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$800,00 for ASG from ASH Cable — it is dividends and tax payments

Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The American Samoa Hawaii Cable, LLC — owner of the current undersea fiber optic cable connecting American Samoa to Hawai’i — has given to the American Samoa Government more than $800,000, to cover dividends for ASG and corporate tax payment for the cable system’s majority US based shareholder.

ASG is the minority shareholder of ASH Cable, which has a separate spur connecting American Samoa and Samoa, while majority shareholder is Florida-based, eLandia International.

Samoa News learned early this week that it was more than two weeks ago that ASH Cable paid out to ASG over $880,000 — with over $200,000 to ASG for 2017 dividends and more than $400,000 to cover eLandia’s local corporate tax for the cable system for 2017.

Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale is the ASG representative for ASH Cable. Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Talauega said that $295,774 for dividends was delivered to him and $591,547 for eLandia taxes for 2017 was delivered to the Tax Office.  Talauega didn’t comment further as to when the payment was received.

ASH Cable president, Toleafoa Douglas Creevey, who is also the chief executive officer of Bluesky Pacific Group, didn’t immediately reply to Samoa News email questions sent out yesterday morning.

This is the second dividend payment received by ASG since ASH Cable was launched and went into service in July 2009.

In a joint news release last December, ASH-Cable and ASG announced its first annual cash dividend distribution of $1.65 million to its two shareholders — eLandia International and ASG, which contributed $9 million to the project and holds 33% shares.

The cash dividend was paid out after the company successfully paid off its capital loans earlier last year, according to the news release, which also stated that almost all of eLandia’s share of the dividend was given to ASG to pay the company’s corporate taxes.

Not made clear at the time was how much ASG received in dividends, and this was raised during a Senate committee hearing in February this year, with Talauega saying that he didn’t have the specific figures on hand.

However, he explained that ASH-Cable reached a resolution for a “non-cash dividend” totaling $9 million to pay debts affiliated with eLandia including eLandia’s subsidies of Bluesky Communication and Bluesky Samoa.

The resolution also called for paying out “cash dividends”, which Talauega recalled totaled about $1.6 million in which ASG received $550,000 and eLandia received $1 million-plus, that went towards the company’s taxes to ASG for 2015 and 2016.

With the looming FY 2019 budget review, lawmakers are expected to inquire with the administration about the dividend payments, which come at a time when ASG is prepared with the American Samoa TeleCommunications Authority to officially launch tomorrow — Thursday — the Hawaiki undersea fiber optic cable. (See separate story.)

Two lawmakers, who are aware of the latest dividend payments, told Samoa News that they hope the dividend payments last December and the recent one, which “are considered new revenue” are clearly identified in the FY 2019 budget proposal when it is submitted to the Fono. Lawmakers reconvene on Aug. 6 following a three week mid session recess.