Hemp legalization included in new farm bill could ‘open the floodgates’ on nascent industry

Damian Farris, co-owner of Colorado Cultivars Hemp Farm, looks at the crop before it is harvested on September 5, 2017 in Eaton, Colorado. 

RJ Sangosti | Denver Post | Getty Images
Damian Farris, co-owner of Colorado Cultivars Hemp Farm, looks at the crop before it is harvested on September 5, 2017 in Eaton, Colorado.

The final 2018 Farm Bill is expected to be voted on as early as next week. The bill would legalize hemp cultivation and could be a catalyst for explosive growth in a nascent industry that some forecast could top $20 billion by 2022.

The long-awaited bill would remove industrial hemp from the federal government’s list of controlled substances, making it a lawful agricultural commodity. The hemp legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., earlier this year also allows states to become the primary regulators of hemp cultivation, enables researchers to apply for federal grants and makes the crop eligible for crop insurance.

“This open the floodgates for this industry to grow very rapidly and scale on a national level,” said Bethany Gomez, director of research for Brightfield Group, a cannabis market researcher based in Chicago.

The lion’s share of the roughly $800 million U.S. hemp market today is for products that include the non-psychoactive compound CBD, cannabidiol. Products infused with CBD are used for a wide range of medical conditions, ranging from epilepsy and multiple sclerosis to arthritis and chronic pain. Laws involving CBD products differ in each state.

Investor interest

Up to now, industrial hemp production in the U.S. has been restricted to mostly research and pilot programs although imports from Canada, China and Europe have helped fill domestic demand for everything from hemp seeds to fibers. The legalization of hemp cultivation could boost investor interest across the sector.

“In the long run, it’s all going to be managed and controlled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, just like corn, soybeans and everything else,” said Chris Boucher, CEO of Farmtiva, a California-based hemp cultivation company. “It will also become an agricultural commodity, which in turn will allow crop insurance and Wall Street will be able to invest institutional funds into the hemp industry.”

Damian Farris, co-owner of Colorado Cultivars Hemp Farm, looks at the crop before it is harvested on September 5, 2017 in Eaton, Colorado. 

RJ Sangosti | Denver Post | Getty Images
Damian Farris, co-owner of Colorado Cultivars Hemp Farm, looks at the crop before it is harvested on September 5, 2017 in Eaton, Colorado.

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., told reporters Tuesday the farm bill could be passed as early as next week.

“With any luck it’ll be passed by the end of next week, but knowing how things go around here it may drag into the week after,” said Peterson, who is expected to become chairman of the House agriculture panel in the new Congress.

A day earlier, Peterson told Minnesota Public Radio he was considering becoming a hemp producer.

“I may grow some hemp on my farm,” he said. “I’m looking at it. There’s a big market for this stuff that we’ve been ceding to Canada and other places.”

Hemp is a cannabis cousin of marijuana but it contains low levels of THC, the chemical that produces a “high” for pot users. Industrial hemp is used to make everything from apparel, foods and pharmaceuticals to personal care products, car dashboards and building materials.

“The vast majority of the market right now is going for CBD products,” said Brightfield Group’s Gomez. “You can find some hemp seed-based beauty products or hemp in some cereals and things like that, and there’s such usage on the fibers for like clothes and other industrial purposes, but that’s really minimal right now.”

Brightfield Group estimates the domestic hemp market could reach $22 billion in the next four years. The estimate factors in the hemp amendment in the farm bill becoming law.

Edible marijuana infused products by Dixie are displayed at the Cannabis World Congress Conference on June 16, 2017 in New York City. 

Spencer Platt | Getty Images
Edible marijuana infused products by Dixie are displayed at the Cannabis World Congress Conference on June 16, 2017 in New York City.

Hemp Industry Daily projects the hemp-derived CBD retail market will reach between $2.5 billion and $3.1 billion by 2022, which assumes growth in retail penetration but a scenario of no major change in current federal policies concerning hemp.

