* Sodexo CEO Landel to step down at January 2018 AGM
* Digital boss Denis Machuel named as Landel's successor
* Machuel to become Deputy CEO on Sept. 1, 2017
* Machuel to work alongside Landel during transition period
By Dominique Vidalon and Matthieu Protard
PARIS, May 30 French catering-to-vouchers group Sodexo said on Tuesday that digital boss Denis Machuel would replace veteran Chief Executive Michel Landel, who is retiring in January 2018.
To ensure a smooth transition, Machuel, 53, who also heads Sodexo's benefits and rewards business, will become deputy CEO as of Sept. 1, and work alongside Landel, added Sodexo.
Landel, 65, will retain full responsibility for Sodexo's strategy and management until he steps down at the annual shareholders meeting on Jan. 23, 2018. He will also stay on the board of directors until January 2020.
"Denis Machuel knows all our businesses very well. He has an international profile and also a digital expertise, which is crucial today. He is well armed to take the group forward," Landel told Reuters, adding he had been preparing his succession for several years.
Sodexo, founded in 1966, operates in 80 countries and has a stock market value of 18.5 billion euros ($21 billion). It is the world's second-biggest catering services company after Compass Group.
Sodexo manages canteens and facilities for office workers, armed forces, schools, hospitals and prisons, and also supplies vouchers for meals and gifts. Its clients range from the Royal Ascot Racecourse in England to the U.S. Marine Corps.
SOLID GROWTH AT MACHUEL'S REWARDS UNIT
Landel, who joined Sodexo in 1984 and became CEO in 2005, oversaw Sodexo's transformation and expansion into a group with sales of over 20 billion euros and 425,000 employees.
"Under his leadership the group's revenue grew more than 70 percent, our operating profit has more than doubled, net profit more than tripled and the share price was multiplied by four," Sodexo Chairwoman Sophie Bellon said.
Under Landel, Sodexo started to focus more on the faster-growing facilities management services area, compared to its core catering business. The main catering part now makes 70 percent of revenue against 80 percent in 2005.
Sodexo has also expanded in emerging markets and in the benefits and rewards businesses, which issue pre-paid vouchers and cards to employees on behalf of their employers.
The 'Benefits & Rewards' arm, which Machuel has led since 2012, contributes 4 percent of group sales but makes 20 percent of operating profit.
While its growth in Latin America has been affected by a recent recession in Brazil, Machuel told Reuters that Sodexo nevertheless remained "very confident on Brazil medium-term."
Machuel, who joined Sodexo in 2007, has worked in France, Britain, Egypt and the United States. He has been a member of the Sodexo's executive committee since 2014 and became Sodexo's Chief Digital Officer in January 2015.
($1 = 0.8961 euros) (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)
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