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* Marco Gadola returns after 4 years at Panalpina
* Current CEO Spalinger leaves the company
* Challenging markets require leadership qualities-chairman (Adds detail, background)
ZURICH, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Dental implant maker Straumann named Marco Gadola as its new chief executive to lead the fight against weak sales and profit in its main European market.
"The dental markets have become increasingly challenging, squeezing topline and profitability," said Chairman Gilbert Achermann who will act as CEO until Gadola takes over, following the departure of Beat Spalinger.
"To take the organisation forward requires specific leadership qualities and impulses at top level, and we believe that Marco Gadola is the right person to do this," he said on Friday.
Gadola, Chief Financial Officer at logistics company Panalpina since 2008, was previously CFO at Straumann from 2006. He will return to Straumann by April.
Straumann said in October it would cut 150 jobs, or about 6 percent of its workforce, to boost margins amid continuing market sluggishness as cash-strapped Europeans pared back on non-essential dental treatment.
Sales in Europe fell 2.5 percent in the third quarter as austerity measures weakened consumer confidence.
Major shareholder and vice chairman Thomas Straumann sold a 10 percent stake to Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) in November, reducing his own stake to 17 percent.
That month, the company's share price dipped below 100 Swiss francs for the first time since 2003. It is currently nearly 70 percent off its 2007 peak.
Rival Nobel Biocare has fared even worse, hitting an all-time low in November, and is more than 90 percent off a high set in 2007.
Nobel Biocare named Richard Laube to replace Domenico Scala as CEO in 2011 when several other top managers leave the company. (Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz and Martin de Sa'Pinto; Editing by David Cowell)