Consumer watchdog finds wide disparities in hamentaschen prices

With Purim holiday approaching next week, the Consumer Council's roving patrols said yesterday that it has discovered large disparities in the price of hamentaschen, even among store branches belonging to the same retail chain. Comparisons between the cheapest hamentaschen on sale showed prices ranging from NIS 1.39 to NIS 3.89 per 100 grams, a difference of 180%. The Mega supermarket chain showed the widest disparities in its discount branches, with a 102% difference between Sderot and Ramat Gan. The same retailer's regular branches showed the narrowest price disparities, just 11%. "When [the holiday month of] Adar comes, joy is increased, but the price differences for hamentaschen are lessening the joy," said Ehud Peleg, director of the Consumer Council. (Gabriela Davidovich-Weisberg )

Jordanians confirm natural gas talks with Israel

Jordan's Energy Ministry yesterday confirmed reports that Arab Potash is negotiating an agreement to buy natural gas from partners in Israel's Tamar field. The gas will flow through the Sdom pipeline, which will be extended across the border, if an agreement is reached. "The gas available in the Dead Sea area is clean and cheap, and will be used in the company's plants, but there is no agreement yet," said sources at the Energy Ministry. High energy costs reduced Arab Potash's earnings by 34% last year. Jordan imports 97% of its energy requirements at a cost of 25% of its gross domestic product. Deliveries of natural gas from Egypt were disrupted by sabotage on the pipeline in the Sinai starting in 2011. (Itai Trilnick )

Arison Holdings completes debt package

Shari Arison's nvestment company Arison Holdings yesterday completed months-long negotiationsin one of the biggest such deals in years. The funds will be used to recycle a NIS 1.5 billion in bonds held by institutional investors and a NIS 800 million in debt to the banks. The new bonds being issued will carry higher interest rates. Part of the deal includes bringing the three banks Israel Discount, Mizrahi Tefahot and First International Bank of Israel, will be part of the creditors consortium. Other financial institutions and insurance companies also participated in providing the credit. Although Arison has no debt repayments due anytime soon, Bank Hapoalim's decision to suspend dividend payments has crimped an important source of cash flow for the heiress, who is the Hapoalim's controlling shareholder. (Michael Rochverger )

Producer arrested on suspected tax evasion

Film producer Yoram Globus was arrested Tuesday on suspicions that he withdrew NIS 26 million from Globus Film Distribution without reporting it to the tax authorities as income or dividends. He was released on his own recognizance on bail of NIS 100 million and will not be able to leave the country for the next 180 days. Globus, the producer of many films in Israel and the United States, controls a host of companies associated with the film industry, is also charged with not submitting annual tax returns. Some unreported funds disappeared as transactions between his holdings. Globus Distribution said in response that its actions are all above board. (Yasmin Gueta )