Saudi oil company named world’s most profitable business

Saudi Arabia’s state oil company has emerged as the most profitable business in the world, racking up profits of $111.1bn (£84.7bn) in 2018 to overtake Apple.

According to a rare glimpse into its finances contained in a bond-offering document, Saudi Aramco made the profit on revenues of $355.9bn last year, as it produced 10.3m barrels per day of crude oil.

The snapshot, published on Monday by the credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Services, places the company in a league above Apple, which made a profit of $59.5bn in 2018.

It means the company made more than four times the profits of other oil industry rivals last year, including the Anglo-Dutch company Royal Dutch Shell, which made $23bn, and the US firm Exxon Mobil, which made $21bn.

The scale of Aramco dwarfs every other corporation in the world, but it is also among the most secretive, under the ownership of the Saudi state. It is the largest oil supplier on the planet and has exclusive access to nearly all of Saudi Arabia’s vast hydrocarbon reserves, which are among the world’s largest.

The Gulf state had previously prepared the company for a stock market flotation that would have valued it at roughly $2tn, twice the value of Apple, but it then put the plan on hold last year. London had been a potential listing destination, although not without controversy as UK regulators said they would waive some corporate governance rules.

The details of Aramco’s profits were disclosed as it looked to raise about $10bn from selling bonds to international investors to help fund the acquisition of its rival Sabic in a deal worth $69.1bn.

Moody’s did not award the company the highest possible credit rating, of Aaa, citing its “close interlinkages” with Saudi Arabia, instead giving it an A1 rating, the same as the Saudi sovereign.