Aussie winemaker Southcorp has appointed John Ballard as its new chief executive following the departure in February of former director and CEO Keith Lambert.

Southcorp's underlying UK wine earnings fell 53% in the first half as an aggressive promotional campaign failed to increase sales and the group posted a 97% plunge in first half net profit and warned it would miss its full-year target.

Ballard takes up his post on April 28. He is currently chairman of paint company Wattyl and a director of retailer Woolworths and supplies manufacturer CSR. He will discontinue the roles before starting at Southcorp.