A worker at an oil processing plant for Saudi Aramco, a Saudi Arabian state oil and gas company, in the Abqaiq oil field.

Stanislav Krasilnikov | TASS | Getty Images

Oil giant Saudi Aramco reported a 44% drop in full-year 2020 results but maintained its dividend payout of $ 75 billion. CEO Amin Nasser described the last twelve months as one of the “most challenging years” in recent history.

Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s giant state-owned oil company, posted net income of $ 49 billion in 2020, up from $ 88.19 billion in 2019. Earnings were slightly below analysts’ expectations of $ 48.1 billion, but is still the highest of all listed companies in the world.

“In one of the most challenging years in recent history, Aramco has demonstrated its unique value proposition through considerable financial and operational agility,” said Amin Nasser, chief executive of Saudi Aramco, in a statement from the company on Sunday.

Aramco said sales were impacted by lower crude oil prices and volumes sold, as well as weaker margins in refineries and chemicals.

The company also expects to cut investments in the coming year, slashing its spending forecast from $ 40 billion to $ 45 billion to around $ 35 billion.

Free cash flow was down nearly 40% to $ 49 billion, well below the level of the highly anticipated dividend. Aramco also declared a $ 75 billion payout for 2020, despite fears it would take on additional debt to keep it up.

“Looking ahead, our long-term strategy to optimize our oil and gas portfolio is on track. As the macro environment improves, we see a pickup in demand in Asia and positive signs in other countries,” he added.

Shares in leading Western oil and gas companies, including Royal Dutch Shell and BP, fell to multi-year lows in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic devastated the global economy and sparked historic oil prices. Exxon Mobil, the largest US energy company, posted its first annual loss.