Saudi oil giant sees profit fall nearly 45%
The oil giant Saudi Aramco has announced that its profits fell sharply last year as lockdowns around the world curbed demand for oil.
Earnings in 2020 fell by nearly 45% compared with 2019.
Saudi Aramco, one of the largest companies in the world, still made a profit of $49bn (£35bn) however and said shareholders would still receive dividends totalling $75bn.
Aramco's largest shareholder is the Saudi government.
The firm said it had been "one of the most challenging years in recent history".
Over the course of last year the price of oil fell by a fifth as countries halted travel, closed down industries and restricted many day-to-day activities, reducing demand for energy and fuel.
Other big oil and gas firms such as Royal Dutch Shell and BP also saw profits plummet. Exxon Mobil, the largest US energy company, posted its first annual loss.
The oil price has recovered slightly since December to $64.53 for a barrel of Brent Crude as the vaccine rollout gets under way.
"We are seeing a pick-up in demand in Asia and also positive signs elsewhere," said Saudi Aramco's chief executive, Amin Nasser. "We expect this to continue as governments and authorities around the world reopen economies."
However Aramco faces other challenges. It has suffered two recent drone attacks on its installations because of Saudi involvement in the war in Yemen; one last Friday started a fire at an oil refinery in Riyadh.
Mr Nasser said the refinery was back on stream within a few hours and that the firm had emergency response plans in place to deal with such attacks.