Economy bites Alaska Native corporations

Cook Inlet Region Inc. reaped profits for 30 years in a row. Until last year.

The Anchorage Native corporation got stung big-time in 2008, thanks to the nation's biggest stock market blowup since the Great Depression.

CIRI lost $22.8 million due mostly to $57 million in stock market losses, it says. The company's business ventures -- including investments in real estate, hotels and tourism, and telecom -- generated a $30 million profit, softening the blow. Last year's loss comes after the company posted a $57.6 million profit the prior year.

"We did experience a significant amount of losses," said Patrick Duke, CIRI's chief financial officer.

His company isn't the only Native firm with the stock market blues.

At some point during last year the state's regional Native corporations had more than $500 million invested in the stock market, according to a review of the available financial reports. The Native firms over the years have amassed multimillion-dollar stock market portfolios, where they place profits saved for future business investments, money for shareholder permanent funds and windfalls from business deals, among other funds. The sour stock market prompted some corporations to sell much of their stock during the year.

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