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H&M profits sink amid weak sales

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Swedish fashion giant H&M - the world's second-biggest clothing chain - has posted a 61% profit fall for the three months to February amid weak sales.

Its outlets, which include mid-market chains & Other Stories and Cos, made 1.26bn Swedish crowns (£108m).

Recently it warned of weaker demand in some stores and also said sales had fallen for the second quarter in a row.

It said higher levels of stock would mean greater price discounting in the next three months.

Shares fell 5% in early trading to their lowest level since 2008.

H&M employs 171,000 people worldwide in its 4,700 stores.

It has outlets in 69 countries, with the US, Germany and the UK its top three markets by number of stores.

This year it is planning to open 220 new stores. Most will be H&M stores, but 90 will be its newer spin-offs including & Other Stories, Cos and Monki.

The company said stock levels rose by 7% in the quarter, compared with last year, partly thanks to its continuing expansion, but also because of weak sales in the previous quarter.

H&M said that rise was higher than planned, and would mean "increased markdowns" in the second quarter of 2018 compared with last year.

However, the retailer said it expected sales and profits to return to growth. "We take a long-term view that, together with our knowledge and experience enable us to navigate through times such as this... back to healthy growth in both sales and profitability."

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