Hong Kong: Fashion retailer Esprit Holdings Ltd said on Monday that its executive director and chief financial officer (CFO) Chew Fook Aun has decided to resign on or before 1 June 2012, and the company is confident it will find a replacement.

An Esprit clothing store in Berlin, Germany. Photo: Bloomberg

“We feel comfortable that the transformation plan is secure in that sense. We have a strong finance team who are able to continue," he added.

Chew resigned for personal reasons, the company said in a statement.

“It was a bit of surprise and is not a good thing for the company," said Linus Yip, chief strategist at First Shanghai Securities.

Esprit said Chew was unable to meet company requirements to make frequent trips to Europe, its dominant market, where its operations are being restructured.

“We didn’t expect him to leave so soon after the company announced its transformation plan," a fund manager at a Hong Kong-based asset management group who declined to be identified said. “It suggests the transformation may not be executed as smoothly as we had expected."

Esprit, which depends on Europe for about 80% of its sales, is withdrawing from some underperforming markets and spending millions of dollars to revive its brand.

Esprit, which competes with Swedish clothing retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB and Spain’s Inditex SA, had said in September that it aimed to double sales in China to HK$6 billion over the next four years and expand its point-of-sales network to 1,900 from 1,000.

Esprit shares have been under pressure amid increasing scepticism over its turnaround plan, falling about 70% in the past year.

The stock ended up 8.7% on Monday, the highest close since 28 October, compared with a 0.73% gain in the Hang Seng Index.