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Wal-Mart Appoints Danone’s Morten Knudsen as CFO for Asia

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) appointed Morten Knudsen chief financial officer for Asia as the world’s largest retailer rebuilds its leadership team in the region.

Knudsen will join Wal-Mart from Danone (BN), where he was vice president for corporate finance in Asia, Anthony Rose, a Hong Kong-based spokesman for the retailer, said in an e-mailed response to queries. The appointment takes effect Sept. 1.

Since May, Wal-Mart has lost Japanese chief Toru Noda and three of its top executives in China, including the CFO and chief operating officer. The departures come as Wal-Mart continues to expand across the region, particularly in China, where it opened 49 stores last year.

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, generated $16 billion in sales last year in Asia, about 15 percent of its total international business. It operates about 750 stores in Japan, China and India, and employs about 140,000 people in the region, Rose said.

The world’s largest company by sales expects China to overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest grocery market by 2014. Wal-Mart, China’s biggest hypermarket chain after Sun Art Retail Group Ltd., also set up an e-commerce headquarters in Shanghai and acquired an unspecified minority stake in Chinese online supermarket operator Yihaodian.

China Executives

Wal-Mart fell 0.6 percent to $53.25 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, trimming its gain over the past year to 4.15 percent.

In May, former CFO Roland Lawrence and COO Rob Cissell left the retailer to “seek new development opportunities,” the company said then. Mario-Jose Medina was named CFO in China after working in that role in Chile, the company said.

Cissell is joining India’s Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) as CEO of its Reliance Retail Ltd. division, according to a company official who declined to be identified before a public announcement.

Shawn Gray, who resigned from Wal-Mart’s China unit in June as vice president of operations, also will join Reliance Retail, a business owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, as COO, according to the official.

David Tiang, former vice president and general counsel for the company in Asia, will take over as senior vice president, legal and asset protection in China.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Boyle in New York at mboyle20@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Frank Longid at flongid@bloomberg.net; Robin Ajello at rajello@bloomberg.net

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