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TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (TEVA.TA), the world's largest generic drugmaker, said its chief executive Jeremy Levin was stepping down and finance chief Eyal Desheh would stand in on an interim basis, effective immediately.
Earlier this week, Teva and Levin denied an Israeli media report that Levin was considering resigning due to a rift with the company's board of directors.
The board of Israel-based Teva (TEVA.N) has formed a committee to search for a permanent successor for Levin, Teva said on Wednesday.
"The board and management team are fully committed to the implementation of Teva's strategy, including the development of new compounds, making strategic acquisitions, forming joint ventures and the planned acceleration of the company's cost reduction program," Chairman Phillip Frost said in a statement.
Channel 2 television had quoted unnamed sources as saying there were differences of opinion between Levin and Frost over the implementation of Teva's new strategy.
Levin took the helm of Teva in May 2012, promising to reshape the company by developing its own medicines, amid increasing competition in the generics market, and to divest businesses in non-core areas.
Earlier this month, Teva said it would cut 5,000 jobs - 10 percent of its workforce - accelerating a cost-cutting plan as it prepares for lower-priced competition to its best-selling multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone.
Channel 2 said part of the problem stemmed from conflicting ideas of laying off workers in Israel. Under the plan, hundreds of Israeli employees were set to lose their jobs, but under pressure from the government and a trade union Levin agreed to coordinate any reductions with the union and state.
Trading in Teva shares in Tel Aviv was halted and will resume at 1245 GMT following a conference call with analysts.
"Since I joined Teva, we have made tremendous progress in setting a new course for the company," Levin said on Wednesday. "I look forward to pursuing new opportunities where I can continue to apply my experience and contribute to the evolution of the global pharmaceutical industry."
Teva will report its third-quarter results on Thursday.
Reporting by Tova Cohen; Editing by Steven Scheer and Mark Potter