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UPDATE 2-Daimler 2020 operating profit beats guidance and forecasts

* 2020 EBIT 6.60 bln euros vs consensus for 5.25 bln

* Daimler says is optimistic for 2021

* Semiconductor shortages and COVID-19 pandemic to affect Q1 (Adds details of earnings, background)

FRANKFURT, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Daimler said on Thursday a strong fourth quarter helped it post better-than-expected 2020 group operating profit and that it was optimistic for 2021.

The Stuttgart-based maker of Mercedes-Benz cars and trucks warned, however, that current shortages in semiconductors and COVID-19 disruptions would probably affect the first quarter.

Thanks to cost savings and a faster-than-expected recovery in the auto sector, group earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) for 2020 came to 6.60 billion euros ($8 billion), above consensus for 5.25 billion euros, the carmaker said, citing preliminary figures. That is up 52% from 4.329 billion euros for 2019.

“Given the development of successful cost discipline continued in the fourth quarter and expected good underlying demand, Daimler also anticipates a positive business development in 2021,” the company said.

Volkswagen, by contrast, said last week that 2020 profit almost halved due to the pandemic, while BMW said it exceeded expectations by some metrics.

Daimler, like its competitors, has faced a bottleneck in the semiconductors after chip manufacturers earlier in the coronavirus crisis shifted production away from the hard-hit auto sector to serve other areas, like consumer electronics.

The auto recovery has left companies like Daimler in short supply of the essential components, causing them to halt or slow production.

Daimler will publish complete fourth-quarter figures and more detailed 2021 guidance on Feb. 18.

$1 = 0.8241 euros Reporting by Tom Sims and Ilona Wissenbach; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Richard Chang

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