Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil-exporting company, has said that its first-quarter net profit surged 30 percent to $21.7 billion from the year-earlier period, underpinned by higher oil prices and an improved economic environment. In a statement issued on Tuesday, Aramco said it plans to pay a dividend of $18.8 billion in the second quarter. “The momentum provided by the global economic recovery has strengthened energy markets, and Aramco’s operational flexibility, financial agility and the resilience of our employees have contributed to a strong first-quarter performance,” said Aramco President and Chief Executive Amin Nasser. Aramco’s revenue for the first three months of the year rose by 21 percent to $72.5bn while capital expenditure during the period stood at $8.2bn. Cash flow from operating activities reached $26.5bn while free cash flow hit $18.3bn. The company also benefited from improved downstream margins and the consolidation of the results of Sabic, the Middle East’s largest petrochemical producer that is majority owned by Aramco. Last week, Sabic swung to a 4.86bn Saudi riyals ($1.29bn) net profit in the first quarter, from a net loss of 1.05bn riyals during the same period a year ago, due to higher prices for its products. Sabic’s revenue increased by 24 percent to 37.53bn riyals in the first three months of the year amid higher prices for its products.