H&M Q4 pretax lags consensus, to keep up store opening pace

Hennes & Mauritz, the world's second-largest fashion retailer, posted fiscal fourth-quarter pretax profit below expectations on Wednesday and said it would stay on the path of strong store expansion this year.

Pretax earnings in the September-November period for the retailer, whose key rival is Spanish group Inditex, fell to 6.6 billion crowns ($1.03 billion) from a year-earlier 6.8 billion. Analysts polled by Reuters had on average forecast an unchanged profit.

It said its overall 2012 earnings, up to 22.3 billion crowns from 20.9 billion, were affected by long-term investments in online shopping, a new brand and a future broadening of the range. It said it would open around 325 new stores this year, against 304 in 2012.

($1 = 6.3815 Swedish crowns)

(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom, editing by Patrick Lannin)