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Wal-Mart Adds More Uncertainty

Wal-Mart names new CFO Charles Holley, adding more uncertainty to a company that has recently been vexing investors.



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is giving investors yet another reason to be on edge, announcing the resignation of CFO Tom Schoewe.

Schoewe, who has served at the company for 10 years, will be replaced by Charles Holley, effective Nov. 31. Schoewe will stay on board until Jan. 31 to help facilitate the transition.

Holley has been at Wal-Mart since 1994 serving in various positions, most recently as executive vice president, finance and treasurer. Prior he was at Tandy Corporation, which is now




The Just Don't Get Wal-Mart!

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"I think the announcement is another in a long list that adds to uncertainty on Wal-Mart as an investment medium," Wall Street Strategies analyst Brian Sozzi, who has a hold rating on the stock, wrote in a note. "Despite still being a young guy, Schoewe is 'succeeded' as a result of an early retirement. I think if you are a Wal-Mart shareholder you have to be worried about the company from an internal standpoint given the pace of change."

Wal-Mart has been plagued by not only the economic pressures facing their consumers, but also several internal issues.

The company is coming off five consecutive quarters of U.S. sales declines, and it is expected to report another drop in its third quarter.

The recent management shakeup, for one, has done little to sooth investors' fears. New CEO of U.S. operations, Bill Simon, took over in June, and following the announcement the former head of merchandising, John Fleming, stepped down on Aug. 1. Instead of filling the chief merchandising officer spot, Simon decided to name four new heads of product to adopt these responsibilities.

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It's no secret Wal-Mart has been struggling with some of its discretionary categories, namely apparel and home furnishings, which made Wal-Mart's move not to fill the CMO position questionable.

Its product assortment has also been criticized after Wal-Mart removed some items from its shelves through its "Project Impact" initiative. This, no doubt, hurt sales, and Wal-Mart is currently in the process of restocking some of those items. Wal-Mart attempted to woo back shoppers in its second quarter with aggressive price rollbacks, but that proved unsuccessful, and the company returned to its strategy of everyday low prices.

Earlier in the week the retail giant announced it's making a $4.25 billion bid for Massmart, a leading discounter in Africa. Some criticized the bid as diverting attention away from problems in the U.S., while others view it as an opportunity for Wal-Mart to capture the emerging consumer.

Cramer: Wal-Mart Green Lights Africa >>

It also looks like Wal-Mart will be focusing its attention on smaller-format stores to buoy U.S. operations. Reports surfaced last week that the retail giant is eying smaller urban real estate, as tiny as 20,000 square feet. This expansion plan is expected to be further spelled out next month when Wal-Mart hosts its analyst day.

--Written by Jeanine Poggi in New York.

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