By  on September 23, 2005

PARIS — Inditex, the Spanish retailer that runs the Zara chain, on Wednesday reported a 40 percent gain in second-quarter profits, driven by store openings and a 4.5 percent gain in like-for-like sales.

Net income in the three months ended July 31 rose to 121 million euros, or $154 million, as sales gained 21 percent to 1.41 billion euros, or $1.8 billion. The figures beat analysts' expectations.

Operating income grew 20 percent in the half to 344.5 million euros, or $443.2 million, and gross margin rose two points to 56.2 percent, Inditex said. Dollar figures are at the average exchange rate.

In the first six months, Inditex opened 160 new stores. By yearend it plans to open between 400 and 450 new stores.

Zara, which accounted for 66 percent of Inditex's sales in the first six months, had 762 stores on July 31, up from 653 stores a year ago. Inditex said it was on track to open 125 to 135 new Zara stores by yearend.

Zara's sales climbed 15 percent to 1.85 billion euros, or $2.4 billion, in the half, lifted by inexpensive versions of top runway styles inspired by high fashion houses such as Chanel and Chloé.

Meanwhile, sales at the fast-growing Bershka chain, which targets a younger crowd than Zara, grew 30 percent to 271 million euros, or $348.6 million, while sales at the Massimo Dutti chain grew 17 percent to 233 million euros, or $300 million.

Inditex also operates the Pull & Bear, Stradivarius, Oysho and Kiddy's Class chains.

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