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Asda owner Walmart has said the UK supermarket’s chief executive, Andy Clarke, is stepping down to be replaced by the head of Walmart’s Chinese business, Sean Clarke.

Walmart said Sean Clarke’s experience would allow him to “reposition the business” in a competitive market.

Sean Clarke started his retail career at Asda in 2001 and has also worked for Walmart in Japan and Canada. Asda has now reported seven straight quarters of declining sales.

The appointment comes as a surprise after Andy Clarke said last week in an interview that he would be succeeded by Roger Burnley, who is joining Asda from Sainsbury’s.

Mr Burnley has been named as Asda’s deputy chief executive and chief operating officer.

David Cheesewright, president and chief executive of Walmart International, said Mr Burnley was “a top talent and a future CEO”.

Andy Clarke has served as Asda’s chief executive for six years in an increasingly tough market. Last month, the retailer said like-for-like sales in the first quarter of the year fell 5.7% in the face of “fierce competition”.

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