Tobacco states push hemp

“There are three words why we have hemp now, and those words are tobacco state Republicans,” said Kristin Nichols, editor at Denver-based Hemp Industry Daily, a publication owned by MJBizDaily. “There’s been strong support from lawmakers and politicians up and down in former tobacco states looking for a replacement crop.”

The hemp provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill were in the Senate version of the legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader McConnell. The Kentucky Republican put himself on the joint Senate-House conference committee formed to hammer out the details of the final farm bill.

“I know there are farming communities all over the country who are interested in this,” McConnell said in June when discussing the hemp legalization legislation before the Senate Agriculture Committee. “Mine are particularly interested in it, and the reason for that is — as all of you know — our No. 1 cash crop used to be something that’s really not good for you: tobacco. And that has declined significantly, as it should, given the public health concerns.

According to Nichols, cannabis generally grows well in areas where tobacco production once thrived, such as Kentucky and North Carolina. In the case of Kentucky, the state received over $2 billion in Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement funds and is using some of money to invest in growing its hemp industry.

Both chambers of Congress passed the farm bill in June but major differences between the bills caused a delay in finalizing an agreement. An agreement in principle on the bill was reached in late November.

Hemp legalization is just one element of the wide-ranging farm bill. The legislation also covers farm subsidies and food stamps as well as trade and rural development policy.

The House’s version of the farm bill didn’t originally include hemp legalization amendment. But the final version expected to be filed Monday and be voted on as early as Wednesday or Thursday in the House includes McConnell’s amendment.

The farm bill is usually renewed every five years and the last one expired Sept. 30. The previous farm bill, from 2014, relaxed hemp laws and allowed farmers in a handful of states, including Kentucky, to grow the crop as part of research projects.

“This will open up a lot of new markets for retailers who have been cautious,” said Lex Pelger, science director for Bluebird Botanicals, a Colorado-based company producing hemp derived CBD products. “What we’re doing is already legal under the 2014 Farm Bill, but the power of the 2018 Farm Bill is that it clearly clears hemp for general commerce.”

Easy to grow crop

Pelger said hemp is growing in Colorado despite the state not having a reputation as a farming hub. “It grows really well in a large range of climates and a large range of soils,” he said.

More than 77,000 acres of hemp were planted in research and development programs this year, according to VoteHemp, an advocacy group. That is up sharply from 2017 when there were nearly 26,000 acres of hemp crops planted.

At least 40 states have legalized industrial hemp farming or done pilot programs, usually research through a university or state agriculture agency. The hemp legislation also allows states to become the primary regulators of hemp cultivation, allows researchers to apply for federal grants and makes the crop eligible for crop insurance.

California is the nation’s largest agricultural state but so far has lagged when it comes to hemp production. Hemp can be more profitable to grow than tobacco or even some other key crops.

“You can make $20,000, $40,000 or $50,000 an acre on hemp, depending on percentage of your CBD,” said Farmtiva’s Boucher. He said fiber and hemp seed crops will produce less on per-acre basis but still be “maybe twice as much as corn.”

In October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed state legislation allowing industrial hemp cultivation in the state starting in 2019. Given the favorable climate in parts of California, farmers can get up to two crops per year of hemp plants.

“California is the big agricultural monster and if these farmers really get into hemp, they could take a good chunk of the supply chain,” said Farmtiva’s Boucher. “Unfortunately, we’re three or four years behind Colorado, Kentucky and Oregon and so we have some catching up to do.”

[“source=cnbc”]

Clutch Announces the Leading Web Design Agencies in the United States for 2018

 Clutch unveiled a list of the leading web design agencies across the United States today. These designers are experts in the latest design techniques and work closely with clients to ensure that their websites fit their unique style and business goals.

This report recognizes over 1,000 companies for their ability to deliver and commitment to client satisfaction.

