SOUTH AFRICA – Massmart, Walmart owned South African retailer, has announced the appointment of Mitchell Slape as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and executive director of the company.

Mitchell Slape, the chief executive officer of Walmart Japan, will replace Guy Hayward who is set to step down from as chief executive by the end of the year after five years in the position.

“After almost 20 years in the business, the past five of which have been as chief executive officer, Guy Hayward has informed the board of his decision to step down from his role before the end of 2019.

“Guy has guided Massmart through exceedingly challenging market conditions and has worked to position the business for future growth,” Massmart said in a statement earlier.

The appointment of a Walmart veteran is set to streamline the company’s performance as the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) listed firm has been losing market share to rivals such as e-commerce site Takealot.

Slape has extensive leadership experience across a range of retail formats and Walmart markets, including the United States, Japan, India and Mexico. 

He has served in previous positions at Walmart which include chief operating officer of Walmart’s business in Japan and senior vice-president of international business development at Walmart International.

“Mitchell is a career retailer and has been with Walmart since 1995.

“Mitchell’s well-established Walmart network and extensive retail experience uniquely position him to leverage the relevant resources needed to elevate Massmart’s operating performance,” Massmart said.

Indication are that the move by Walmart, which is holds 52% stake in Massmart,  seeks to ensure the US based retailer becomes more involved in Massmart’s operations as it looks to turn around the struggling firm.

In a recent trading update, Massmart warned earnings for the six months to June could more than halve, even after recording a 23% decline in headline earnings in the past year alone.

According to Gryphon research analyst portfolio manager, Casparus Treurnicht, Slape’s appointment could also signal a possibility of Walmart taking full control of Massmart.

“Sending in an ex-Walmart as its new CEO would be a good way to complete due diligence and identify how easy it can be bought out without drama,” he argued.

But even if the US retailer opted to take full control, it would not be easy “For Walmart to delist the group they would first need to convince authorities and face resistance from minorities,” Treurnicht said.