Walmart’s China business has been hit by the sudden resignation of two senior executives.

Rob Cissell, its China chief operating officer, and Roland Lawrence, its chief financial officer in the region, have both resigned “due to personal reasons to explore other opportunities”.

Walmart sees China as a key market for growth along with other emerging countries as sales in its domestic US market are floundering.

Progress in China has been slow though, and the market has become increasingly competitive. It made a profit in 2008, 12 years after entering the country. Alongside local competition, international retailers such as Tesco and Carrefour are battling it out in China.

Walmart did not name replacements for the two executives resigned, or comment on the circumstances of their joint departure or implications for its China business.