* New boss currently heads business in Czech Republic, Slovakia
* Outgoing head moves to international role for health reasons
* Metro’s German unit saw sales fall 2.1 pct in Q4 2013
BERLIN, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Metro AG has appointed Axel Hluchy as new head of its struggling cash and carry business in Germany, bringing in an executive who has largely worked for the retailer in fast-growing eastern Europe.
Europe’s No. 4 retailer said in a statement that Hluchy, a 49-year-old German who joined Metro in 1997, would take over at the start of April from Dominique Minnaert, who will move to the role of coordinating international expansion of wholesale.
Metro said in a statement that Minnaert had requested a change of position due to unspecified health reasons.
Bernstein analyst Bruno Monteyne said the move was not a good sign for the unit: “Given the strategic problems they have had with the German business you would wish for a stable management and they haven’t got that yet.”
Metro is a sprawling group that runs cash and carries, hypermarkets, department stores and Europe’s biggest consumer electronics chain in 32 countries, but still makes almost 40 percent of total sales in its home market Germany.
The cash and carry business, which has suffered in the recession along with customers like hotels, restaurants and independent traders, has been cutting prices, revamping product ranges and investing in its delivery arm.
Hluchy, an economist by training who is currently the head of Metro’s cash and carry business in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, previously headed the business in Ukraine and also worked in Bulgaria as finance director.
Metro’s German wholesale unit saw sales fall 2.1 percent to 1.4 billion euros ($1.92 billion) in the last quarter of 2013, compared with a fall of 1.1 percent to 8.5 billion euros for the group’s overall cash and carry business.
Metro blamed the fall in German sales on the non-food business, which it is trying to slim down to focus on food.
However, in eastern Europe, sales rose 3.9 percent to 3.4 billion euros after stripping out foreign exchange effects. ($1 = 0.7285 euros) (Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Pravin Char)