PARIS – Inditex, the Spanish fast-fashion conglomerate that runs the Zara chain, outpaced market expectations for the ninth consecutive quarter as it reported a 30 percent hike in fourth-quarter profit driven by aggressive store openings in France, Spain and Italy.

Net income in the three months through Jan. 31 improved to 368 million euros, or $479 million, from 283 million euros, or $354 million, a year ago, eclipsing most analysts’ consensus targets. Dollar figures are at the average exchange rate.

In spending more than 1 billion euros, or about $1.3 billion, to open 439 stores last year, Inditex inaugurated more than a store per day.

The company said it would invest another 850 million to 950 million euros, or $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion, this year as it bulks up in the competitive European fast-fashion market, where it goes head-to-head with Sweden’s Hennes & Mauritz and Spain’s Mango chains.

Inditex, which also operates the Massimo Dutti, Pull and Bear, Bershka, Oysho, Stradivarius, Kiddy’s Class and Zara Home chains, had 3,131 shops at the end of January.

Last year the company opened its first stores in mainland China as well as entering the Serbian and Tunisian markets. Inditex operates in 64 countries around the world.

For the year, Inditex said net income grew 25 percent to 1 billion euros, or $1.3 billion, from 803 million euros, or $1.2 billion, last year. Net sales grew 22 percent to 8.2 billion euros, or $10.7 billion, from 6.74 billion euros, or $8.4 billion, a year ago.

The company said sales in Europe for the first time exceeded those in Spain, with the firm’s international stores accounting for more than 60 percent of total sales.

For complete coverage see tomorrow's issue of WWD.

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