* Nov local-currency sales rise 9 percent, below consensus
* Shares trade 3.8 percent lower
* H&M struggling to keep pace with Zara-owner Inditex
(Adds detail, background, analyst comment, share)
By Anna Ringstrom
STOCKHOLM, Dec 15 H&M, the world's
second-biggest fashion retailer, reported sales growth in
November roughly in line with the previous month, missing
analysts' expectations for an acceleration on the back of demand
for winter clothes.
The news cast further doubt on the extent of a recovery
flagged by the Swedish budget apparel firm after years of
tightening margins and several quarters of declining profit.
H&M and some rivals have been underperforming market leader
Inditex, partly because the owner of the Zara stores
has a supply chain that enables it to react more quickly to
shifts in demand, making it less exposed to variations on
H&M's local-currency turnover in November was up 9 percent
from a year earlier, against a mean forecast in a Reuters poll
of analysts for a 15 percent rise.
Inditex, meanwhile, said on Wednesday its sales growth was
16 percent in November and the first half of December.
H&M's shares traded 3.8 percent lower at 0815 GMT, taking a
year-to-date fall to around 14 pct against a year-to-date 1
percent rise for Inditex and a 7 percent drop for the STOXX
Europe 600 Retail Index.
H&M has in the past year blamed sales misses on unseasonable
weather, such as in September when growth stalled at a mere 1
percent after a warm start to autumn in Europe. In October,
growth picked up to 10 percent.
Some analysts are however increasingly concerned that H&M is
facing more fundamental structural issues such as tougher
competition and the need to speed up its supply chain.
"In November, clothing markets across western and northern
Europe should have been supportive, benefiting from colder
weather year on year," SocGen analyst Anne Critchlow said.
"It remains to be seen whether H&M can accelerate sales in
the first month of its new fiscal year, December, or whether
slow sales trends will lead to increased mark-downs once again
in the first quarter, to end February," she added. SocGen has a
"Sell" rating on the stock.
H&M said sales in September through November, its fiscal
fourth quarter, totalled 52.7 billion crowns ($5.7 billion), up
from a year-ago 48.7 billion but below a forecast 53.5 billion.
H&M, which is due to publish its full quarterly earnings
report on Jan. 31, did not comment on the sales figures.
($1 = 9.2906 Swedish crowns)
(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Terje Solsvik and