Tesco has appointed the head of its Japanese operation as group strategy director shortly after Philip Clarke, its new chief executive, hinted the grocer was considering exiting the Asian country.
Michael Fleming, who was the chief executive of Tesco Japan for three years, started back in the UK in the first week of May in the newly created role that has a global remit.
It is the latest move by Mr Clarke – who took the helm from Sir Terry Leahy in March – to bring back high-ranking lieutenants to the UK from Tesco's operations in Europe and Asia.
As part of the supermarket chain creating a new UK board in January, long-standing Tesco executives Bob Robbins and Per Bank returned to senior roles on these shores. Ken Towle, the former chief executive of Tesco China, has also come back as group director of internet retailing but he does not sit on the UK board.
Tesco operates in 14 countries but it has struggled in Japan since it launched there by acquiring the C Two-Network chain in 2003. Mr Clarke said last month that Tesco would not open any more stores or commit more capital expenditure in Japan "unless it sees a way to win".
Tesco is poised to unveil a new chief executive in Japan, following the change of role for Mr Fleming. He joined Tesco in 1996 and was business development director before going to Japan in 2008.
The strategy role at the grocery giant previously fell under the remit of main-board member Andy Higginson, the chief executive of retailing services.
While Tesco delivered an 11.3 per cent uplift in pre-tax profits to £3.54bn for the year to 26 February, Mr Clarke said its UK business "can do better".
In a further changing of the guard at Tesco, Sir Richard Broadbent, Barclays' deputy chairman, will replace David Reid as chairman in November.