Stockholm — Swedish fashion giant H&M appointed company veteran Helena Helmersson as CEO on Thursday as it reported its first rise in annual profit since 2015 and pleased the market with unexpectedly strong fourth-quarter profit growth.

Helmersson has been with H&M for more than two decades and has held positions from head of sustainability and global head of production to, most recently, COO. She replaces the founder’s grandson Karl-Johan Persson, who moves to the role of chair...

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