UPDATE 2-Saudi Aramco’s leverage more than doubled in 2020

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DUBAI, March 22 (Reuters) – Saudi oil giant Aramco’s debt more than doubled to 55% in 2020 year over year, a report said after the group agreed to pay a dividend of US $ 75 billion -Dollars to be distributed to support the treasury despite the decline in profits.

Net debt rose to 605.9 billion riyals ($ 161.6 billion) last year from 270.2 billion riyals in 2019, the results showed.

The world’s largest oil exporter announced on Sunday that net profits for the year ended December 31 fell 44.4% to 183.8 billion rials as the COVID-19 pandemic depressed global crude oil demand.

However, it stuck to its promise to pay out a dividend of $ 75 billion for 2020, most of which will go to the Saudi government.

Aramco made its debut in the international bond market in 2019, before going public that year with a record $ 29.4 billion in stock sales. Last year, when the low price of oil hurt its balance sheet, the company borrowed $ 10 billion and borrowed $ 8 billion.

HSBC said last month that Aramco’s outlook for 2021 was more positive and promising, suggesting declining net debt and a possible dividend hike.

But a recent request to banks to request the $ 10 billion credit facility we took out last May.

Aramco is likely to do “heavy lifting” to boost state coffers and support mega-projects led by the kingdom’s state investor Public Investment Fund, Bank of America said in a statement earlier this year.

The government still owns a 98.2% stake in the company, and while diversifying its revenues away from crude oil, oil revenues still accounted for more than half of the kingdom’s revenues last year.

In its financial results report, Aramco said payments to the government last year, including dividends, royalties and income taxes, were around 412 billion riyals, about 30% less than in 2019, in line with Saudi estimates in December.

($ 1 = 3.7504 rials) (reporting by Yousef Saba and Davide Barbuscia; editing by Louise Heavens, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Jan Harvey)

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