Swedish fashion group H&M reported disappointing third-quarter earnings on Wednesday and said it would open fewer stores than planned this year because of a difficult property market in southern Europe and France.
The clothing giant, the third-biggest fashion group in the world after Spain's Inditex (Zara) and Gap of the US, posted a net profit up 23 percent from last year, to 4.24 billion Swedish kronor (461.7 million dollars, 632.3 million euros).
But the earnings missed the expectations of analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires, who forecasted a net profit of 4.53 billion kronor.
The company's sales were up 14 percent to 26.9 billion kronor, beating expectations of 26.6 billion kronor.
Its shares were down 5.79 percent to 244 kroner on a Stockholm Stock Exchange down 0.50 percent at around 11:50 GMT.
H&M said it would open fewer stores than planned because the completion of shopping malls, mainly in southern Europe, had been stopped because of the weak economy.
"As a consequence, the planned store net for the full-year will be approximately 220 compared to the 240 stores previously communicated," the company said.
At a press conference, chief executive Karl-Johan Persson said the concerned countries were Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece, but also France and the United States.
"Everything happened quite brutally. Some projects were abandoned, others delayed. There just weren't enough good alternatives," he said.
"But there will be in 2011-2012," he told reporters, according to the TT news agency.
In the fourth quarter (September to November) alone, H&M will open some 140 stores and close 10 others, the company said.
The cheap'n'chic fashion group had 2,078 stores worldwide at the end of August.