LONDON (Reuters) - Spirits company Diageo named Chief Operating Officer Ivan Menezes as its new chief executive on Tuesday, choosing an insider to replace Paul Walsh who has been at the helm of the British firm since 2000.

Menezes will take over the top job from July 1 and Walsh will remain with the company over the next year to focus on moving "critical partner relationships" to Menezes, the maker of Guinness stout and Tanqueray gin said in a statement.

"The handover is being made at a time when the business is strong and Ivan takes on the role of CEO at an exciting stage of the company's global development," Diageo Chairman Franz Humer said.

Faced with sluggish demand in recession-hit European economies, Diageo - like many of its peers in the consumer goods market - has been snapping up brands in emerging markets, where it aims to make around half of its turnover by 2015.

Menezes originally hails from India, and headed up Diageo's key North America division for eight years before his appointment as COO last year.

"It's not a total surprise, that's the first thing to say. This has been a well-flagged transition," said Martin Deboo of Investec, adding that Menezes had been the lead candidate to take over.

"It was very much his to lose," he said.

The 57-year-old British-born Walsh had not yet decided what his next move would be, a Diageo spokeswoman said.

Walsh has a number of corporate non-executive roles, as well as working as a 'business ambassador' for the British government's business department.

(Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien, Editing by Kate Holton)

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