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ALEX BRUMMER: Is AstraZeneca boss on his way to a huge payday at Israeli generics giant?

The lack of a convincing denial from AstraZeneca that its chief executive Pascal Soriot may be on his way to Israeli generics giant Teva will be hugely worrying for investors.

It was Soriot who so effectively saw American predator Pfizer off the field of battle in 2014.

The Frenchman wooed politicians and investors with pledges of a new R&D headquarters in Cambridge, heroic predictions of future growth and the promise that the pharmaceutical behemoth was at the front of the queue in the effort to bring immunology-based cancer medicines to market.

The sharp fall in AstraZeneca’s share price in latest trading, at one point knocking some £3billion off its value, suggests the market fears the worse and Soriot is off.

Target: AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot is wanted by Israeli generics giant Teva who have reportedly offered a £17.6m golden hello

The detail in the Israeli press suggesting that Soriot is being offered a golden hello of £17.6million as well as a generous contract is the equivalent of Premier League players being lured to China by riches beyond avarice.

None of this has been confirmed so far but the silence is ominous. The big fear for Theresa May and the Government is that if Soriot does go, and a robust replacement is not found straight away, the door for a fresh American bid could be wide open.

The temptation of US firms to take advantage of the depreciation of the pound is overwhelming, as we see with the 21st Century Fox bid for Sky and the prospective takeover of Worldpay by US rival Vantiv.

Pharmaceuticals is one of the key industries for a post-Brexit UK if it is to remain competitive. If AstraZeneca and Whitehall fail to prepare for Soriot’s departure, there could be a financial and national calamity.

Sovereign risk

TheCity has a history of stretching the rules to make it more competitive.

So the Financial Conduct Authority’s new category of premium quoted sovereign companies must be seen in this context. The great prize is Saudi oil group Aramco.

Riyadh is determined to bring Aramco to Western markets and Theresa May is adamant that this is not an opportunity to be lost.

To make it work, the FCA has had to make up rules as it goes along. Aramco will be excused independent directors.

As long as trading in the free float remains sufficiently liquid, regulators will not cause trouble.

It was thought that the Aramco listing would place a value of £1.5trillion on the group but it has become clear that this might be too ambitious.

Aramco may be the greatest prize for London but we should not exclude other sovereign entities following.

The United Arab Emirates has hired Goldman Sachs et al to look at the possibility of a public offering for Abu Dhabi’s nation oil company, ADNOC.

Creating a premium listing for sovereigns that Britain trusts is all well and good. But what happens when Zimbabwe or Iran wants to raise funds in London?

What if they decide to play fast and loose, as with private listings from ENRC and Bumi?

The City regulator could find itself in a nasty, political tug-of-war.

Real time

Gross domestic product (GDP) is the current favoured measure for assessing economies.

Successive chancellors use it as a means of rating British output against our competitors in what has become a horse-racing approach to economics.

Measuring GDP has been around since the 18th century but it has not always been a favourite.

Labour prime minister Harold Wilson was fixated on trade figures and blamed them for his electoral defeat in 1970. In the 1980s, Mrs Thatcher immersed herself in the money supply.

GDP now swamps these other measures but we get an official look at figures only once a quarter. The Office for National Statistics is now proposing to remedy this by producing monthly data.

Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan used to compile his own monthly forecast of GDP. This allowed him the room to keep the White House on board before making interest rate decisions.

As Britain was pulling out of the Great Recession back in 2009/10, Chancellor George Osborne would look to VAT receipts for clues. As confidence in the economy returned, people spent more.

This too looks as if it could become part of a new suite of superfast data.

Boom time for economists.