--Airbus posted a 2020 net loss despite turning a profit in the last three months of the year

--The plane maker has issued guidance for 2021 that includes at least flat plane deliveries

--Airbus generated EUR4.9 billion in cash in its fourth quarter


By Olivia Bugault


Airbus SE booked an unsurprising net loss for 2020 despite turning a profit in its fourth quarter, and issued guidance for 2021 but warned that many uncertainties remain due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The European plane maker said Thursday that its full-year net loss was 1.13 billion euros ($1.36 billion) compared with a loss of EUR1.36 billion in 2019 when it was hit by a EUR3.6 billion penalty related to a corruption-settlement probe. For its fourth quarter, Airbus posted a net profit of EUR1.55 billion, the only quarterly profit booked by the company last year.

The aerospace major's closely-watched adjusted earnings before interest and taxes fell 75% in 2020 to EUR1.71 billion from EUR6.95 billion. Sales fell 29% to EUR49.91 billion.

Free cash flow before merger and acquisition and customer financing stood at EUR4.9 billion in the fourth quarter--above its target to reach at least break-even--due to strong aircraft deliveries and the performance of its helicopters and defense-and-space divisions, it said. Airbus stemmed its cash losses in its third quarter when it posted EUR600 million in free cash flow after reporting heavy cash outflow during the first two quarters of 2020.

For the year as a whole, Airbus burned EUR6.94 billion in cash, it said.

The company offered business visibility for 2021 with guidance based on assumptions. "As the basis for its 2021 guidance, the company assumes no further disruptions to the world economy, air traffic, the company's internal operations, and its ability to deliver products and services," Airbus said.

For 2021, Airbus targets at least the same number of aircraft deliveries as in 2020 when it shipped 566 jets and an adjusted EBIT of at least EUR2 billion, which would be above 2020's adjusted EBIT. It also targets a free cash flow before M&A and customer financing at least at break-even.

At 1030 GMT, shares in Airbus were down 3.7% at EUR90.43 as analysts say that guidance on deliveries is conservative and below market expectations.

Airbus and the aviation industry at large have been hard hit by the crisis that triggered a 66% plunge in air traffic last year, according to the International Air Transport Association, and pushed many airlines to defer or cancel plane orders. Although Covid-19 vaccines raise hopes of a recovery in air travel later this year, the environment is set to remain challenging for the months to come. "Many uncertainties remain for our industry in 2021 as the pandemic continues to impact lives, economies and societies," Airbus's Chief Executive Guillaume Faury said.

The company said it won't propose a dividend for 2020.


Write to Olivia Bugault at olivia.bugault@wsj.com


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 18, 2021 05:50 ET (10:50 GMT)

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