Fashion giant H&M has reported a rise in full-year profits and veteran chair Stefan Persson is to stand down after two decades in the role.

H&M posted profit after financial items up 11% to SEK17.39bn on net sales that were also ahead 11% to SEK232.76bn.

H&M also reported that fourth-quarter sales in the UK rose 3%.

Stefan Persson will be succeeded as chair by Karl-Johan Persson, who in turn will hand over the reins to Helena Helmersson as chief executive - the retailer’s first woman boss.

Karl-Johan Persson said: “The H&M group’s transformation work continues to bear fruit. Increased full-price sales and decreased markdowns contributed to an improvement in profit for the full year and in the fourth quarter, when we achieved a 25% increase in operating profit while maintaining a high level of activity in our transformation work.

”It is clear from our well-received collections and increased market share that customers appreciate the initiatives we have taken. The composition and level of the stock-in-trade continue to improve, and we expect a decrease in markdowns again in the first quarter – for the sixth successive quarter.

“In view of the ongoing transformation of fashion retail, we have been making significant and necessary investments for several years to secure the H&M group’s position and long-term development. Among other things, we have invested in digitalisation, a more efficient supply chain – including new logistics centres and logistics systems – and in tech infrastructure, advanced analytics and AI. We are now seeing multiple positive effects of these initiatives, providing resources and support for our continued transformation work.”

Stefan Persson said Karl-Johan’s succession was “a natural change”.

He added: “I will continue to be a committed owner, just as today, but from a different position. In addition, the timing is favourable for making this change now since we have gradually improved profits and have a strong position with many well-established brands, millions of customers worldwide and good financial strength.

“We have moved from one brand to become a multi-brand company with today nine brands. In recent years, we have made substantial and necessary investments in our joint group infrastructure – mostly in logistics, tech, data and AI – investments that now are starting to pay off in terms of increased customer satisfaction, sales and profits.”

Helmersson started at H&M in 1997 as an economist in the buying department. She has held various roles in buying and production, was sustainability manager for five years and has been chief operating officer for just over a year with responsibility for expansion, logistics, production, IT, advanced analytics and AI, and insights and analytics.