Business news in brief

Posted: November 8, 2017 at 1:58 a.m.

Croatia claims theft; magnate arrested

Croatia's richest businessman was arrested Tuesday in Britain amid allegations he embezzled millions from his large retail company, leading it into a wide-reaching bankruptcy that is now an issue of national concern in Croatia and the Balkans.

Ivica Todoric, 66, the founder of Croatia's biggest private food and retail company, Agrokor, appeared in Westminster Magistrates' Court, where his lawyer said he will fight extradition to Croatia.

District Judge Richard Blake granted Todoric freedom on $132,000 bail.

"The context in which I grant you bail is the knowledge that both within this country and throughout the world, your assets are frozen and your ability to obtain money is limited," the judge said. The judge also set conditions requiring that Todoric wear an electronic tag, sign in at a London police station three times a week and give up his travel documents.

He and his former aides are being investigated over the company's financial downfall. Todoric, who denies wrongdoing, has been accused of embezzling tens of millions of euros of Agrokor's funds for personal gain.

Agrokor, which began as a flower-growing operation in the former Yugoslavia in the 1970s, underwent a rapid expansion over the past decades that saw it run up debts of about $7 billion. The company employs about 60,000 people throughout the Balkans.

The Associated Press

Armored cars proposed for pot-tax cash

LOS ANGELES -- California should use armored cars to transport hundreds of millions of dollars in cash tax payments expected next year with the state's legal marijuana market, state Treasurer John Chiang said Tuesday.

The state on Jan. 1 will enter a new era with cannabis when recreational sales become legal and join the long-standing medical industry in what will become the largest U.S. legal pot economy.

But the new market, estimated to grow to $7 billion annually, has a troubling flaw: Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, so most banks won't do business with pot growers, manufacturers or retailers. That means marijuana companies typically operate only in cash, including their tax payments that will be 15 percent of sales to the state of California.

The armored car tax collection solution came about amid fears that operators carrying large bags of cash could be targets for theft and create problems for the state workers collecting and counting the money.

The Associated Press

Confidence crucial for Fed, Yellen says

WASHINGTON -- Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen says that the Fed's effectiveness critically depends on the nation's confidence that the central bank is acting only in the public's interest.

Yellen says it is important for Fed officials to "demonstrate our ethical standards in ways that leave little room for doubt."

Yellen's remarks came at a ceremony where she and former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke were honored with this year's Paul H. Douglas Award for Ethics in Government, named for the late Illinois senator. Yellen and Bernanke were recognized for their efforts to increase transparency at the historically secretive Federal Reserve.

Yellen's comments were her first public remarks since President Donald Trump announced last week that he was bypassing her and nominating Fed board member Jerome Powell as the next Fed chairman.

The Associated Press

Timber set to soar after Canada mill fire

Lumber prices that have soared amid a Canada-U.S. trade dispute could rise even higher after a fire at a British Columbia sawmill cut supplies.

Futures are trading at a 23-year high amid rising demand for housing and after the U.S. imposed tariffs on softwood imports from Canada. The rally could extend after a major fire on Thursday at Tolko Industries' Lakeview mill, which accounts for about 2 percent of production in British Columbia's interior, CIBC analyst Hamir Patel said Monday in a note.

Canada is the world's largest softwood lumber exporter and the U.S. is its biggest market.

They are "hoping to jack up prices at the Canadian mills to offset final duties," said Kevin Mason, managing director of Vancouver-based ERA Forest Products Research, in an email.

Bloomberg News

Old barley next new thing in craft beer

A batch of barley that lay forgotten for almost 100 years in storage at farm in Portland, Ore., has found new life -- thanks to booming demand for craft beer.

It turns out the barley makes a malt that is much in demand from Oregon's growing legion of craft brewers and is among a wave of ancient varieties revived by the likes of GrainCorp Ltd., the giant Australian crop handler that also ranks as the world's fourth-biggest malting company.

"We have had retired farmers step forward and say, 'I've had this stored for years,' and we can go back and trace what it is by DNA," GrainCorp Chief Executive Officer Mark Palmquist said in an interview in his Sydney office.

Craft beer has underpinned a revival in barley demand because it uses twice as much malt as regular pilsner. Demand for specialty brews is set to continue to grow and consumption of dark and craft beer in the U.S. has grown at about 9 percent a year since 2007, according to Bloomberg Intelligence, citing Euromonitor Passport data.

Demand for craft beer rose 6.2 percent in volume terms in the U.S. in 2016 and 10 percent in value terms to $23.5 billion, according to the Brewers Association.

Bloomberg News

Business on 11/08/2017