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Sep 25, 10:54 AM EDT

Swedish fashion retailer H&M plans more store opening as profits, sales rise

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STOCKHOLM (AP) -- Fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB said Thursday it plans to expand its business over the coming year by increasing online sales and opening new stores, particularly in its largest markets, the U.S. and China.

CEO Karl-Johan Persson says the Swedish company is in a "very intensive investment phase" and plans to open 8 to 10 online markets next year on top of 375 new stores in locations worldwide.

"Within online shopping, we are in the midst of an exciting expansion," Persson said. "We see our online store as a very important complement to our physical stores as the online store makes it possible for us to increase our level of service and availability to our customers."

His comments came as the company reported a near 20 percent increase in third-quarter net profit to 5.3 billion kronor ($742 million) from 4.4 billion kronor in the same period a year earlier. Sales grew to 38.8 billion kronor ($5.4 billion) from 32 billion kronor a year earlier.

H&M opened new online markets this year in France, Italy and Spain and China, which received "a very good response from customers," Persson said.

The company opened another flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York in the summer and said expansion plans were on track with most new stores opening in its largest markets, China and the U.S. It also plans to begin operations in the Philippines in October and in South Africa, Peru, Taiwan and Macau next year.

However, opening operations in India had been postponed from this fall until 2015.

Persson said that during the third quarter the company had managed to increase its market share thanks to its "well-received collections." The company declined to give any figures on the market share.

During the past nine months, H&M has opened 209 stores for a total of 3,341 worldwide, including franchises and outlets under the company's other brands.

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