McDonald's Holdings Co. (Japan) said Wednesday it will appoint as its new leader Sarah Casanova, a Canadian woman who is president of its operating company, McDonald's Co. (Japan).

By tapping Casanova, 48, to be the president and chief executive officer at both the holding and operating companies, Eiko Harada will take the post of chairman of the holding company and effectively retire from management.

The changes will be finalized after a shareholders' meeting slated for March 25 and a subsequent executive board meeting.

Last August, Harada, 65, handed over the duties of president and CEO of the operating company to Casanova, who served as regional manager of McDonald's Malaysia and Singapore operations. McDonald's Holdings is banking on Casanova's extensive global experience to strengthen the management.

Harada said in a statement that he is "confident" Casanova can develop the Japanese unit in cooperation with McDonald's overseas operations.

Harada has been part of the management since becoming vice chairman and CEO of the holding company in 2004 after leaving his post as Apple Japan Inc. president. He later assumed the posts of president at the holding and operating companies to lead the group.

McDonald's has been experiencing sluggish sales in Japan, partly due to tough competition from convenience stores.