“In today’s competitive digital landscape, having a unique and eye-catching design for your website is essential to stand out from the crowd,” Clutch Business Analyst DJ Fajana said. “These leaders have not only demonstrated creativity and a deep understanding of the industries they work in but also ensured that their clients are informed and happy throughout the entire design process.”

It’s free to get listed on Clutch, but only the most highly recommended companies are named as leaders in Clutch’s annual reports. These web designers have gone above and beyond to prove their industry expertise and ability to deliver.

Clutch’s research is ongoing. For a chance to be listed on Clutch’s 2019 report, apply now. It’s a free, two-step process that takes less than 20 minutes

[“source=ndtv”]

Facebook has created ‘too many adversaries,’ says analyst who just downgraded the stock

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., listens during the Viva Technology conference in Paris, France, on Thursday, May 24, 2018. 

Marlene Awaad | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., listens during the Viva Technology conference in Paris, France, on Thursday, May 24, 2018.

Stifel on Wednesday published a note saying it has lowered its rating for Facebook shares from “Buy” to “Hold,” saying political and regulatory blowback could restrict how the company operates in the long term.

“Facebook’s management team has created too many adversaries — politicians/ regulators, tech leaders, consumers, and employees — to not experience long-term negative ramifications on its business,” the firm said in a note.

The lower rating comes after a rough year in which Facebook has experienced numerous scandals, a 30-million user data breach, declining and stalling growth in key markets, an executive exodus and its worst stock performance since going public in 2012.

Stifel also published the latest results from an on-going survey of Facebook users.

The results showed 79 percent of those surveyed now believe Facebook’s impact on society is neutral or negative, compared to 73 percent in survey results published by the firm in January. The survey also found that 60 percent of respondents said they rarely or never used Facebook Stories, Marketplace or video, which are some of the company’s key new products.

Stifel said there is no downside to holding Facebook shares, but the firm no longer believes the company’s upside is what it once was.

“We believe Facebook will struggle to return to the company that it once was or that investors expected it to be in the long run,” the note reads. “We prefer Amazon, Alphabet, and Netflix, as U.S.-based mega caps with similar thematic trends and more stable operating environments.”

Facebook board: Sandberg's request to probe Soros 'entirely appropriate'
[“source=cnbc”]

Arrest of Huawei CFO shows ‘the gloves are now fully off,’ says Eurasia Group

Meng Wanzhou, Executive Board Director of the Chinese technology giant Huawei, attends a session of the VTB Capital Investment Forum "Russia Calling!" in Moscow, Russia October 2, 2014.

Alexander Bibik | Reuters
Meng Wanzhou, Executive Board Director of the Chinese technology giant Huawei, attends a session of the VTB Capital Investment Forum “Russia Calling!” in Moscow, Russia October 2, 2014.

The arrest of Huawei’s global chief financial officer in Canada, reportedly related to a violation of U.S. sanctions, will corrode trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing, risk consultancy Eurasia Group said Thursday.

“Beijing is likely to react angrily to this latest arrest of a Chinese citizen in a third country for violating U.S. law,” Eurasia analysts wrote.

In fact, Global Times — a hyper-nationalistic tabloid tied to the Chinese Communist Party — responded to the arrest by posting on Twitter a statement about trade war escalation it attributed to an expert “close to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.”

“China should be fully prepared for an escalation in the #tradewar with the US, as the US will not ease its stance on China, and the recent arrest of the senior executive of #Huawei is a vivid example,” said the statement, paired with a photo of opposing fists with Chinese and American flags superimposed upon them.

[“source=cnbc”]

Newcastle United could be the latest Premier League soccer team to have American owners in $382 million takeover

The owner of English Premier League team Newcastle United, Mike Ashley, is reportedly in talks with an American financial investment firm over a potential sale of the club.

A successful deal would bring his tumultuous 11 years in charge at the club to an end. Ashley is also the majority shareholder in U.K.-based sporting goods chain Sports Direct and gave an interview to Sky News earlier this week saying discussions over a sale “are at a more progressed stage than they have ever been.”

