Airbus sees stable aircraft deliveries after 2020 loss


European planemaker Airbus restored key business targets after generating cash in the fourth quarter, but withheld a dividend as it posted a pandemic-driven loss for 2020 amid the industry's "most challenging crisis".

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PARIS, Feb 18 (Reuters) - European planemaker Airbus AIR.PA restored key business targets after generating cash in the fourth quarter, but withheld a dividend as it posted a pandemic-driven loss for 2020amid the industry's "most challenging crisis".

Airbus, which has overtaken U.S. rival Boeing BA.N to become the world's largest jetmaker after a 20-month safety grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX, predicted flat 2021 deliveries and adjusted operating profit of 2 billion euros ($2.4 billion).

Airbus last month reported 566 commercial deliveries for 2020 and said on Thursday it aimed for stability in 2021. But it also said it aims to increase underlying output this year, albeit at a slower rate than previously anticipated.

"We have issued guidance to provide some visibility in a volatile environment," chief executive Guillaume Faury said in a statement, adding that many uncertainties remained for 2021.

The France-based maker of jetliners and helicopters posted a full-year operating loss of 510 million euros, weighed down by charges booked in previous quarters, notably for coronavirus restructuring and the closure of the loss-making A380 programme.

On a widely watched adjusted basis, Airbus stayed in the black but saw operating profit drop 75% to 1.7 billion euros as plunging airline demand drove revenues down 29% to 49.9 billion.

Stronger than expected jet deliveries in the fourth quarter helped Airbus generate 4.9 billion euros in cashflow before M&A and customer financing, beating a quarterly break-even target.

For the year as a whole, Airbus consumed 6.9 billion euros, as the impact of the coronavirus crisis came hard on the heels of a record 3.6 billion euro bribery fine agreed in early 2020. Airbus said it expected free-cashflow breakeven in 2021.

($1 = 0.8304 euros)

(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Gerry Doyle)

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