Williams Alaska mulls offers

Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Williams Cos. said it has received one unsolicited offer for its Alaska operations and expects more.

The company announced Tuesday that it would sell its North Pole refinery, gas stations and stake in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline in an effort to raise cash to shore up its balance sheet.

Williams Cos. said it wanted to raise $1 billion from the sale of its Alaska assets as well as a Memphis refinery and accompanying properties.

The Tulsa, Okla.-based company said it needs to raise $8 billion.

Williams Alaska Petroleum has been profitable for Williams Cos. but refining doesn't fit in its core business anymore, the company said.

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority would like to be part of a viable purchase, said Lynn Kenney, AIDEA spokeswoman. No businesses or interested parties have approached the agency for financial backing yet, she said.

''We believe the Williams operation is an important part of the Alaska economy,'' she said. ''We certainly are willing to take a look at it when someone brings it to the table.''

An Alaska owner is a good idea, said Jeff Cook, Williams Alaska Petroleum spokesman. ''Williams is going to entertain any qualified buyers and is going to entertain any offers from Alaska companies''

Sen. Frank Murkowski, who is running for governor, is pushing for an Alaska company to take over Williams' Alaska assets.

''Opportunities of this magnitude to invest in profitable Alaska firms are, indeed, rare,'' Murkowski said. Murkowski said he has talked to Alaska companies interested in buying the Williams operations, but he declined to name them.

Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, Republican Murkowski's Democratic opponent for the fall governor's race, liked the idea of an Alaska consortium purchasing Williams Cos.'s Alaska assets. But the initial push has to come from the private sector, not the state, she said.

''In general I think it is up to the private sector to decide what is economical,'' she said. ''(We have to) see what consortium of Alaska business step forward to make a deal.''

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