Around the World January 27, 2002

PHOTO/Courtesy NANA/Lynden Logisitics LLC
aroundworld.jpg STATE

Company seeks permits for northern gas line

FAIRBANKS -- A Houston-based company has applied to Canadian authorities for approval of its proposal to ship North Slope natural gas to market by a route that would bypass Interior Alaska.

Arctic Resources Co., through its Canadian affiliate, on Jan. 16 filed a "preliminary information package" with the National Energy Board of Canada. It is the first step for the company to receive approval from Canadian energy officials for the "Over-the-Top" route proposal, a process that could take two years.

The Over-the-Top proposal calls for North Slope natural gas to be shipped offshore through the Beaufort Sea to the Canadian Arctic, then south through Canada. The pipeline also would pick up Canadian gas in the Mackenzie River Delta on its way to the Lower 48.

The Over-the-Top route faces strong opposition from Alaska members of both Congress and the Legislature, who argue that it would export the state’s resources without providing jobs for Alaskans and the opportunity for in-state use of the gas.

Sealaska announces joint venture in plastics

JUNEAU -- Sealaska Corp. and Nypro announced Jan. 17 they have entered into a joint venture for a plastics injection molding operation in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The molding operation, TriQuest Guadalajara, previously was fully owned by Sealaska.

The Juneau-based Native corporation will continue to own and control a majority of the firm. Nypro will own a minority share and operate the facility under a management agreement.

The announcement was made jointly by Sealaska President Chris E. McNeil Jr. and Nypro President Brian S. Jones.

McNeil said he expected the arrangement would increase the amount of work the plant receives from major electronics and computer manufacturing firms.

Alaska unemployment rate up but still low

ANCHORAGE -- Alaska’s unemployment rate rose in December, when about 18,650 people were jobless and looking for work.

December’s rate was 5.8 percent, an expected seasonal increase from November’s 5.6 percent rate, the state Labor Department said Jan. 18.

Anchorage had the lowest unemployment rate in the state, holding steady at 3.7 percent in December.

The total number of unemployed was lower than during December 2000 in both Alaska and its largest city, the department said.

In other parts of the state, the December jobless rate was: 6.7 percent in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough; 10 percent in the Kenai Peninsula Borough; 12.9 percent in Kodiak; and 9.7 percent in the Valdez-Cordova area.

The national unemployment rate grew to 5.4 percent in December from 5.3 percent in November.

Count indicates Belugas may be more abundant

ANCHORAGE -- The Cook Inlet beluga whale population continues to show signs of recovery after a decade-long decline.

The National Marine Fisheries Service reports that an aerial survey conducted last June counted 211 whales. From that, federal scientists estimate there are 386 whales in the Inlet.

The increase marks the fourth year in a row that scientists have seen an increase in beluga numbers in the Inlet.

"I would say it’s good news in that comparing this to 1998, it shows more than a 3 percent annual growth rate," said federal biologist Rod Hobbs of the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle.

Once thought to number 1,300 in Cook Inlet, the number of whales in this genetically isolated group dropped to about 350 in 1998 and 1999.

A lawsuit arguing that the whales need additional protection under the Endangered Species Act from a broad range of other human factors continues in federal court.


Kmart Corp. files for bankruptcy protection

DETROIT -- Kmart Corp., known for its BlueLight Special and discount prices, filed for bankruptcy protection Jan. 22, becoming the largest retailer to seek shelter from creditors under Chapter 11.

Kmart has struggled in the fiercely competitive discount market against rivals like Wal-Mart and Target.

The filing comes a day after a major food distributor, Fleming Cos., said it had cut off most shipments to Kmart because the discounter failed to make its regular weekly payment for deliveries. Fleming said Kmart, its largest customer, owes $78 million.

Other suppliers have delayed or stopped shipments to Kmart in recent days, but the Fleming situation posed perhaps the biggest crisis yet, because grocery offerings often drive traffic.

Fleming said it intends to resume deliveries to Kmart "upon receiving satisfactory assurances from Kmart, via the bankruptcy court."

Kmart operates five stores in Alaska.


Princess rejects latest bid from rival Carnival

LONDON -- P&O Princess Cruises PLC balked Jan. 21 at a sweetened takeover bid by Carnival Corp., the world’s biggest cruise ship operator, arguing the $5 billion offer was still too low and was likely to run aground on regulatory concerns.

Princess insisted it would stay on course with its own plan to merge with rival Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the world’s second-largest cruise company.

After Princess, headquartered in London, turned down its original bid, Miami-based Carnival followed up Jan. 17 with a revised cash and shares offer worth 12 percent more. Carnival is eager to break up Princess’ planned merger with Royal Caribbean, which would create a $6 billion business that would sink Carnival as market leader.

All three companies operate cruise ships in Alaska waters.

"We made it clear when Carnival made its initial proposal that our response was based on two simple criteria -- value for our shareholders and deliverability. The revised proposal still falls short on value and adds nothing on deliverability," Princess’ chief executive Peter Ratcliffe said in a statement.

-- Compiled from business wire services.

01/27/2002 - 8:00pm