Somerfield's new chief executive Alan Smith arrives this week amid a commitment from the group that its focus on neighbourhood retailing and home delivery will remain unchanged. Smith will be charged with improving the trading performance of the business after acting chairman Lady Louise Patten withdrew the group from takeover talks with unnamed parties last week. Former chief executive David Simons, who left this week, had been rumoured to be putting together a management buyout three weeks ago. Simons will receive a £460,000 pay off. Smith, a former managing director of Kingfisher's B&Q and Superdrug chains, leaves Punch Taverns where he was chief executive. Somerfield hopes to announce the appointment of an executive chairman shortly. Lady Patten is to stay on as a non-executive director. Despite the management change, analysts are not convinced Somerfield can trade its way out of difficulty. Investec Henderson Crosthwaite analyst David Stoddart said: "The bottom line is that if it has any value it is as a break-up plan. Nobody thinks Somerfield can be in a growth situation." Shares slid 6p on the day of the announcement to 57.5 and continued to slide a further 0.5p a day later as The Grocer went to press. It is a far cry from the flotation price of 145p in August 1996. Shares reached a high at the beginning of last year when they reached 458.5p. l Simons last week stood down as chairman of the IGD. His position will be taken by Sir Ross Buckland. {{NEWS }}