SPANISH firm Inditex, the world’s biggest clothes retailer under the Zara brand, reported a 12-per cent surge in net profit for 2011 on Thursday (March 22)owing to worldwide expansion, notably in Asia.

Net profit for the year stood at €1.932bn (£1.6bn/$2.56bn), the company said, after it opened its first stores in five countries including Australia, spreading its high-street presence to five continents.

The figure was slightly higher than market expectations, after analysts polled by Dow Jones forecast €1.92bn.

The retailer, which also owns the Massimo Dutti and Bershka brands, currently sells clothes online in 18 European nations plus Japan and the US.

By comparison, Inditex rival H&M of Sweden has reported a net profits fall of 15 per cent in 2011 to €1.79bn.

Inditex/Zara is studied with particular interest in Europe because of its huge success but also because it is exporting clothes to countries which themselves are big exporters of clothing to Europe where textile industries have been hard hit over many years.

“We have achieved sales growth in all the different markets,” said Inditex president Pablo Isla during a conference call with analysts.

Net sales for Inditex`s trading year, which it counts from February 2011 to January 2012, rose by 10 per cent to €13.793bn, it said. Its adjusted figure for earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) also rose 10 per cent to €3.258bn.

China remains a priority for the company. Out of 483 new stores opened in 2011, 132 were in China alone.

During the year the firm opened its first stores – all under the Zara brand – in Australia, Taiwan, Azerbaijan, South Africa and Peru. It also expanded in Japan, South Korea and India.

The firm now counts 5,527 stores in 82 countries under marks such as Zara, Pull and Bear, Bershka and Massimo Dutti.

It said it planned to keep up the pace in 2012, opening between 480 and 520 new stores worldwide.

“2012 will be a year of strong expansion for Inditex,” said Isla.

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