Head of construction Paul Sheffield will take over from John Dodds in April 2010

Kier has announced that Paul Sheffield will succeed John Dodds as chief executive.

Sheffield, 48, will take up the role next April when Dodds steps down after nearly 40 years with the company.

Sheffield joined Kier as a graduate civil engineer in 1983 and is currently boss of Kier’s construction, infrastructure and overseas businesses.

It had been thought that either Sheffield or Ian Lawson, who heads up the company’s support services business, would get the nod for the top job due to Kier’s policy of making internal appointments for top posts.

Cenkos Securities analyst Kevin Cammack said: “Sheffield has been Dodd's ‘boy’ going back to their days on international duty but I had actually expected Ian Lawson to get the nod. Still, Paul’s appointment will be appreciated and expect nothing other than continuity from the group in terms of style or strategy, at least in the foreseeable future.”

Dodds said: "I've worked with Paul for over 25 years and I am absolutely convinced that he is the right man to lead Kier into the future. Paul is highly talented and I look forward to working with him to ensure a seamless transition during the lead up to my retirement."

Phil White, Kier chairman, added: "Following a thorough selection process of internal and external candidates, we are delighted to appoint Paul Sheffield as John's successor. We believe that Paul's experience, skills and intimate knowledge of the business provides a very firm foundation for building on the excellent work that John has achieved.