Major private investor of seafood factory backs out

Posted: Wednesday, June 21, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The major foreign backer of a $125 million seafood factory in Anchorage wants out of the project, forcing Alaska Seafood International to scramble to find new investors.

State officials are helping with the search to replace Taipei-based Central Investment Holding Co., by far the biggest private investor in the plant.

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority has a $50 million stake in ASI and owns the 184,000-square-foot factory.

Both company and state officials said Monday a pullout by the Taiwanese is unfortunate but not a disaster for the plant.

''It's too soon to say this thing's going to be successful. It's too soon to say this thing's doomed,'' said Randy Simmons, executive director at AIDEA. ''We knew all along there were going to be bumps.''

ASI president John Brady said he's confident of finding replacements for Central Investment's original $50 million commitment. He said talks are underway with two strong prospects, whom he declined to identify.

Simmons said one possible option would be for the state to buy a bigger stake in the plant.

He said the pullout by Central Investment has to do with a huge political swing in Taiwan, where the Kuomintang or KMT, the ruling party for half a century, suffered a big election defeat in March. Central Investment is one of KMT's multibillion-dollar holding companies.

The president-elect in Taiwan has vowed to shake up the global KMT business empire, which includes banks, real estate, media companies, hotels, farming and seafood operations, including the Anchorage plant, which began to operate only last fall.

Brady said the Taiwanese now seem inclined to pull in their foreign investment money.

Central Investment was by far the plant's biggest private investor. Simmons said one possibility is to have the state buy a bigger stake in the plant.

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