Two senior Wal-Mart executives in China have resigned due to "personal issues", as competition in the supermarket business heats up, while Intel is sending a key figure to head Intel China in a sign of its high hopes for the unit.

The revolving door of executive appointments is not always a sign of trouble in the underlying business, after all, Wal-Mart China's chief financial officer, Roland Lawrence, and chief operating officer, Rob Cissell, could really have personal issues.

However, swift changes in personnel, especially two at once, are likely to raise investor suspicions. The company is not commenting on the departures and has not yet announced replacements.

Wal-Mart is enjoying double-digit growth in China, with $7.5bn sales in 2010, and the retailer is committed to investing in the China: it is in the process of completing its acquisition of Trust-mart, which it started in 2007, and has recently bought stakes in e-retailers 360buy.com and Yihaodian.

But the supermarket industry is tough -- with rivals racing to expand across the country and the government putting pressure on retailers not to raise their prices.

Foreign operators like Wal-Mart, Tesco and Carrefour face several strong domestic competitors like Lianhua and China Resource Enterprise's Vanguard chain, and also see wet markets and street vendors as rivals who don't have to pay the same rents or taxes.

As the government gets increasingly concerned about food inflation, companies are under pressure not to raise prices. Unilever got slapped with a fine for even talking about price hikes and at the beginning of the year both Walmart and its French competitor Carrefour were accused of advertising false prices.

Meanwhile, Intel is beefing up its presence in the country by moving Sean Maloney, executive vice president, to Beijing to fill the new position of chairman for Intel China.

Intel told Bloomberg that this unprecedented move -- to put such a high level executive in a foreign country -- underlined its commitment to China, which accounted for 56 per cent of the PC maker's revenue in the first quarter.

First time computer buyers in emerging markets still often favour the old-fashioned PC rather than a tablet or netbook, as rival Lenovo's EM sales growth shows. But Intel is not just betting on the PC in China: it recently signed a deal with Tencent to develop tablet computers.

See also:
Full coverage of Wal-Mart - FT Tilt
Full coverage of Intel - FT Tilt