Thousands of Alaska Native shareholders with the Arctic Slope Regional Corp. will receive a $10,000 dividend check in the coming weeks, one of the biggest dividend payouts by an Alaska Native regional corporation.
Arctic Slope, owner of much of the oil-rich Iñupiaq homelands of the North Slope, is the wealthiest Alaska-owned and -operated company, with gross revenues of $2.6 billion in 2012, according to Alaska Business Monthly.
Some 11,000 Alaska Natives hold shares in the corporation, one of 13 created by Congress in the early 1970s to manage traditional Native lands and money on behalf of Alaska Native shareholders. Most Arctic Slope shareholders own 100 shares, said company spokesman Ty Hardt.
Dividends from regional and the smaller village corporations typically amount to hundreds of dollars a year for the average shareholder. For many in rural Alaska, where unemployment is high, they're an important source of cash that helps pay for fundamental needs, including costly heating fuel. Payout day is Dec 4.
Some Native corporations have enjoyed spectacular success, and sometimes shareholders have benefited greatly.
In 2000, thousands of shareholders with Cook Inlet Regional Inc. received a windfall of $50,000 apiece after the company did exceptionally well in telecommunications investments. Several months later, in 2001, CIRI distributed another $15,000 to each shareholder.
Not all Native corporations are successful enough to provide dividends. NANA, representing Native shareholders with roots in Northwest Alaska, announced recently there would be no fall dividend, in part because across-the-board federal budget cuts have hurt the company's bottom line.
The Arctic Slope distribution includes a not-unusually-large $40-per-share fall payout, as well as a $60-per-share special dividend.
Asked what investments allowed Arctic Slope to provide the special dividend, spokesman Ty Hardt said, "It's an opportunity for ASRC to share its strong balance sheet with its 11,000 or so shareholders."
Crawford Patkotak, Arctic Slope board chairman and executive vice president of shareholder programs, said in a press release: "This $100 total per share payout illustrates that ASRC can follow a strategic business plan based on the traditional values of the Iñupiaq culture; values like cooperation, sharing, compassion and stewardship. These are cornerstones of the company as they are in the Iñupiaq culture upon all ASRC shareholders."
Contact Alex DeMarban at alex(at)alaskadispatch.com