Wal-Mart picks successor to longtime CFO

LOS ANGELES/NEW York (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc WMT.N named Charles Holley to succeed Chief Financial Officer Tom Schoewe, who will retire on November 30.

Wal-Mart CFO Tom Schoewe answers a question related to Wal-Mart's earnings during a media conference in Rogers, Arkansas June 5, 2008. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

The world’s biggest retailer said on Wednesday that Schoewe, 57, will stay at Wal-Mart until January 31 to help with the transition.

Holley, 54, joined Wal-Mart in 1994 and is treasurer and executive vice president of finance.

Those credentials should make him a capable CFO, said Wall Street Strategies analyst Brian Sozzi, though Wall Street could view the transition negatively since it adds uncertainty.

“Obviously, it’s something you don’t want to see from Wal-Mart considering all the changes they’ve had over the past couple months,” Sozzi said, referring to the departures this summer of the chief executive and chief merchandising officer of its U.S. discount store division.

Wal-Mart shares slipped 5 cents, or less than 1 percent, in after-hours trade.

The company has seen U.S. same-store sales fall for the past four quarters as its core customers continue to be hit by high unemployment and a weak economy.

The company, which has been trying to improve U.S. results with store remodels and other efforts, has also made it clear that international growth is a top priority.

It has been “planting seeds” in countries like Chile, Argentina and India, while also trying to grow existing operations in rapidly growing markets like China and Brazil.

On Monday, Wal-Mart said it was in talks to buy Massmart, South Africa’s third-largest listed retailer, and that it made a nonbinding proposal worth about 30 billion rand ($4.1 billion).

Wal-Mart Chief Executive Mike Duke called Holley a “talented strategist” and said he has had a key role in the company’s financial performance.

“Charles has also played a strong role in pioneering the company’s international expansion,” Duke said.

Schoewe joined Wal-Mart in 2000. He was respected by the financial community and his lighthearted appearances at the company’s annual meetings won him a following among employees.

He spent 14 years at Black and Decker prior to joining Wal-Mart.

A Wal-Mart spokesman declined to provide details on Schoewe’s future plans or say why he was retiring.

Shares in Wal-Mart closed down 0.9 percent at $53.35 on the New York Stock Exchange. They slipped 5 cents to $53.30 in afterhours trade.

Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles and Martinne Geller in New York. Editing by Leslie Gevirtz and Robert MacMillan