Around the World January 20, 2002

PHOTO/James MacPherson/AJOC
aroundworld.jpg STATE

Alaska pipeline group submits signatures

ANCHORAGE -- Backers of an all-Alaska pipeline to carry North Slope natural gas to market have turned in more than 42,000 signatures for a November ballot initiative.

Supporters from Citizens Initiative for the All-Alaska Gasline hauled the signatures in a Loomis armored van to the state Division of Elections office in Anchorage Jan. 11.

The initiative would create a new state agency, called the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority. The agency’s purpose would be to acquire natural gas and build a pipeline to Valdez.

Supporters favor an in-state line, with spurs to serve Alaska towns, rather than one through Canada, according to group chairman Scott Heyworth.

Hammond, Leask join Ulmer’s bid for governor

ANCHORAGE -- Democrat Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer’s campaign for governor is getting help from former Republican Gov. Jay Hammond and the past president of the Alaska Federation of Natives.

Ulmer announced Jan. 10 that Hammond, who was governor from 1974 to 1982, will serve as co-chair of her 2002 gubernatorial campaign with Janie Leask. Leask was an AFN president for seven years.

Hammond said once some fellow Republicans found out he intended to work for Ulmer’s campaign, they urged him to keep a low profile. That advice prompted him to do just the opposite, he said.

Leask is manager of community relations for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. She serves on the boards of the Alaska Humanities Forum and Commonwealth North, and also is a trustee for the First Alaskans Foundation.

Ulmer said Alaskans probably consider her an underdog to Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska -- the other leading gubernatorial candidate -- because of his high profile in Washington, D.C., and years of experience at running big campaigns.

But if they examine her record of accomplishments, she will have the advantage over Murkowski, she said.

Alaska Native Wireless seeks license refunds

ANCHORAGE -- Alaska Native Wireless wants the Federal Communications Commission to refund about $550 million the company paid last year after successfully bidding on wireless licenses now mired in the courts.

With the government holding the corporation’s money interest-free, and with the licenses in limbo, Alaska Native Wireless and 12 other successful bidders are losing $3 million every week in interest payments, according to a petition filed with the FCC.

Alaska Native Wireless is a joint venture of AT&T Wireless and three Alaska Native corporations: Sealaska Corp. of Juneau, Arctic Slope Regional Corp. of Barrow and Doyon Ltd. of Fairbanks.

The venture bid $2.9 billion for wireless licenses in a federal auction last January. The licenses had become available after their original owner, NextWave, filed for bankruptcy protection.

But last June a federal appeals court decided the licenses still belonged to NextWave and ordered the FCC to return them. The FCC has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the appeals court ruling, but Alaska Native Wireless isn’t banking on a reversal.


Mortgage boom boosts Wells Fargo’s profits

SAN FRANCISCO -- Wells Fargo & Co. said a mortgage refinancing boom enabled the bank to offset sluggish loan demand among its business customers and boost fourth-quarter profits by 5 percent.

The San Francisco-based bank said Jan. 15 that it earned $1.18 billion, or 69 cents per share, during the final three months of 2001, compared with $1.13 billion, or 65 cents per share, a year earlier.

That soundly surpassed the consensus estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Financial/First Call by a penny.

Wells attributed most of the fourth-quarter gains to robust consumer loan demand, particularly in its mortgage division, which cashed in on the lowest interest rates since the 1960s.

With its home loan volume more than tripling in the fourth quarter, the bank ended the year with $194 billion in mortgage originations, breaking its previous record of $109 billion in 1998. Last year’s mortgage volume represented a 155 percent increase from 2000, the bank said.

Still, Wells’ business loans remained flat as the bank’s corporate customers pulled back because of the recession.


Companies face billions in fines following ruling

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The World Trade Organization handed the United States a major loss Jan. 14 with a decision that opens the way for the European Union to ask for billions of dollars in punitive tariffs on U.S. imports.

Both the EU and the United States, however, immediately signaled their desire to avert a trade war that would dwarf any previous dispute and most likely hurt companies on both sides of the Atlantic.

The WTO appeals panel in Geneva ruled against a U.S. law granting multibillion-dollar tax breaks to Microsoft, Boeing and thousands of other American companies operating overseas.

The European Union, which brought the case, said it expected "rapid proposals" from Washington to bring itself into compliance with WTO rules.

The Brussels-based EU could ask the WTO for permission to start imposing up to $4 billion in sanctions almost immediately.

-- Compiled from business wire services.

01/21/2002 - 8:00pm