Singapore - The world's largest builder of offshore oil rigs said Thursday its fourth quarter net profits were down 44 per cent from last year, as plunging oil prices wreak havoc on energy firms' earnings worldwide.
The price of oil has crashed about 75 per cent since mid-2014, hit by oversupply, overproduction, weak demand and a slowdown in the global economy led by China.
The Singaporean conglomerate Keppel Corp, whose portfolio also includes property development and infrastructure, said net profit in the three months to December was S$405 million, down from S$726 million in 2014.
Overall profits this year fell to a five-year low, it added.
"The continuing mismatch between global glut and sluggish demand is expected to keep oil prices subdued in the near future," Keppel chief executive Loh Chin Hua told reporters.
Keppel's offshore and marine business has been badly hit by the ongoing free fall in oil prices, which has prompted companies globally to hold back on offshore exploration.
Loh cited industry reports suggesting that global oil exploration and production spending could decline by 15 per cent or more this year if prices remain at current levels.
Of the 15 offshore rigs it was expected to deliver to clients worldwide last year, eight have been delayed to 2016.
After a calamitous start to the year, oil prices crumbled further this week after the International Energy Agency warned that the market could "drown in oversupply", with the return of Iranian crude after the lifting of Western sanctions offsetting any output cuts from other countries.