Business Briefs

Posted: Thursday, November 16, 2000

Gas opportunities highlight RDC conference

Expanding opportunities to develop North Slope natural gas are the first-day theme for the 21st annual conference of the Resource Development Council.

The conference, titled Alaska Resources: Expanding Opportunities, is today and Friday at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage. Today's session covers the full range of North Slope natural gas issues, from regulatory, permitting and legislative considerations to political and economic realities.

One option for bringing North Slope gas to market is a pipeline to Alberta, where the gas could be shipped through existing pipelines to the Lower 48. One possible route runs from the North Slope to Fairbanks, then down the Alaska Highway. Another crosses the Beaufort Sea to the Mackenzie River delta, then runs through the Northwest Territory.

During a lunch presentation, the premiers of Canada's Yukon and Northwest territories will discuss their perspectives. Gov. Tony Knowles will give Alaska's position.

Also today, Alaska's three major producers and owners of the gas, Exxon, Phillips and BP, will discuss their efforts to commercialize the gas. Sponsors for the two major pipeline routes to the Lower 48 will speak. There also will be panel discussions on the options to convert North Slope gas to synthetic crude, which could be shipped through the existing oil pipeline to Valdez, or to cool it to a liquid for shipment aboard tankers to Pacific Rim buyers.

Friday's session will focus on Alaska economic trends and developments in the timber, mining, fishing and tourism industries.

ACS reports third-quarter loss

Alaska Communications Systems Group Inc. reported third quarter 2000 revenues of $74.9 million and a net loss of $10.9 million, compared with revenues of $75.5 million and a net loss of $4.9 million for the third quarter of 1999. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, were $21.1 million, down from $26.2 million for the third quarter last year.

ACS subsequently announced a reorganization of senior management.

"We are effecting these assignments to better match the strengths and talents of our senior officers to support strategic ACS initiatives," said Chuck Robinson, chairman and chief executive.

The third-quarter 2000 results include special charges totaling $7.4 million, including $1.5 million for the attempted acquisition of Matanuska Telephone Association and $632,000 in severance costs from a workforce reduction of about 100 personnel. The workforce reduction and other improvements are expected to cut costs by roughly $10 million beginning in the fourth quarter of 2000.

The special charges also include $3.6 million for network access revenue reserves stemming from a complaint filed with the Federal Communications Commission. The complaint concerns jurisdictional treatment of Internet traffic minutes in establishing interstate access rates. ACS expects a ruling by January 2001. The special charges include $1.7 million for local network service revenue reserves, reflecting historical deficiencies in back office collection operations. Those have been corrected, ACS said.

"The actions we have taken this quarter recognize outstanding issues and will provide a much clearer focus on the results of our operations going forward," Robinson said. "Based on the progress we have made to date, we expect to achieve fourth quarter 2000 revenues in the range of $75 to $77 million and EBITDA in excess of $30 million.

Missing Alaskans owed tax refunds

The federal Internal Revenue Service is looking for 342 Alaskans to whom it has been unable to deliver tax refund checks worth a total of $175,690. That amounts to an average of $514 due to each missing taxpayer.

Taxpayers who believe the IRS owes them money can call (800) 829-1040.

Unclaimed refunds most often result when the taxpayer moves and the refund is returned to the IRS as undeliverable. Sometimes, taxpayers provide incomplete return addresses or addresses with transposed numbers. According to the IRS, the best way to guard against undeliverable refunds is for taxpayers to have the IRS deposit them directly to bank accounts.

The IRS urges taxpayers who have moved since filing their last tax return to file Form 8822, Change of Address.

Chamber mixer planned at Picture Alaska Art Gallery

The next Homer Chamber of Commerce Mixer is Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Picture Alaska Art Gallery at 448 E. Pioneer Ave. The Upstairs Boutique plans a fashion show at 6:30 p.m.

Mixers are open to chamber members, prospective members and business owners. There will be food, door prizes and shopping discounts. For information, call the chamber at 235-7740.

AHFC reports home loan delinquency rates

Alaska Housing Finance Corp. reports a September delinquency rate for home loans other than those on mobile homes of 4.27 percent, up from 3.71 percent in August and from 4.18 percent in September 1999. The delinquency rate for mobile home loans was 10.1 percent, up from 9.29 percent in August, but down from 12.11 percent in September 1999.

AHFC reported purchases of 456 single-family home loans in September, up from 383 in August but little changed from purchases of 455 single-family home loans purchased in September 1999.

Industry losses spark increased unemployment

The September unemployment rate in the Kenai Peninsula Borough was 5.9 percent, up from 5.7 percent in August, but down from 8.5 percent in September last year. September employment totaled 20,051 wage and salary workers, down from 21,733 in August and from 20,359 in September last year.

Statewide unemployment was 5 percent in September, up from 4.3 percent in August, but down from 4.9 percent in September last year. The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development blamed job losses in seafood processing and tourism for the September rise in unemployment. In Kodiak, which was particularly hard hit by a disappointing pollock harvest, unemployment soared from 3.4 percent in August to 15.4 percent in September.

FNBA backs Pratt Museum fund-raiser

First National Bank of Anchorage recently gave $1,000 to the Homer Society of Natural History to help underwrite the 15th annual Putting on the Ritz fund-raiser at the Pratt Museum. Some 90 percent of the funds raised at Putting on the Ritz will support exhibitions and art education programs benefiting Homer residents with mostly low to moderate incomes.

Gary King gives up

Gary King Sporting Goods has given up trying to assemble a workable Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization plan and will close its last store after New Year's. The East Benson Boulevard store has begun a progressive mark-down sale that will continue through Jan. 1. The goal is to liquidate current inventory, most of which is newly purchased cross-country and downhill ski equipment, snowboard gear and winter clothing.

Tesoro declares dividend

Tesoro Petroleum Co. has declared a regular quarterly dividend on its 7.25 percent mandatorily convertible preferred stock, payable to each holder of premium income equity securities, each representing a hundredth of a share of preferred stock. Tesoro will pay a dividend of $.288875 per PIES on Jan. 1 to preferred stock holders of record on Dec. 15.

Phillips allies with UOP

Phillips Petroleum Co. has formed an alliance with UOP LLC to jointly license and support Phillips' MaxCat coke-reduction technology.

This low-cost technology allows refiners to reduce coke buildup on catalysts, thus increasing octane barrels, run lengths and unit throughput. In one example, it improved the product octane by 1.5 research octane numbers over previous runs.

"The alliance utilizes UOP's existing worldwide marketing infrastructure to give Phillips greater access to international markets and provide a stronger support network for licensees," said Brian Evans, Phillips' fuels technology division manager. "UOP brings to this alliance the experience and know-how they have generated through the years by providing designs, catalysts and service to more than 700 reforming units around the world."

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