gas monetization, combating energy poverty and the approach we take to financing Africa’s clean energy transitions in a post Covid era makes this forum more important than ever.

The 14th German African Energy Forum is set to provide key market insights, trends and opportunities over the next decade as the energy sector prepares to support a global green economy.

“Year after year, Afrika Verein has been consistent in keeping Africa at the center of German foreign policy and energy policy. Their ability to bring together key stakeholders from Africa and Germany to work on energy matters including Germany and Africa is inspiring” stated NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber.

“We are going to need a real net-zero transition that takes into consideration policy, regulation, innovation, technology and investment in Africa. A disorderly transition creates a stronger impulse for job losses, geographic inequity and a deterioration in inequality. In return, economic disenfranchisement can reduce public support for environmental policies over time Germans and Africans need to work together to avoid it.” Concluded Ayuk.

The Africa Energy Chamber believes Hamburg will be a great place for energy investors, project developers, policy makers and innovators to share insights and expertise on key transition trends and opportunities in Africa.

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Invest Africa and DLA Piper Partner to Support ESG Best Practice in African Renewable Energy Projects

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The global law firm, DLA Piper, has partnered with Invest Africa, the leading trade and investment platform for African markets, to support the development of ESG best practice in African renewable energy projects.

Clear Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) targets and measurements have become an increasingly important part of fundraising as investors seek to align their portfolios with sustainable growth. For a continent boasting ample natural resources, this presents a significant opportunity for Africa’s green energy sector. However, renewable does not always equal sustainable and developing and articulating ESG metrics can pose a significant challenge to projects as they prepare investment rounds.

The project will assemble experts from the worlds of impact investment, development finance and law. Across a series of online meetings, participants will discuss strategies to improve ESG practices in African renewable projects from both a fundraising and operational perspective.

Amongst those speaking in the inaugural session on Thursday 13th May are Cathy Oxby, Chief Commercial Officer, Africa GreencoDr. Valeria Biurrun-Zaumm, Senior Investment Manager, DEGOrli Arav, Managing Director – Facility For Energy Inclusion (FEI) – Lion’s Head Global PartnersBeatrice Nyabira, Partner, DLA Piper Africa, Kenya (IKM Advocates) and Natasha Luther-Jones, Partner, Global Co-Chair of Energy and Natural Resources, International Co-Head, Sustainability and ESG, DLA Piper.

Veronica Bolton-Smith, COO of Invest Africa said, “Africa is particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change despite contributing very little to global emissions. As the price of renewables fall, they will form an ever more important part of Africa’s electrification. In this context, it is essential that projects be given the tools to apply best practice in ESG not only from an environmental perspective but also in terms of good governance, fair working conditions and contribution to social inclusion. I look forward to working closely with DLA Piper on this important topic.”

Natasha Luther-Jones, Global Co-Chair Energy and Natural Resources and International Co-Head Sustainability and ESG at DLA Piper also commented, “Climate change is one of the biggest challenges companies, and people, face today and when we look at its reduction – whether that be in how we power our devices, what we eat or how we dress, where we live or how we work – all roads come back to the need to increase the amount of accessible, and affordable, clean energy. However, renewable energy companies are not automatically sustainable as sustainability is a focus on all ESG factors, not just environmental. We know the need for renewable energy is only going to continue to rise, and therefore so will the number and size of renewable energy companies. The additional challenge is to make sure they are truly sustainable organisations and that’s what we’re excited about discussing during the webinar.”

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APICORP: Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Energy Investments to Exceed USD805 Billion Over Next Five Years

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The Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (APICORP), a multilateral development financial institution, estimates in its MENA Energy Investment Outlook 2021-2025, which it launched today that overall planned and committed investments in the MENA region will exceed USD805 bn over the next five years (2021–2025) – a USD13 bn increase from the USD792 bn estimate in last year’s five-year outlook.

The report attributes this modest rise to four factors: A strong confidence in the rebound of global GDP, rising energy demand, the comeback of Libyan projects – which alone accounts for around USD10 bn in planned projects – and the accelerated pace of renewables in the region. Per current estimates, MENA will add 3GW of installed solar power capacity in 2021 alone – double that of 2020 – and 20GW over the next five years.

The region’s economic forecasts suggest that commodity prices and exports will drive the rebound expected for most MENA countries in 2021. However, economies remain under fiscal strains due to unprecedented high debt levels and decline in oil prices, tourism/Hajj revenues, and personal remittances.

Dr. Ahmed Ali Attiga, Chief Executive Officer of APICORP, said: “APICORP’s MENA Energy Investment Outlook 2021-2025 indicates that energy industries are entering a period of relative stability in terms of investments as most MENA countries return to GDP growth in 2021 and the energy transition showing no signs of slowing down. We anticipate a slow but steady recovery of the energy sector from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, supported by continued investment from the public sector and an upswing in demand.”

