Sealaska spring dividends reflect zero corporate earnings

Sealaska CEO Chris McNeil addresses Juneau's Native Issues Forum April 2, 2014. The corporation's spring distribution includes no operating revenue. (Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)

Sealaska CEO Chris McNeil Jr. addresses Juneau’s Native Issues Forum April 2, 2014. The corporation’s spring distribution includes no operating revenue. (Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska)

Sealaska Corp. does not appear to be making much – if any – money. The regional Native corporation’s spring distribution to shareholders, which is basically a dividend, includes no corporate revenues.

That’s according to an April 3 statement to shareholders.

Sealaska distributes payments to its almost 21,600 shareholders twice a year. In recent years, they’ve ranged from about $400 to around $1,100.

The money usually comes from three sources. The largest is a pool of all 12 regional Native corporations’ resource earnings. Another is Sealaska’s permanent fund. The third is profits from the corporation’s businesses.

“Usually there are. This year there isn’t any operating revenue included in the formula,” says Chris McNeil Jr., president and CEO of the Juneau-headquartered corporation.

That can mean little or no revenues are available for distribution. McNeil won’t say why Sealaska has no revenues to contribute. But he says the information will be in the corporation’s annual report, due out in May.

“I can’t really provide any details on it until we publish. And we’ve done that traditionally to make sure there is no miscommunication about what is being transmitted to shareholders,” he says.

“Sealaska is so opaque. They don’t really share much about their finances,” says Brad Fluetsch, a shareholder who runs a Facebook page highly critical of Sealaska. He’s also founder and managing director of Juneau-based Fortress Investment Management LLC.

He says even the annual reports lack detail. Earnings and losses are reported in sectors, so the reader often can’t tell which individual businesses are making or losing cash.

Still, Fluetsch says Sealaska’s board was honest when it approved a distribution without corporate revenues.

“I’ll give them kudos for that because that did take some effort on their part. Now what they need to do is hire a management team that can make that zero go away and actually turn it into a positive number,” he says.

McNeil says the biggest contributor to the pooled resource earnings is the owner of Northwest Alaska’s Red Dog Mine.

“At this point, NANA is the principal distributor. But cumulatively, Arctic Slope has distributed more revenue than any other corporation,” McNeil says.

Sealaska was a major contributor before its timber subsidiary starting running out of trees.

McNeil is retiring this summer and the search for a replacement is underway.

This spring distribution totals about $12 million. It gives most shareholders $721 per 100 shares. Other shareholder classes receive only $57 per 100 shares. Most shareholders own 100 shares, though it varies because of gifting or inheritance.

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