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Wal-Mart replaces China CEO in Asia leadership shuffle

Chief Executive Officer of Wal-Mart China Greg Foran attends a news conference in Beijing, October 24, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Chief Executive Officer of Wal-Mart China Greg Foran attends a news conference in Beijing, October 24, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - U.S. retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc has appointed a new chief executive for the China region, where the world's largest retailer is battling stiff competition from local rivals.

Sean Clarke, a Wal-Mart veteran and current chief operating officer in China, will take over the China CEO role from June 1, a statement from the firm said on Friday. The current China chief executive, Greg Foran, will become Asia CEO.

China is key to Wal-Mart's international ambitions but it has stumbled in a market where consumers value safe and authentic food over the low prices the retailer is famed for. Wal-Mart has been in China for 17 years.

This year, Wal-Mart was embroiled in a scandal over tainted donkey meat. Workers also went on strike at some of its stores. It is now changing its China approach, closing some big stores that never caught on with locals and focusing more on its own-brand products and imports, quality and safety.

Clarke has been with the grocery chain for 15 years, including the last two in his current role in China overseeing areas from logistics and merchandise to marketing.

"Sean has been a key contributor to our improved performance in China. His experience and background uniquely prepare him for this role and will ensure continuity for our progress in China," outgoing China CEO Greg Foran said in the statement.

(Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by John Ruwitch and Miral Fahmy)

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