Gas investments

Committed gas investments in MENA for the period 2021-2025 are expected to total USD75 bn – USD9.5 bn less than the previous outlook. The decline is attributed to the completion of several megaprojects in 2020 and countries being more cautious to new project commitments in an era of gas overcapacity.

Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq are the top three MENA countries in terms of committed gas investments. This is owed to Qatar’s North Field East megaproject, Saudi Arabia’s gas-to-power drive and the massive Jafurah unconventional gas development – which is poised to make the kingdom a global blue hydrogen exporter – and Iraq’s gas-to-power projects and determination to cut flaring and greenhouse gas emissions.

Planned investments meanwhile held relatively steady at USD133 bn for 2021-2025, signalling the region’s appetite for resuming its natural gas capacity build-up – particularly the ambitious unconventional gas developments in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, and Algeria – once macro conditions improve.

Power investments

Power investments in MENA for 2021-25 remain largely unaffected compared to APICORP’s 2020-24 outlook. Notably, the sector’s total investment amount of USD250 bn is the highest of all energy sectors – with an estimated USD93 bn and USD157 bn in committed and planned projects, respectively, over the next five years.

With a share of around 40%, renewables form a significant part of those investments as countries push ahead with their energy diversification agendas. In the GCC, Saudi Arabia’s Renewable Energy Project Development Office and Public Investment Fund projects continue to progress. North African countries are also showing measurable development in renewables realm, with Algeria establishing an independent authority to oversee the development of country’s strong pipeline of projects, and Egypt working to resolve regulatory issues related to its wheeling scheme and the unbundling of its power market.

This shift to renewables is a chief factor behind the rising share of investments in transmission and distribution (T&D) in the power sector value chain, as the integration of renewables into power grids requires significant investments to enhance and digitize grid connectivity, not to mention storage to accommodate the surplus power capacity they generate.

Petrochemicals investments

Planned investments in the MENA petrochemicals sector are forecast to increase to USD109 billion in 2021-2025, a USD14.2 bn jump compared to last year’s outlook. By contrast, committed investments dipped by USD7.7 bn to around USD12.5 bn due to the completion of several megaprojects in 2020.

Despite MENA petrochemical markets seeing an overall improvement in demand owed to the increased consumption of basic materials as vaccination drives continue and economies recover, some MENA committed petrochemical investments are nonetheless being re-evaluated and rationalized due to fiscal strains, capital discipline and cost efficiencies and evolving market dynamics.

Renewables investments

As a whole, the MENA region expects to add an estimated 3GW of solar power in 2021 – doubling its total from 2020 – and almost 20GW by 2025. Wind and other sources such as hydropower are also coming into their own as countries step up their energy diversification plans.

Jordan, for example, managed to increase the percentage of power generated from renewables from just 1% in 2012 to around 20%. Morocco’s 4GW of renewables (wind, solar and hydro) constitute around 37% the country’s total generation mix and almost 90% of its current 3.5GW project pipeline. Egypt’s total installed renewables capacity amounts to around 2.3GW, including 1GW of solar PV and 1.3 GW of onshore wind.

In the UAE, renewables constituted around 6% of total installed capacity and 3% of power generated as of 2020. Although it may just miss its short-term targets, the UAE’s solar capacity is projected to grow the fastest in the region with nearly 5GW of solar projects in the pipeline.

In Saudi Arabia, only 330MW of utility-scale solar PV projects and just one 2.5MW wind demonstration project developed jointly by Saudi Aramco and General Electric were operational as of 2020. Even when combined with the tenders under its National Renewable Energy Program, the total renewables capacity of the Kingdom totals 3.3GW, around 24GW short of its stated target of 27.3GW by 2024.

Despite ongoing procurement of largescale utility projects, Oman is also far from achieving its short-term target of generating 10% of its power from renewables by 2025, with a single 105MW utility solar PV project and a 50MW onshore wind project comissioned over the past 2 years.

As for Iraq, the first solar bid round for projects totalling 755MW capacity was announced in May 2019 and bids of short-listed companies were disclosed in Septmeber the following year. Overall, the country aims to reach 10GW of solar power generation capacity by 2030 and generate 20% of its power from solar.

Developing Energy Storage is Key

The expanding share of renewables, growth in power demand, and balancing supply and demand on a real-time basis necessitates the integration of modern, digitized energy storage solutions. Despite its significant potential in this area, the MENA region suffers from the limited role of storage in networks. To overcome this, regulations will need to evolve to reflect energy storage’s current functions, including leveraging flexibility from consumer aggregation or grid congestion.

The hydrogen and ammonia race

MENA is also a strong candidate for becoming a major hydrogen-exporting region thanks to its combination of low-cost gas resources and renewable energy. A few countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Morocco, have already made headways as low-cost exporters of blue and green hydrogen, net-zero ammonia and other low-carbon products, while other countries, such as Oman, UAE, and Egypt are attempting to catch up.

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