PARIS -- PSA Group delivered a profit in the first half of the year even as the COVID-19 pandemic hit revenue and said a strong sales rebound in June had extended into July.
The French automaker, which suffered like rivals as dealerships closed and which halted production as the outbreak spread from China to Europe and the United States, also said on Tuesday it was sticking with its midterm profit margin target.
"June has been a very strong rebound in sales and July is seeing a similar trend," PSA Chief Financial Officer Philippe de Rovira told reporters.
CEO Carlos Tavares added order books were "excellent" at the end of the first half.
The group, which is in the middle of working through a merger agreement with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, reiterated a goal for average margins of more than 4.5 percent in its automotive unit for 2019-21.
That was despite a 34.5 percent plunge in revenue in the first six months of 2020 to 25.1 billion euros ($29.5 billion), when the automotive division's adjusted operating margin shrank to 3.7 percent from 8.5 percent at the end of 2019.
PSA's profitability has eclipsed that of some rivals including France's Renault in recent quarters, helped by a focus on pricier models like SUVs and crossovers.
Under Tavares, PSA has kept a tight lid on production costs, and executives said on Tuesday the operational breakeven point -- which had reached 53 percent, meaning the firm could still generate cash with half its usual car volume -- would be even lower in 2020.
The group's net profit for the first half of 2020 also stayed in positive territory, at 595 million euros, down from 1.83 billion euros a year ago.
Tavares told analysts the merger with FCA -- which is set to create the world's fourth-largest carmaker under the name Stellantis -- was still on course to close in the first quarter of 2021.
Earlier this month, European Union antitrust regulators suspended their investigation into the proposed merger while waiting for data.
Asked about possible concessions to get the deal over the line, Tavares said if anything needed to be done, it would be, adding PSA would not be "picky" and it was keeping an open mind in its discussions with the European Commission.
The maker of Peugeot, Citroen, Vauxhall and Opel vehicles is among the most vulnerable to a downturn in Europe, it's largest market, where the health crisis has dragged down economies from France to Britain and Italy. While vehicle sales in the region have been slowly recovering from a record plunge in April, they are still expected to fall by a fifth this year, according to a forecast by Bloomberg Intelligence.
The French automaker expects the European auto market to shrink by 25 percent this year, with contractions of 10 percent in China as well as 30 percent in Latin America and Russia. PSA has ramped up its European factories after closing them in mid-March.
Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report