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Explained: Is Saudi Aramco more than an oil company?

Updated : November 27, 2019 12:36 PM IST

Saudi Aramco is the state-owned oil company of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It’s the biggest oil company in the world, helping the country become the biggest exporter of crude oil.

Saudi Aramco was born in 1933 out of an agreement between Saudi Arabia and California-based oil company Socal. This agreement, like many granted to big US and British oil companies at the time, gave it the exclusive right to explore and extract oil on Saudi territory.

Originally called the California Arabian Standard Oil Company, it was renamed the Arabian American Oil Company in 1944 - or as we now know it, by its acronym Aramco.

For years, Aramco was run by a consortium of US oil companies - including the predecessors of Chevron, Texaco and Exxon Mobil.

But following the creation of OPEC, Saudi Arabia and several other oil producing countries began nationalising their natural resources. By 1980, the Saudi government had completed its buyout of Aramco’s assets, eventually creating the Saudi Arabian Oil Company in 1988.

Saudi Aramco’s main business is pumping oil and then selling it around the world to customers in places like Japan, the US and China. Aramco reports vast oil reserves, which when compared to the largest energy companies, make them one of the biggest players in the world energy market.

Beyond drilling, the company also refines crude into oil products like gasoline and chemicals.

And in 2012, Aramco launched a new trading arm, which it says buys and sells about 1.5 million barrels of chemicals and polymer products every day. This helps keep more of that revenue in house, by reducing its reliance on outside traders.

A $2 trillion valuation means Aramco’s market cap dwarfs the likes of Microsoft, Alphabet and the world’s most valuable publicly traded company, Apple.

This financial strength was emphasised in a leaked earnings report, revealing a net income of $33.8 billion for the first half of 2017. The report, which was disputed by the company, showed they earned more than four times Exxon Mobil, the world’s biggest energy company by market cap.

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