Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Aramco ) has reported a net income of $39.5bn for the first quarter of 2022, an increase of 82% compared with the $21.7bn reported a year ago.

The surge in net income was primarily due to improved downstream margins, as well as higher crude oil prices and volumes sold.

Saudi Arabia’s national oil company said that the figure marks its highest quarterly profit since its initial public offering in 2019.

Cash flow from operating activities for the first quarter that ended 31 March 2022 stood at $38.2bn, against $26.5bn in the same quarter a year ago.

The company’s gearing, a measure of debt to equity, reduced to 8% while free cash flow increased by 68% to $30.6bn.

In a press statement, the firm said: “The decrease in gearing was a result of higher cash and cash equivalents, primarily attributable to stronger operating cash flows and cash proceeds, in connection with Aramco’s gas pipeline transaction.”

Aramco also announced a dividend of $18.8bn for Q1 2022.

Capital expenditure for the quarter was $7.6bn, which the oil giant expects to keep growing until the middle of this decade to support its long-term strategy.

Aramco president and CEO Amin Nasser said: “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.

“Energy security is vital and we are investing for the long term, expanding our oil and gas production capacity to meet anticipated demand growth and creating long-term shareholder value by capitalising on our low lifting cost, low upstream carbon intensity, and integrated downstream business.

“During the first quarter, our strategic downstream expansion progressed further in both Asia and Europe, and we continue to develop opportunities that complement our growth objectives.”

In a separate announcement, Saudi Arabia said that the country is on track to boost its oil production capacity to more than 13 million barrels per day by the end of 2026 or start of 2027, reported Reuters, citing Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman.

In March, Saudi Aramco and its partners announced that they had made the final investment decision (FID) to develop a refinery and petrochemical complex in China.