Arctic Slope shareholders want larger dividends, more profits

Posted: Thursday, April 15, 2004

ANCHORAGE - Shareholders of the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation are demanding bigger profits and larger dividends from the billion-dollar company.

Eighteen percent of shareholders signed a petition requesting that the regional Native corporation develop a dividend plan "that fulfills the original intent of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act" to care for the social and economic well-being of Natives.

A minimum of 10 percent of ASRC's roughly 9,000 shareholders needed to sign the petition to force the meeting next month in Barrow.

Organizers say a powerful company like ASRC should be paying more than the average $500 annual dividend the typical shareholder received last year. And they want ASRC executives to explain why the company's profit margin is so thin.

Last year, the firm earned $4.9 million in profit on $1 billion in revenue. In 2002, ASRC's profit totaled $16.8 million on revenue of $974 million.

ASRC's dividend policy says the target annual dividend should be 35 percent of profits. Between 1996 and 2003, the average paid out as dividends has been 44 percent, according to a company chart.

Companies generally need to retain a portion of earnings to pay debt and make new investments to grow, ASRC executives say.

ASRC's lawyers have found that the shareholder petition was invalid because it was beyond the subject matter upon which shareholders can act.

Instead the company said shareholders should vote on the following question: "Do you believe the current dividend policy is sufficient to sustain the future growth of the ASRC?"

Beverly Patkotak Grinage, a Barrow organizer, said shareholders expect ASRC to earn stronger profits, pay bigger dividends and have a sound investment policy. Shareholders should not have to choose between sacrificing dividends for reinvestment in the company versus paying dividends at the expense of future growth, she said.

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