Swedish fashion giant Hennes & Mauritz AB on Thursday posted better-than-expected third quarter results including a 53 per cent surge in pre-tax profit to $204 million from $136m in the year-ago period.

The world's largest fashion retailer by market capitalisation said quarterly sales jumped 15 per cent to $1.36bn and revealed profit margins improved strongly in its US operations to 54 per cent from 51.3 per cent in 2001.

The operator of more than 800 stores also announced it plans to open 39 new stores in the fourth quarter, with the majority of those new outlets opening in the US, Germany and Spain. It will also shut four stores in the period.

"The H&M Group has increased its turnover in all countries of operation," it said, adding August sales climbed 16 per cent compared to last year. However, it said unseasonal weather hit Scandinavian sales towards the end of the quarter.

H&M continued: "The improved gross margin... is primarily due to a lower level of price reductions as a result of well balanced collections and improved inventory control, but also to lower costs for handling goods."