Former Asda executive Judith McKenna has been promoted by Walmart to run its international division.

McKenna held roles including chief operating officer and chief finance officer at Asda before moving to Walmart, where she is currently chief operating officer of its US division.

She will succeed Dave Cheesewright as president and chief executive of Walmart International on February 1. Cheesewright, another former Asda executive, is retiring from a full-time role but will continue to do project work for Walmart. 

Running Walmart’s international unit – which includes Asda – has served as a stepping stone to the top job. Current Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon and his predecessor Mike Duke both once held the role.

Walmart’s international business reported net sales of $29.5bn in its last quarter, accounting for nearly 25% of the company’s total sales. The division spans 55 banners in 27 countries and comprises more than 6,200 stores.

McMillon said: “I’ve had the pleasure to work with Judith for many years and have seen first-hand her ability to lead strategic change, build relationships with our associates and strengthen our business. It has been inspiring to see her personal growth and the results she’s driven over the years. Her integrity, high expectations and passion for the business and our associates will ensure our continued success in International.”

McKenna, who has been named in Fortune Magazine’s list of Most Powerful Women for the past three years, has been instrumental in bringing some of Asda’s successful innovations to Walmart’s US stores, such as the “topstock system”, where excess inventory gets stored above shelves rather than in a back room.

She said: “Being chosen to lead Walmart International truly is an honor, and I can’t think of a more exciting time to be in this part of the business. I look forward to building upon our progress to improve the experience for our customers and associates around the world.”