* H&M has lagged Inditex in expanding in emerging markets
* India lets foreign firms set up wholly-owned subsidiaries
* H&M looking at several cities, locations
* H&M plans 375 new stores in 2014
* Will also open in Australia, Philippines
STOCKHOLM, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Hennes & Mauritz will open its first store in India this year, it said on Wednesday, as the world’s second-biggest fashion retailer becomes the latest to take advantage of the opening of Asia’s third-largest economy to foreign operators.
H&M, which said last year it plans to spend around 100 million euros ($137 million) on an initial 50 stores in India, received final approval in December from the Indian government to invest in the country.
“We are very excited to open our first store in India. It is one of the most exciting countries in the world right now, with so much potential,” H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson said in a statement.
H&M has not yet decided where the first store will be opened and is looking at several big cities and locations, but can act fast now it has government approval, a spokeswoman said.
The Swedish retailer has almost tripled store numbers over the past decade to over 3,100 outlets in 53 countries, but it has lagged bigger rival Inditex in expanding in fast-growing emerging markets.
H&M still makes about 80 percent of sales in Europe, while Inditex, with over 6,000 stores in 86 countries, makes about 20 percent of sales in Asian economies versus 6 percent for H&M.
H&M said last month it planned to open 375 new stores worldwide in 2014, including 80-90 in China. It also plans to enter Australia and the Philippines this year.
A flurry of international retailers, including Swedish budget furniture chain IKEA, are looking to expand into India after its government moved in 2012 to allow foreign firms to set up wholly-owned subsidiaries in the country. Inditex is already in India through a joint venture.
Indian retail consultancy Technopak has predicted the textile and clothing market in the country would more than double to $141 billion by 2021, from $58 billion in 2012.