DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Oil giant Saudi Aramco said Sunday its profits soared more than 80% in the first three months of the year, as the state-backed company cashes in on the volatility in global energy markets and surging oil prices following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The bumper first-quarter earnings by the firm formally known as the Saudi Arabian Oil Co., which overtook Apple as the world's most valuable company last week, show a record net income of $39.5 billion, up from $21.7 billion during the same period last year.
The figure marks the oil group's highest quarterly profit since 2019, when the Saudi government, which owns 98% of the company, listed a sliver of its worth on Riyadh's Tadawul stock exchange in what was then the world's largest-ever initial public offering.
In a statement, Aramco's chief executive attributed the spike in profits to rising prices as well as the kingdom's increase in production, along with allies in the group known as OPEC Plus. He also appeared to suggest that the disruption from the war in Ukraine had underscored the vital role of oil and gas companies like Aramco.
"Against the backdrop of increased volatility in global markets, we remain focused on helping meet the world's demand for energy that is reliable, affordable and increasingly sustainable," President and CEO Amin H. Nasser said, adding that Aramco was in the midst of increasing its maximum production capacity to meet anticipated demand growth.
Oil prices rallied to a 14-year high of $139 a barrel in March immediately after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, although later receded as Russian oil continued to flow and renewed lockdowns hurt demand for hydrocarbons in China, a top importer. International benchmark Brent crude traded over $111 a barrel Sunday.
Shares of Aramco jumped 1.85% on Sunday on the earnings report, with a share costing 41.40 Saudi riyals, or $11.04 on the Tadawul stock market. Aramco shares have shot up since the start of the year, making it the world's most valuable company last week with a market cap of around $2.43 trillion.
The oil group said it maintained its $18.8 billion cash dividend for the fourth quarter of last year -- completing one of the biggest full-year cash dividends in the world. The payment is a crucial source of revenue for the Saudi government.
Gearing, which the company defines as the degree to which its operations are financed by debt, dropped from 14% at the end of last year to 8% in the first quarter.
The strong quarterly results come after resurgent economic activity and the relaxation of global coronavirus restrictions had already delivered record annual results for the state-backed company last year after the devastation of the pandemic and years of sluggish growth amid relatively lower prices.
The skyrocketing oil prices have provided a welcome boost to the Saudi economy.
Saudi Arabia -- the world's top oil exporter and OPEC's de facto leader -- logged its fastest economic growth in a decade during the first quarter of the year, with its gross domestic product growing 9.6% compared to the same period last year, according to its statistics agency. The International Monetary Fund expects the kingdom's economy to expand 7.6% this year.