MBJ BRIEFS 17 MAY 2012 (in order of priority)
FOR Marianas Business Journal
BY Stephanie Lundberg

Standard & Poor’s revises its outlook of BancWest, FHB and Bank of the West

NEW YORK—Standard & Poor’s Rating Services announced May 3 that it had revised its outlook on BancWest Corp. and its banking subsidiaries – Bank of the West and First Hawaiian Bank – to stable from negative. S&P also affirmed its ‘A’ long-term issuer credit ratings on BancWest and its banking subsidiaries. According to its press release, S&P revised its rating because BancWest’s “credit costs have declined significantly, leading to profitability improvements,” and because it is well supported by its parent company, BNP Paribas. It also said that the stable outlook “reflects our view that BWE’s asset quality and profitability will continue to improve despite California’s weak economy.”

Ericsson, IT&E to bring LTE networks to Guam

PLANO, Texas—Ericsson, a Swedish telecoms equipment vendor, announced May 8 that it had inked a deal with IT&E, which does business as Micronesian Telecommunications Corporation, to provide Long Term Evolution networks in Guam. Ericsson also made a series of similar deals with small-scale rural mobile operators in parts of the US, including: Kentucky-based Appalachian Wireless, which will deploy LTE across the Appalachian Mountains in eastern Kentucky; Agri-Valley Communications, in 70% of Michigan across the Lower and Upper Peninsula of the state; Bluegrass Cellular, in the central portion of Kentucky; Enhanced Telecommunications Corp. in Indiana; Globecomm in New York; South Georgia Regional Information Technology Authority in south-east Georgia; and VTel Wireless in rural Vermont.

Rating agencies assign high ratings to GovGuam Series B bonds

HAGATNA, Guam—The Office of the Governor of Guam announced May 9 that two major rating agencies had assigned high ratings to the Series B bonds to be sold later in the year in an effort to raise funds for the payment of outstanding tax returns. Fitch and Standard & Poor’s affirmed their ratings of the bonds at “A-“ and “A,” respectively, both with a stable outlook.

Matson parent company, Alexander & Baldwin, Inc., announces first quarter income

HONOLULU—Alexander & Baldwin, Inc., parent company of Matson, announced that its ocean transportation division’s operating profit for the first quarter was $8.1 million, compared to $5.4 million last year. According to the release, higher Guam and transpacific volume contributed to the increased profits, as did Horizon Lines’ discontinuance of its service in the area in late 2011. The release also stated that “transpacific volume was higher primarily due to modestly increased demand, and higher rates were due primarily to better capacity management in the trade compared to last year.”

Horizon Lines reports first quarter financial results

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Horizon Lines released its first quarter 2012 financial results May 9, reporting that its operating revenue from continuing operations increased 9.4% to $263.4 million from $240.7 million a year ago, and that its operating losses from continuing operations for the first quarter totaled $6.1 million, compared with an operating loss of $9.4 million a year ago. 

The company also reported that it had officially “terminated its vessel charter obligations related to its discontinued trans-Pacific service in exchange for the issuance of $40.0 million of debt, plus warrants to purchase 9.25 million shares of the company’s common stock…As a result of the conversion of the Series A and Series B notes, the company expects to record a non-cash loss on the conversion of approximately $185.4 million during the second quarter of 2012. In connection with the termination of the vessel lease obligations with SFL, the company also expects to record a second-quarter charge of $19.0 million, which will be recorded as part of discontinued operations.”

NAVFAC Pacific awards California company $20 million multiple-award contract

HAGATNA, Guam—Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific has awarded Spectrum-Insight Pacific JV, an environmental remediation firm, a $20 million multiple-award contract for long-term monitoring and management of environmental restoration sites, operations and maintenance of remedial action systems, and maintenance of land use controls in Guam, Hawaii, and other areas. Guam and Saipan-based Allied Pacific Environmental Consulting, Inc. will provide support for the SIP MAC contract in Guam and the Western Pacific.

TakeCare launches Consult-A-Doctor service

TAMUNING, Guam—TakeCare announced May 8 that it had launched Consult-A-Doctor, a 24-hour, seven days a week service for TakeCare member patients that connects licensed, local doctors with patients via phone or email for medical advice. The Guam and nationwide service is made available through Consult-A-Doctor, a consumer-directed telemedicine service, and will feature Guam-based doctors familiar with on-island medical options. 

If the patient needs a comprehensive diagnostic consultation or a prescription, the appropriate doctor will call back within three hours or the patient can schedule a consultation with the doctor.  Sensitive medical issues can also be communicated via secure, discreet, e-mail or video online, at standards compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.  

FSM to to reduce carbon emission with $4 million solar project

SUVA, Fiji—The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Federated States of Micronesia announced May 14 FSM’s intent to access $4 million in Pacific Enrivonment Community funds for the installation of 150 kilowatt grid-connected photovotaic systems in Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae. The project will be managed by the FSM government’s Department of Resources and Development, Energy Division, and will assist in meeting FSM’s goal of reducing its carbon emissions by 500 metric tonnes (roughly 551 U.S. tons) annually. The project is anticipated to save approximately $486,000 a year in diesel costs, as well as contribute 1.7% in electricity toward FSM’s goal of 30% energy generation from renewable energy sources by 2020.

GCC awards 399 degree, certificates and diploams to 348 graduates May 18

MAGILAO, Guam—Guam Community College awarded 399 degrees, certificates, and diplomas to 348 students at the University of Guam Field House on May 18. Among that number was a record 72 apprentices, all employed at island businesses, who graduated from the GCC Apprenticeship program. 

The 2012 valedictorian was Carl D. Giese, Jr. Giese, who graduated with an Associate of Science degree in Computer Networking, and the 2012 salutatorian was Lea Pizarro Sanchez, who graduated with an Associate of Arts degree in Education. The Commencement Speaker for the graduation ceremony was John Cruickshank, a senior program analyst with the National Science Foundation, and the Micronesia and South Pacific outreach coordinator for NSF’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Initiative.

Palau government begins new program for young entrepreneurs

KOROR, Palau—The Palau Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Industries, and Commerce, the Palau Small Business Development Centre and the United Nations Development program have partnered to form a new initiative to encourage entrepreneurship among 18 to 35 year old high school graduates. The Young Entrepreneurship Solutions action plan, with the theme of ‘planting the seed of entrepreneurship’ will provide 40 hours of classroom training, internships, and access to local business and trade organizations to teach candidates new business skills and strategies with the goal of improving their performance in the business community.

Guam student mock trial team places 8th at national competition

HAGATNA, Guam—The St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic High School announced May 11 that its Mock Trial Team had placed eighth at the National High School Mock Trial Competition in Albuquerque, N.M., and the for the second year in row, St. Thomas student attorney Whitney Quinley won one of seven Outstanding Attorney awards. This is the fourth year that St. Thomas has represented Guam in the event, which saw the team competing against more than 200 students from 43 states, the CNMI, and Korea.

Honolulu to institute plastic, paper bag ban in 2015

HONOLULU—Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle signed into law May 10 a bag ban that will ban non-recyclable paper and non-biodegradable plastic bags starting July 1, 2015. The law, which follows similar regulations in Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii County, will still allow certain uses after it goes into affect, including: bags used to contain frozen meats, flowers, or other items to contain dampness; bags used to protect or transport prepared foods; newspaper bags for newspaper delivery, and others.

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