Former Woolworths commercial and marketing managing director Tony Page has joined Russian retailer Lenta as commercial director.

His appointment at the privately owned hypermarket group - where former Woolworths chief executive Steve Johnson is a non-executive director and in which private equity firm TPG has a stake - is indicative of the demand for UK retail talent in emerging markets.

It has also stoked speculation that Lenta may be being groomed for sale to a foreign buyer. There has been frequent speculation, most recently in May this year, that Walmart, which is scouting the Russian market, is interested in Lenta. Before joining Woolworths, Page was Walmart-owned Asda’s general merchandise trading director. Johnson also spent seven years at Asda.

However, one source familiar with Lenta dismissed the speculation. TPG bought its 35% stake in Lenta last October, when Walmart might have been expected to swoop but did not, because the grocery giant prefers to buy businesses in their entirety.

The source said: “Walmart is still interested in Russia. It’s a good fit for them. But I’m not aware of any specific discussions between Walmart and Lenta.”

No comment was available from Page, who started his new job earlier this year. He had previously put all his energy into raising Woolworths from the ashes but that ultimately proved impossible.