UPDATE 1-Vivo Energy sees core earnings above market view as COVID-19 curbs ease

(Adds CEO comment, background)

Feb 12 (Reuters) - Africa-focussed fuel retailer Vivo Energy on Friday forecast full-year core earnings above the top end of a market estimate and announced a dividend for 2020 as COVID-19 curbs eased.

Vivo, which distributes Shell and Engen-branded fuels and lubricants, said overall trading remained positive in the fourth quarter as limited mobility restrictions across its markets aided an ongoing recovery in the retail segment.

“The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant adverse impact on our business in the first half of 2020. Since then the group has recovered strongly,” Chief Executive Officer Christian Chammas said.

Stay-at-home orders and business restrictions to stop COVID-19 hammered fuel demand in 2020, but the ongoing global roll-out of vaccines against the virus has been boosting recovery prospects.

The London-listed company, which in October resumed the payment of a previously withdrawn 2019 final dividend, said it intends to recommend a dividend of 3.8 cents per share for 2020.

Vivo, which operates in 23 countries across Africa, said it expects adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization above the top end of a market estimate of $331 million to $354 million for full year 2020. It was, however, below the $431 million it earned a year earlier.

Reporting by Shanima A in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V and Devika Syamnath