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An employee visits the site of crude oil storage tanks at the Juaymah tank farm at Saudi Aramco's Ras Tanura oil refinery and oil terminal in Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia, on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. Saudi Aramco aims to become a global refiner and chemical maker, seeking to profit from parts of the oil industry where demand is growing the fastest while also underpinning the kingdoms economic diversification. Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

Saudi Aramco slashes hundreds of jobs after slump in oil prices

An employee visits the site of crude oil storage tanks at the Juaymah tank farm at Saudi Aramco's Ras Tanura oil refinery and oil terminal in Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia, on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. Saudi Aramco aims to become a global refiner and chemical maker, seeking to profit from parts of the oil industry where demand is growing the fastest while also underpinning the kingdoms economic diversification. Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil exporter, has begun cutting hundreds of jobs as it looks to reduce costs after a slump in energy prices, according to people familiar with the matter.

Aramco is letting go of mostly foreign staff across several divisions, with affected employees being informed earlier this week, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private.

The company employs almost 80,000 people and goes through a round of cuts annually. This year’s is bigger than normal, according to several of the people.

An employee looks out over the Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) facility in Saudi Aramco’s Shaybah oilfield in the Rub’ Al-Khali (Empty Quarter) desert in Shaybah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

“Aramco is adapting to the highly complex and rapidly changing business environment,” the firm said in a statement. “We are not providing information regarding the details of any action at this time, but all our actions are designed to provide us more agility, resilience and competitiveness, with a focus on long-term growth.”

Aramco’s first-quarter profit slumped 25 per cent year-on-year to 62.5 billion riyals (US$16.6 billion) as coronavirus shutdowns caused demand for oil to collapse. Brent crude has more than doubled since late April as more economies reopen. But at around US$41 a barrel, it’s still down 37 per cenr this year, putting huge pressure on producers globally.

Read More: Aramco Stretches Out US$70 Billion Sabic Payments On Oil Slump

Aramco has already slashed capital expenditure for this year to between US$25 billion and US$30 billion from an initial target of US$40 billion and put 2021 spending under review.

The sun sets over crude oil storage tanks at the Juaymah tank farm, operated by Saudi Aramco, in Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia, on Monday, October 1, 2018. (Photo: Bloomberg)

The Dhahran, Saudi Arabia-based producer still has high spending commitments. It completed a US$69.1-billion acquisition of 70 per cent of chemicals maker Saudi Basic Industries Corp this week. While it stretched out the payments to the seller, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, over the next eight years, it still needs to pay US$7 billion on August 2.

It also committed to giving shareholders US$75 billion in dividend this year, although it has said it could cut the amount allocated to the Saudi Government, which owns around 98 per cent of the stock.

The shares of Aramco, which listed in Riyadh in December, have fallen 14 per cent since their peak to 32.680 riyals. Its market valuation of almost US$1.75 trillion is still the world’s biggest.

— Bloomberg