Volkswagen has said its 2020 profit almost halved due to the impact of the pandemic, but a rebound in premium car sales in China and stronger deliveries in the fourth quarter helped keep the world's largest carmaker in the black.

The group said full-year operating profit, excluding costs related to its diesel emissions scandal, came in at €10 billion, compared with €19.3 billion in 2019.

Analysts had expected a full-year 2020 operating profit of €4.8 billion.

Net cash flow at its automotive division was around €6 billion and car deliveries picked up towards the end of the year, the German group said in a statement.

"The deliveries to customers of the Volkswagen Group continued to recover strongly in the fourth quarter and even exceeded the deliveries of the third quarter 2020," it said.

The full-year performance caps a turbulent 2020 for Volkswagen and the auto industry.

A pandemic-fuelled sales slump lead to a loss in the second quarter before Volkswagen swung back to profitability in the third quarter on the back of soaring demand for luxury vehicles in China, the world's largest car market.

Volkswagen's shares hit their highest level in 11 months after Friday's earnings release.

They were up 2.7% at 166.4 euros in early afternoon trading.