Sealaska earns $28.8 million

Native corporation will pay shareholders dividend of $2 or $3 per share

Posted: Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Sealaska's 17,200 shareholders will receive a dividend of $2 or $3 per share depending on individual status, authorities from the regional Native corporation for Southeast Alaska announced Friday.

The corporation's logging, investments in financial markets and a plastic manufacturer helped contribute to net earnings of $28.8 million in 2003. Sealaska will award the dividends April 16.

Sealaska is the regional Native corporation for Southeast Alaska. Forty percent of its shareholders live in Southeast Alaska; 2,500 live in Juneau. The average shareholder owns 100 shares. The average shareholder with at-large status this year would get $300 total, while those giving a portion to village services would average $200.

"This is the second year of very positive earnings after our prior losses, and we're certainly very pleased to report the progress to our shareholders," said Chris McNeil Jr., president and CEO of the corporation.

"What is also very significant to us is that this constitutes a net $11 million gain and increase to our permanent fund for shareholders," he said.

The value of the permanent fund, from which Sealaska pays shareholders an annual dividend, increased from $64 million to $75 million, mostly because of strong performance of the stock market, McNeil said.

Sealaska's investment in a plastic manufacturing company paid off in 2003 after poor performances contributed to losses of $122 million and $21 million respectively in 2000 and 2001, McNeil said.

The largest portion of the profits came from good stock investments. Timber operations brought in about $6 million in profits.

Though the earnings are down from 2002, when Sealaska earned $40.5 million on its various investments, the year was still "excellent," said Todd Antioquia, spokesman for the corporation.

"Last year we had two investments that matured early ... and lead to a really tremendous year last year," Antioquia said.

A $40 million investment in AT&T's Alaska Native Wireless project contributed $33 million to Sealaska's 2002 earnings. Investment in a casino built by the San Pasqual Indian Band in San Diego County, Calif., contributed $8.7 million to Sealaska's 2002 income.

Some Sealaska shareholders continue to question the corporation's money management after the large losses several years ago.

Georgia Finau, a shareholder in Juneau, said she has stopped paying attention to Sealaska after years of what she perceived as a lack of concern for shareholders on the part of the management.

"Look how many years they've been there," Finau said. "The same people get the same benefits, their corporate offices, their bonuses."

Though she's happy Nypro, Sealaska's plastics company based in Mexico, is doing well, she wishes the corporation could have found a way to provide manufacturing jobs in Juneau, she said.

Ike Cropley, who was a member of the now-defunct dissident group Shareholders for Shareholders two years ago, shares Finau's thoughts.

"We don't get anything out of it," Cropley said. "The people that work there, the management people, they're living real good, lots of money, and the shareholders don't have any."

Shareholders will be able to talk with Sealaska management at five meetings happening in Petersburg, Wrangell, Hydaburg, Klawock and Craig the first week in April. The corporation's annual meeting of shareholders will be June 12 in Sitka.

• Christine Schmid can be reached at christine.schmid@juneauempire.com.



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