Land Securities, Britain's largest real estate investment trust by market capitalisation, said its London managing director Robert Noel was to take over as chief executive on a salary of 680,000 pounds.

Alongside a third-quarter trading statement on Tuesday marking steady progress in difficult economic conditions, the company said current chief executive Francis Salway, 54, would depart March 31.

The decision to appoint Noel was expected but the timing was unexpected, said JP Morgan analyst Harm Meijer. We would have expected him to have proved himself delivering the London pipeline first. I think Francis just wanted to move on after eight years.

Noel said he would inject more pace into the company on a conference call, which Meijer said many investors would like to see.

More asset rotation and quicker transactions is something he may able to bring to a large cap given his mid-cap background at Great Portland Estates, Meijer said.

Land Securities, which predominantly owns London offices and UK retail centres, signed 7.1 million pounds of lettings in the last quarter of 2011 and voids in the portfolio were 3.1 percent versus 3.3 percent the previous quarter.

It also signed a new 1.05 billion pound credit facility, which the company said would help it buy property being offloaded by banks.

Together with Canary Wharf Group, majority owned by Songbird Estates, Land Securities is developing the 38-storey Walkie Talkie skyscraper in London's City financial district but has no major letting to lower the scheme's financial risk.

Lettings were taking longer to complete due to the global economic uncertainty, Salway said, adding there were no plans to slow down construction of the Walkie Talkie.

Last week, the London property market received a major blow as two large schemes stalled due to a lack of a pre-let agreement and the Investment Property Databank benchmark index showed that real estate values weakened in 2011, with a less than ideal outlook for this year.

($1 = 0.6412 pound)

(Reporting by Tom Bill; Editing by Dan Lalor)