Fabian Schar of Newcastle United battles for possession with Bernard of Everton during a Premier League match on December 5, 2018 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. 

Jan Kruger | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images
Fabian Schar of Newcastle United battles for possession with Bernard of Everton during a Premier League match on December 5, 2018 in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

It’s now believed the bid he was referring to is from the financial advisory company Rockefeller Capital Management. Rockefeller is thought to be working with former Manchester United and Chelsea Chief Executive Peter Kenyon as part of a consortium, but it’s not known if a formal bid has been lodged yet.

Ashley could be considering as many as three other offers from interested parties — all thought to be around his £300 million ($382 million) valuation.

“I am hopeful — for the Newcastle fans, for the club, for everybody, that I will be able to step aside and we will be able to get an owner in that will please everybody,” Ashley said Monday, adding that he was not in exclusive talks with any party.

Ashley bought a controlling stake in the club in 2007 for around £134 million. He has a reported net worth of $3.8 billion and has often been criticized for a lack of investment in the playing squad at Newcastle. He added that any potential buyer must be able to provide transfer funds.

“I’m very keen to sell it to the right buyer so that everybody’s happy,” he added. “That would be good news.”

The club based in the north east of England has officially been up for sale for a year, but according to Ashley recent bids were all deemed to be unsuitable.

In order to complete any takeover, all bids are subject to the Premier League’s fit and proper person’s test, which could take as long as two weeks to complete. This would make Ashley’s estimation of a finalized deal by January 1 seem ambitious at this stage.

[“source=cnbc”]

Police raids were not the fault of Deutsche Bank management, CFO says

 

Money laundering investigation not connected to current management: Deutsche Bank CFO

Investigation not connected to current management: Deutsche Bank CFO   16 Hours Ago | 03:05

Police raids on Deutsche Bank’s offices in Frankfurt last week were not the fault of the current management team, according to the firm’s chief financial officer (CFO).

Two Deutsche Bank staff members are suspected of helping clients set up off-shore businesses to launder money gained from criminal activity.

The wrongdoing is alleged to have continued through to 2018 but the bank’s financial chief, James von Moltke, told CNBC’s Annette Weisbach Thursday that current executives shouldn’t shoulder the blame.

“To date, we are not aware of any wrongdoing on our part, so we will await the conclusion of the prosecutors,” Von Moltke said.

James von Moltke, chief financial officer of Deutsche Bank AG, speaks during a fourth quarter results news conference in Frankfurt, Germany, on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. 

Andreas Arnold | Bloomberg | Getty Images
James von Moltke, chief financial officer of Deutsche Bank AG, speaks during a fourth quarter results news conference in Frankfurt, Germany, on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018.

Following the comments, Deutsche Bank shares pared losses slightly, but remained around 3 percent lower for the session amid a wider sell-off in global markets.

The public prosecutor’s office in Frankfurt said an evaluation of data from the Panama Papers had triggered suspicion that the bank may have helped customers create offshore companies in tax havens around the world.

In 2016 alone, more than 900 customers with a business volume of 311 million euros ($353.6 million) were thought to have been cared for by a Deutsche Bank subsidiary based in the British Virgin Islands, the prosecutor said.

Von Moltke rejected the suggestion that Deutsche Bank’s present board had been weakened by the raid, adding that the current management team had made “enormous efforts” to improve controls on its system to better understand clients.

Shares of the bank slipped heavily following news of the

e police action and the firm’s corporate bond value also fell.

[“source=cnbc”]

Why the US government is so suspicious of Huawei

A man walking past a Huawei P20 smartphone advertisement is reflected in a glass door in front of a Huawei logo, at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China December 6, 2018. 

Aly Song | Reuters
A man walking past a Huawei P20 smartphone advertisement is reflected in a glass door in front of a Huawei logo, at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China December 6, 2018.

The arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada for possible Iran sanctions violations yesterday has deeper roots in a difficult legal history between the hardware giant and U.S. regulators and intelligence agencies.

The U.S. government has spent the better part of the last decade taking issue with the company over topics including the firm’s alleged espionage ties to the Chinese government and allegations of a long history of intellectual property theft. Huawei is one of China’s largest companies, with a reported $100 billion in revenue in 2018 and 180,000 employees across 170 global offices.

Starting around 2010, U.S. intelligence officials began warning agencies, and then private companies, of what it said were clear-cut cases of the company serving as a proxy for espionage conducted by the Chinese government, a claim frequently made publicly by former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden.

In 2012, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee released a report which followed an investigation into the company and its competitor ZTE.

“The Committee received almost no information on the role of Chinese Communist Party Committee within Huawei or specifics about how Huawei interacts in formal channels with the Chinese government,” the report said. “Huawei refused to provide details about its business operations in the United States, failed to disclose details of its dealings with the Chinese military or intelligence services and would not provide clear answers on the firm’s decision-making processes.”

At that time, the Intelligence Committee also called into question the company’s dealings in Iran, which Huawei had pledged to scale back in accordance with international sanctions.

“Huawei refused to provide any internal documents relating to its decision to scale-back operations in Iran or otherwise ensure compliance with U.S. laws,” the report said.

Huawei has also had trouble breaking into the U.S. market because of the U.S. intelligence reports. In 2011, the company tried to acquire 3Leaf, a deal that was nixed after government pressure.

The company’s equipment has been banned by several different agencies because of the espionage and security fears, and those bans ramped up in 2018, when President Trump disallowed U.S. government use of Huawei products and those made by ZTE, following a CIA and NSA warning in February. In January, AT&T abandoned its plans to launch a new flagship phone from Hauwei.

Huawei was also heavily rumored to be behind Trump’s decision to stop the Broadcom/Qualcomm merger. Also this year, a start-up backed by Microsoft and Dell, sued Huawei for alleged widespread IP theft. Most recently, the FCC also banned Huawei equipment from small and regional carriers earlier this year.

Huawei has strongly denied the claims made against it. Donald Purdy, both a Huawei executive and the former top cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security, said in an op-ed in Fortune in June that the moves would hurt development expansion of 5G service in the U.S.

“Policymakers should bear in mind that overreaching or poorly targeted regulations usually have unintended consequences, such as those that will surely result from the FCC’s proposal to force rural carriers to remove China-sourced equipment from their networks,” he said. “In many cases, Huawei’s is the only equipment that America’s small, independent carriers can afford.”

[“source=cnbc”]

Lyft files to go public, signalling it could be the first major tech IPO of 2019

A Lyft Amp with driver and passenger on January 31, 2017 in San Francisco, California.

Kelly Sullivan | Getty Images
A Lyft Amp with driver and passenger on January 31, 2017 in San Francisco, California.

Ride-hailing company Lyft on Thursday confidentially filed a statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering, signalling it could be the first major tech IPO of 2019.

Lyft and rival Uber have each teased 2019 public offerings. The companies have been adding offers and services practically in tandem in recent months as they get closer to a contest on the public markets.

Airbnb, Slack and data-mining firm Palantir are also reportedly eyeing IPOs next year.

Lyft did not specify the number of shares it was selling or the price range for the offering. The offering is likely to exceed the $15.1 billion valuation Lyft posted in June.

The IPO is expected to commence after the SEC completes its review process, Lyft said in its filing. CNBC reported in October that Lyft had selected J.P. Morgan Chase to lead the IPO effort. Credit Suisse and Jefferies are also involved as underwriters in a more junior capacity, people familiar with the matter told CNBC at the time.

[“source=cnbc”]

Hermes reigns in Glassdoor’s latest ‘Best places to work’ in France survey, outshining the likes of Ubisoft and Amazon

 

In its fourth year of running a top employers list for France, Glassdoor has seen several companies — like Thales and Airbus — make a reappearance over the years. This December however, the company that’s been hailed as the best place to work for 2019 is a newcomer to France’s list: fashion designer Hermes.

