Saudi Aramco's earnings soared as oil prices and production climbed. Image Credit: Gulf News archive

Dubai: Saudi Aramco's earnings soared as oil prices and production climbed, allowing the company to easily cover its quarterly dividend of $18.75 billion with free cash flow.

The world's biggest crude producer's third-quarter profit climbed to 114.1 billion riyals ($30.4 billion) from 44.2 billion riyals year ago. Free cash flow was $28.7 billion.

Aramco and its Big Oil rivals have benefited from the global economic recovery, which has helped push up crude prices by about 65% this year to more than $80 a barrel.

The state-controlled firm was also helped by higher output after Saudi Arabia ended unilateral supply cuts implemented as part of an OPEC+ deal earlier this year. The kingdom's crude production averaged 9.6 million barrels a day between July and September, up from 8.5 million in the second quarter.

Aramco's annual dividend of $75 billion, the world's largest, is a crucial source of funding for Saudi Arabia. The government, which owns 98% of the stock, is trying to narrow a budget deficit that ballooned last year as energy prices tanked with the spread of the coronavirus.