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Ex-BoE man highlights alleged ‘insider trading bonanza’ at Astra

Ex-BoE man highlights alleged ‘insider trading bonanza’ at Astra

A former senior adviser to the Bank of England has highlighted unusual trading patterns in AstraZeneca before it publicly disclosed a takeover approach from Pfizer.

AstraZeneca revealed on Monday that Ian Read, chairman and chief executive of Pfizer, had first contacted it on 25 November 2013 to ‘discuss a combination’.

AstraZeneca subsequently staged ‘an exploratory meeting’ with Pfizer on 5 January 2014 in New York. Neither event was announced to markets.

In the six months until November 2013, AstraZeneca’s share price had lagged the wider FTSE 100, losing 1.5% while the index gained 4.7%.

Since November, AstraZeneca’s stock has surged 14.3% while the FTSE 100 has dropped 1.6%.

The divergence between the two was most marked in January when AstraZeneca rose by 8% and the index fell by 3.5%.

January also brought a spike in the trading of AstraZeneca shares. Between May 2013 and December 2013, trading volumes were consistently around £1.5 billion per month. This leapt to £2.5 billion in January, and has remained above £2 billion since then.

Since 31 October 2013, AstraZeneca has released three sets of financial results. Each of these featured double-digit percentage declines in both the company’s profits and earnings per share.

In a blog today entitled ‘AstraZeneca: Insider Trading Bonanza???’ for the Cass Business School, where he is a lecturer, Peter Hahn supposed that regulators would take a keen interest in these patterns, although there is not concrete evidence of insider dealing.

‘The lack of an AstraZeneca board announcement will certainly be questioned, but it looks like a dead certainty that many a regulator and lawyer will be very busy,’ commented Hahn, who from 2009 until March 2014 was a senior adviser to the Bank of England focused on the Prudential Regulation Authority.

A spokesperson for AstraZeneca declined to comment.

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Profile: The opportunity set that attracted Brett Williams to wealth management

Profile: The opportunity set that attracted Brett Williams to wealth management

Brett Williams is best known for helping to build some of the biggest platforms in the IFA market.He made the move over to wealth management to head SEI’s UK business earlier this year in the belief that this is where the best opportunities now lie.

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