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UPDATE 2-Airbus pledges profit gain after bribery settlement hit

Laurence Frost

* 2019 net loss 1.36 billion euros due to one-off charges

* 2019 adjusted operating income up 19% to 6.95 bln euros

* Forecasts higher op profit, jet deliveries for 2020 (Adds comment, shares, details, background)

TOULOUSE, France, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Airbus pledged higher jet deliveries and operating profit this year, after an international bribery settlement and problems with the A400M transport plane plunged the aerospace group to a 1.36 billion euro ($1.48 billion) net loss for 2019.

A weaker sales outlook for the military transporter led to a 1.21 billion euro charge and will continue to weigh in coming years, Airbus said on Thursday. Its full-year loss also reflected a provision for last month's $4 billion settlement with prosecutors over past corrupt practices.

Adjusted operating income, excluding the charges and other one-offs, rose 19% to 6.95 billion euros and should top 7.5 billion in 2020, Airbus said. Revenue increased 11% to 70.48 billion.

Airbus turned in a "strong underlying financial performance," Chief Executive Guillaume Faury said, and will focus this year on operational and cost improvements as well as "reinforcing our company culture." Airbus shares were up 0.8% at 0908 GMT.

Airbus is well placed to benefit from the crisis surrounding arch-rival Boeing's 737 MAX airliner, grounded since last March after two deadly crashes. But production issues with the European group's own single-aisle A320 jet family may limit its ability to respond.

While setbacks with the A321's new "ACF" cabin design have been mostly resolved, Faury said, Airbus plans to raise single-aisle production by only "one or two" planes after hitting its monthly goal of 63 for 2021.

The group also announced a deal to buy Canadian group Bombardier's remaining stake in the A220 jet program, part of a market for smaller passenger planes shaping up to be another major battleground with Boeing.

Airbus played down the potential damage from the virus outbreak currently rattling airlines and the broader global economy - endorsing traffic growth forecasts that "assume no major disruptions, including from the coronavirus."

Nonetheless, Faury acknowledged some Chinese airlines had requested "very short-term" postponements of new jet deliveries that he described as logistical.

The virus outbreak is still "too recent to be able to understand the magnitude and the consequences," he added. Airbus is targeting about 880 commercial jet deliveries this year.

Raising its proposed dividend by 9% to 1.80 euros per share, Airbus also predicted full-year free cash flow of around 4 billion euros, up from 3.509 billion in 2019.

The A400M earnings hit comes on top of billions of past charges for Europe's biggest defense project, which has been a financial thorn in Airbus' side for more than a decade.

The program delivered 14 planes in 2019, on schedule, but now faces "increasingly challenging" obstacles including repeated extensions to a German export ban on Saudi Arabia, Airbus said. The group said it expected about 2 billion euros in further related losses by mid-decade.

For the fourth quarter, adjusted operating income fell 9% to 2.81 billion euros, ahead of the 2.74 billion expected by analysts, according to an Airbus poll. Quarterly revenue rose 4% to 24.31 billion euros.

($1 = 0.9200 euros) (Reporting by Laurence Frost; Additional reporting by Tim Hepher in Singapore; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Mark Potter)