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Rumours are part of business, says AstraZeneca chief amid rival job offer claims


AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot (AstraZeneca/PA)

AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot (AstraZeneca/PA)

AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot (AstraZeneca/PA)

AstraZeneca's chief executive has played down rumours that he is planning to leave to join Israeli rival Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, telling staff he plans to work "together" with it to see the company succeed.

In an internal memo dated July 16, seen by Bloomberg, Pascal Soriot did not confirm or deny reports that he had accepted a job offer from Teva. He merely said rumours were "part of everyday business" and that the company did not comment on speculation.

But the French-born 58-year-old indicated that he was still committed to driving the business forward, saying: "Together, we are poised to achieve something remarkable and that few thought possible."

And in a direct reference to his reported exit, he said: "Nothing can break the momentum you have established, and certainly not rumours."

Shares in the London-listed pharmaceutical giant tumbled last week after reports of Mr Soriot's departure first emerged in an Israeli publication.

Tel-Aviv based financial news agency Calcalist said Mr Soriot had met Teva's search committee and agreed to take the helm as its chief executive, sending the stock down almost 4% in the following two days.

While AstraZeneca stood firm on its policy not to respond to speculation, the memo was clearly designed as a way to quell concerns about Mr Soriot's future there.

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Mr Soriot has led the firm since 2012, while Teva - the world's biggest generic drugmaker - has been without a permanent chief executive since February, when Erez Vigodman stepped down.

An AstraZeneca spokesman said: "Pascal routinely communicates with employees.

"In this case he wanted to address any concern that may exist as a result of speculation in media and reiterate that collectively we are all focused on our great progress and priorities," he said.

He added that Mr Soriot would be hosting next week's analyst call as usual, when the company reports its first-half results.