German carmaker BMW said on Thursday that its operating profit for 2020 fell due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but said that it was back on a profitable course following a second-half rebound in sales, particularly in China.
"Our performance in the second half of the year demonstrated just how strong the BMW Group is... we soon overcame the impact of weeks of plant closures and nationwide lockdowns," Chief Executive Oliver Zipse said in a statement. "We are starting 2021 revitalised and with a favourable tailwind."
Plant shutdowns in the first half of 2020 to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus led many in the industry to expect a disastrous year, but a market rebound spurred by China helped the industry recover faster than expected.
BMW sales in China rose 7.4% in 2020 versus 2019, mostly offsetting declines in other regions.
Chinese consumers also helped propel BMW's rival Daimler AG to a full-year pre-tax profit.
BMW said that with the exception of the second quarter, it remained profitable throughout 2020.
The premium carmaker posted a full-year 2020 pre-tax profit of 5.2 billion euros ($6.22 billion), down nearly 27% from 7.2 billion euros in the prior year. BMW ended the year with free cash flow of 3.4 billion euros, higher than in 2019 despite widespread lockdowns.
($1 = 0.8360 euros)