Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 04, 2012 - 6:25 am

Nunasi Corp. starts big overhaul to restore profitability

Money-losing firm to turn ownership over to three birthright corporations

JANE GEORGE
Wilf Wilcox, the chairman of the board of Nunasi Corp., tells the Kitikmeot Inuit Association's annual general meeting in Cambridge Bay about changes at Nunasi. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Wilf Wilcox, the chairman of the board of Nunasi Corp., tells the Kitikmeot Inuit Association's annual general meeting in Cambridge Bay about changes at Nunasi. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

CAMBRIDGE BAY — Nunasi Corp. won’t be distributing any dividends to Nunavut’s regional Inuit organizations this year.

That’s because the Nunavut Inuit birthright corporation, formed in 1976 to participate in business opportunities in what is now Nunavut,  must become profitable again, said Wilf Wilcox, the chairman of Nunasi’s board of directors, speaking Oct. 3 to the Kitikmeot inuit Association’s annual general meeting in Cambridge Bay.

“We won’t be in a position to give out dividends for the next two years,” Wilcox told the KIA delegates.

In past years, these annual dividends brought more than $400,000 a year to the regional Inuit organizations.

But Nunasi must get itself in a more stable financial situation, Wilcox said —  “to do a good solid job.”

To accomplish that, Nunasi also wants to transfer its ownership over to the three regional Inuit development corporations, he said.

Nunasi has been financially weakened by losses suffered by the Norterra group of companies, one of its most important subsidiaries.

The Norterra group of companies, owned by the Inuit of Nunavut through Nunasi Corp. and the Inuvialuit of the NWT through the Inuvialuit Development Corp., include firms like Canadian North and NTCL, the shipping company that has been losing contracts in the Baffin and Kivalliq regions for many years.

“As a result, significant cash calls have been requested by Norterra to fund these operating losses,” Wilcox said.

During a brief recounting of Nunasi’s history, Wilcox described how over the past five years, some of the business interests of the regional development organizations have directly conflicted with the business interests of Nunasi.

There has even been situations where Nunasi had to compete with businesses owned by organizations whose representatives sit on its board.

“This was never the intent of the Inuit land claim,” Wilcox said, acknowledging that Nunasi, a, “pre land-claim Inuit business corporation, was never effectively integrated” into the Nunavut land claims agreement.

As for the future, Wilcox suggested that, through Nunasi, the regional Inuit development corporations could acquire “significant investments outside Nunavut.”

The opportunities are there, Wilcox said, but “an effective working relationship with all three regional development corporations does not exist at this time.”

KIA remains a staunch supporter of Nunasi, having made a temporary loan of $2 million to Nunasi “to fund [a] Norterra cash call” this year.

That loan will be paid by the end of 2012, Wilcox said.

Many of Nunasi’s own subsidiaries, such as Kitnuna, have also suffered this year.

Kitnuna, which stood to make millions from Newmont Mining Corp.‘s Hope Bay gold mine—now in “care and maintenance”—has seen its revenues cut.

To oversee Nunasi’s reorganization, there’s a new management team in place: Archie Angnakak, who was hired as chief executive officer earlier this year, and Greg Cayen, the president and chief executive officer of NCC Investment Group Inc., who took over from Tim Zehr, who resigned as president and COO of Nunasi last June.

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