* Greg Foran named as China chief to replace Ed Chan
* Walmart had poor 2011 in China, with exits and food
* Foran currently senior VP at Walmart International
By Melanie Lee and Donny Kwok
SHANGHAI/HONG KONG, Feb 7 Wal-Mart Stores
Inc has named an industry veteran, but a relative
newcomer to China, to run what is a strategically crucial
business for the world's biggest retailer as it faces tougher
competition in the fastest growing major economy.
The appointment of Greg Foran as president and chief
executive of Walmart China caps a series of leadership changes
at the unit, which has been tainted by food scandals, including
a pork mislabelling issue last year that forced the company to
temporarily shut a dozen stores in central China.
Foran, who joined Walmart in October after a long career
with Australian retailer Woolworths Ltd, replaces Ed
Chan, who stepped down in October.
Some analysts questioned the wisdom of putting a relative
newcomer at the helm of the China operations as Walmart takes on
fierce competition from both local and other global rivals.
"The new appointee seems to have comparatively less China
on-the-ground experience," said James Roy, senior analyst at
China Market Research Group based in Shanghai.
"I think for a lot of American companies and a lot of
foreign companies, they need people from inside who know the
company culture well, and it is important to have a balance
between that and the operating environment in China," he said.
"Whether it's local Chinese or not, it should be somebody
who understands the market."
Foran is currently senior vice president, Walmart
International, and starts his new role on March 1, the company
said in a statement on Tuesday.
FROM PART-TIMER TO DIVISION HEAD
Before joining Walmart, Foran, a 30-year retail veteran,
moved up the ranks in New Zealand and Australia at Woolworths,
from a part-time job stocking shelves to head of Woolworths'
He held several senior roles at Woolworths, including
General Manager of Big W, the company's discount department
store division, and Dick Smith, which specializes in consumer
electronics. His experience includes operations, merchandising,
marketing and replenishment.
Foran quit Woolworths after missing out on the top
job, the Sydney Morning Herald said in a report in July.
Walmart has not always had an easy time during the past 15
years as it has expanded across China, where it now has more
than 350 stores.
In October, the Chinese city of Chongqing penalised Walmart
after the firm was found to have mislabelled some pork as
organic at a couple of its stores. Authorities said the pork
scandal was the latest in a string of 21 violations dating back
Walmart had also suffered a series of high-level personnel
losses last year, after its China chief financial officer and
chief operating officer left in May, leaving a leadership
Walmart's troubles in China reflect the retail giant's
struggles in a complex market where rapid expansion and a
cumbersome takeover have marred profit and growth.
Walmart China has faced intense competition on the mainland,
where it competes against China's Sun Art and China
Resources Enterprise, with local brands such as
Yonghui and Shinshiji, among others.
It is also up against French hypermarket chain Carrefour
, Britain's Tesco and Germany's Metro AG
- all of which are gradually expanding to inland China
as interior cities become more affluent.
Foran could boost Walmart's position in China if he taps
those who have local expertise, some analysts said.
"The appointment itself is good in strengthening the
management in purchasing and operation, but I still have a
question on how effective it is if he didn't know much about the
(local) market," said Jason Yuan, analyst at UOB Kay Hian
Research in Shanghai.