Deliveries and sales, which were both hit by the pandemic in 2020, are seen up significantly this year, the company said, without being more specific. In 2020, sales fell 11.8 per cent to 222.9 billion euros ($270.2 billion), while deliveries dropped 15.2 per cent.

The operating margin is seen at the upper end of its 5.0-6.5 per cent target range, Volkswagen said, up from 4.3 per cent last year.

"The financial results now available are far better than originally expected and show what our company is capable of achieving, especially in a crisis," Witter said, adding that VW plans to carry over the strong momentum into 2021.

Shares in Volkswagen turned positive on the news and rose as much as 2.6 per cent to a fresh 13-month high, with analysts saying there was no need for a listing of luxury division Porsche AG given Volkswagen's 26.8 billion euros of liquidity.

Such a move, which sources say is being considered by Volkswagen, would still be "very helpful" if Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess wants to nearly triple Volkswagen's market value to 250 billion euros, Bernstein analyst Arndt Ellinghorst said.

While the company has emerged from the hit to demand caused by the pandemic, a shortage of crucial semiconductors caused it to adjust production through February, joining other carmakers around the world that have suffered similar problems.

Despite the profit drop, Volkswagen recommended keeping its dividend to shareholders stable for 2020 versus 2019, when it paid 4.86 euros per preferred and 4.80 per ordinary share, beating analysts' estimate of 3.35 euros for preferred shares, according to Refinitiv data.

($1 = 0.8260 euros)

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