Mall operator Intu names Matthew Roberts CEO

April 4 (Reuters) - British shopping centre operator Intu Properties on Thursday appointed Finance Chief Matthew Roberts as its chief executive officer in place of David Fischel, who decided to step down in July last year after 18 years at the helm.

The long-awaited CEO appointment comes as Intu faces persistent declines in sales at physical stores and grapples with a string of company failures in retail sector that had forced it to scrap its final dividend in February.

Fischel decided to move out after a 3.4 billion-pound ($4.49 billion) takeover of the company by bigger rival Hammerson fell through in April.

The incoming CEO Roberts has been the finance chief for nearly nine years and was also the finance director of high-street retailer Debenhams, where he managed the retailer's market debut in 1998 and sale in 2003.

He was also part of the team that acquired The Trafford Centre in Manchester.

Intu said Roberts will take charge on April 29, with Fischel leaving Intu on April 26.

"Having been Chief Financial Officer of Intu since May 2010, Matthew has excellent real estate and retail experience and detailed knowledge of Intu's affairs," the company said.

A formal process to recruit a new finance head will begin soon and both external and internal candidates were being considered, Intu said.

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