Smaller transfer expected for dividend payments

JUNEAU — Alaskans could see a smaller Permanent Fund dividend this fall. The Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. on Thursday said it expects to transfer $605 million to the dividend division for checks — down from $801 million last year and the lowest transfer since fiscal year 2005.

The amount of investment earnings allocated to dividends is based on a five-year rolling average of Permanent Fund performance. Dropping from the average this year is 2007, a recent high-water mark in which the fund earned $3.4 billion in statutory net income, realized gains used in calculating the dividend. Staying in is 2009, during the recession, when the fund recorded its first net loss in the statutory net income. The statutory net income earned this past fiscal year was $1.6 billion.

Michael Burns, CEO of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., said he hated to call this the “new norm,” but he said it may be closer to whatever the new norm is. He said he’s not trying to predict markets but noted the low interest rates being returned on bonds — yields of less than 1.5 percent in some cases, where several years ago they might have been around 4.5 percent or so, he said.

The formula used to calculate the dividend also will remain depressed until 2009 falls out, he said.

Last year’s dividend amount, $1,174, was the lowest since 2006.

It was a mixed year for the fund overall, which reported essentially flat returns on its investments during the fiscal year that ended Monday. The fund ended the year with a value of $40.3 billion, up from $40.1 billion a year earlier.

Burns said stocks comprise about half the fund’s investments and this was a volatile year, particularly in overseas markets. He said bond and real estate portfolios helped offset the poor stock performance and result in a positive return. Fund investments returned 0.02 percent for the year.

Burns said it’s important to keep in mind that the fund has taken a long-term view as an investor.


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