Spanish clothes retailer Inditex, which owns the Zara store chain, has posted a 22% increase in net profit in 2012 thanks to growth in eastern Europe and in online sales in Canada and China.

Inditex said today that profit for last year grew to €2.36 billion. Sales were up by 16% to €15.9 billion.

The company opened 482 stores in 2012, making for a total worldwide of 6,009. It said it also planned to open a Zara online store in Russia before the end of 2013.

Founded in 1975 by Amancio Ortega, Inditex operates eight brands including Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Pull & Bear and Oysho.

Profit was at the lower end of some analysts' expectations, however, due to a sharp fall in the gross margin, a ratio that compares top-line profit to revenue and shares fell 2.9% in early trading.

Sales rose 16% to €15.9 billion, with Asia's share growing to 20% from 18% and the Americas expanding to 14% from 12%.

European sales outside Spain continued to account for 45% of Inditex revenue.

Inditex sales in its home market, Spain, dropped to 21% of total revenue, down from 25% a year earlier. Spain is in a deep economic recession and retail sales have fallen steadily for 2-1/2 years.

The company said like-for-like sales, which strip out new store openings, rose 7% in the first half of the financial year and the pace slowed to 6% in the second.

By the end of January, Inditex had more than 6,000 stores across 86 countries and said it expected to launch flagship brand Zara online in Russia over the Autumn-Winter season.

Inditex, which has seen its shares triple in value in the past five years and outperform European peers by more than a third over the last 12 months, said it would propose a 22 percent rise in its dividend to €2.20 per share.