Feb 11, 2009
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H&M appoints Karl-Johan Persson as new CEO

Feb 11, 2009

* Persson to assume position July 1

* Replaces Rolf Eriksen

* Stock down 1 pct, broader mkt down 1.4 pct

(Adds analyst comment, background, share price)

STOCKHOLM, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Swedish fashion giant Hennes & Mauritz (HMb.ST) said on Wednesday the son of its main owner and chairman would take over as top executive of the company, replacing the group's retiring boss.

H&M collection 2009 - Photo : Peter Gehrke

The Swedish retailer, the world's third biggest by sales, said in a statement that Karl-Johan Persson, born in 1975, would assume his new role on July 1. Persson is currently a senior executive at the company.

Persson is the son of H&M chairman and majority owner Stefan Persson, who was also the group's chief executive between 1982 and 1998. He will replace Rolf Eriksen who, as previously announced, will retire.

Persson has been head of expansion business development and brand. He has been a board member of H&M units in Denmark, Germany, the United States and Britain since 2000 and he joined the group board in 2006.

Soren Lontoft Hansen, analyst at Sydbank, said Persson had the right background and qualifications for the job.

"It's natural to choose an insider ... Despite Karl-Johan being young, I'm confident he will be able to continue what Rolf Eriksen has been doing for H&M," he said.

"I'm sure he will continue with the strategy. I think he will continue the strong expansion strategy and keep H&M in the low price segment."

Another analyst said it had been expected that Eriksen's replacement would be recruited internally.

"Still, I think people may be surprised that they chose Karl-Johan already now. He will have good help from his father, so I'm sure it will be fine," said the analyst who asked not to be identified.

Shares in the firm fell 1 percent to 338 Swedish crowns ($41.03) at 0806 GMT while the broader market in Stockholm was down 1.4 percent.

H&M is the world's third-biggest clothing retailer after Gap Inc (GPS.N) and Inditex, which jostle for the top spot. It is Sweden's biggest listed company by market capitalisation. ($1=8.238 Swedish Crown) (Reporting by Anna Ringstrom and Veronica Ek; editing by Simon Jessop)

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