It’s fair to say that France is renowned for its luxury brands, yet Hermes is the only group from this field to make it into this year’s top 10, with Louis Vuitton and L’Oreal coming in at 11 and 16 respectively. Instead, a few other industries fill the top 10, including transportation and retail.

To compile, Glassdoor assessed the input that workers give when offering feedback, in addition to recent ratings, which are on a scale from 1 to 5. The top 10 firms found in this Glassdoor list surpassed the average global rating of 3.4; with each group receiving a figure of 4.2 or higher.

CNBC Make It breaks down the top 10:

10. Amazon

Coming in at number 10 is e-commerce titan Amazon. With a global workforce of more than half a million, Amazon is renowned for its job creation with the e-commerce group stating that in the past five years, it’s created over 125 jobs every day in the States alone.

While office perks vary from country to country, some benefits mentioned include access to medical care and career development programs.

9. Leroy Merlin

Another retailer that’s winning over workers as well as consumers is French-headquartered Leroy Merlin.

Leroy Merlin store in Bonarka City Center. 

Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images
Leroy Merlin store in Bonarka City Center.

The DIY group’s operations are featured in about a dozen countries, with 100,000 staff members employed to keep the retailer functioning around the clock.

Having placed on Glassdoor’s “Best Employers” for France since the survey began in 2016, the retailer attributes one reason why it remains popular among employees, is that it sees people as the “central resource” of the business.

8. Thales

Moving up from last year’s no. 24 spot, Thales is all about being a responsible leader in the transport, security and defense spheres. While Thales has attributed “acting responsibly” as a crucial quality to its long-term success, it’s not the only qualities it aims to foster.

Inside the firm, Thales is dedicated to supporting its staff, through promoting diversity, team collaboration and career development — it even has an in-house university to support employees through any part of their profession.

[“source=cnbc”]

Untuckit, the company known for its untucked shirts, is looking to raise money at a valuation greater than $600 million

Shoppers browse clothing inside an Untuckit LLC store at the King of Prussia mall in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania,  Oct. 20, 2018. 

Jeenah Moon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Shoppers browse clothing inside an Untuckit LLC store at the King of Prussia mall in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania,  Oct. 20, 2018.

Men have worn untucked shirts for years. When a company came along to sell only shirts that are designed to be untucked – not surprisingly that market turned out to be pretty lucrative.

That company, known as Untuckit, has hired a prominent investment bank to raise money and help fuel its growth, according to people familiar with the situation. Untuckit is seeking a deal that will value it at more than $600 million and has Morgan Stanley out looking for the funds.

In doing so, it follows a similar path forged by other brands like sustainable sneaker brand AllBirds, which in October raised $50 million from T. Rowe Price, Fidelity and Tiger Global.

Untuckit has roughly $150 million in sales and is profitable, the people said. It raised $30 million from venture firm Kleiner Perkins last June, reportedly valuing it at more than $200 million.

The people asked not to be named because the information is confidential. Untuckit and Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

Untuckit is the brainchild of Executive Chairman Chris Riccobono and CEO Aaron Sanandres. Riccobono had been struggling to find a dress shirt that wasn’t too big or too baggy. He worked to develop a professional solution with his fellow Columbia Business School classmate.

The two launched the brand online in 2011. Four years later, they opened its first brick-and-mortar store in New York’s SoHo district. The co-founders were early believers in the idea that e-commerce companies can benefit from storefronts, which can help to alleviate marketing and delivery costs.

Untuckit now has 50 stores nationwide and has said it aims to open 100 stores over the next five years.

The brand has also expanded beyond men who want to go untucked. It now sells shirts, dresses, tees and jackets for women, as well as shirts and bottoms for boys.

[“source=cnbc”]