2,550-unit Wai‘ale project gets hearing

MAKENA – The state Land Use Commission began this week what promises to be a long series of proceedings on Alexander & Baldwin Properties’ proposed 545-acre, 2,550-unit Wai’ale subdivision in Central Maui.

The commission listened to about two dozen residents testify for and against the proposal Thursday and Friday at the Makena Beach & Golf Resort.

“This is very preliminary,” said A&B Properties Vice President Grant Chun. “We are still in the conceptual phase. A lot of the questions asked today are to be answered on the county level.”

Commission members said that they intend to return for more testimony from state and county officials in April, Chun said Friday.

The Wai’ale project is seeking a state land-use district boundary change from agriculture to urban. And, the Maui County Council will take up proposed changes of zoning for the property as well as amendments to the county general and community plans, said county Deputy Corporation Counsel Michael Hopper.

The governor’s Office of Planning and Mayor Alan Arakawa’s Department of Planning support the project. Proponents of the development maintain it will bring jobs, tax revenue and affordable and market-priced homes as Maui’s population continues to grow.

Members of the Waikapu Community Association, conservationists and Native Hawaiian groups oppose the project.

HC&S profits offset Matson, property losses

Alexander & Baldwin Inc.’s agricultural sector – led by Maui’s Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. – produced a “strong performance” in 2011 while losses related to Matson Navigation Co. and the real estate sales division put a drag on company profits.

In reporting its 2011 and fourth-quarter financial results Monday, the Honolulu-based company said it logged a net income of $34.2 million, or 81 cents a share, for the year, down 63 percent from the $92.1 million, or $2.22 a share, in 2010 and down nearly 75 percent from the $132 million, or $3.19 a share, in 2008, as the Great Recession began roiling the national economy.

For the fourth quarter, A&B’s net income was only $1.6 million, or 4 cents a share, down from $20.2 million, or 48 cents a share, in the same quarter the previous year.

The company’s ocean transportation sector showed an operating profit of $74.1 million for the year, down from $118.7 million in 2010. This sector of the company suffered losses from the discontinuing of its second China-Long Beach service in the third quarter.

In addition, A&B said that the company continues to make progress on plans to separate its shipping and real estate/agricultural businesses in the second half of this year.

The agricultural sector, which includes HC&S and trucking and storage companies on Maui, Kauai and the Big Island, showed an operating profit of $22.2 million in 2011, up 264 percent from $6.1 million in 2010. This is a big contrast from three years ago, when agriculture lost $27 million and the board of directors debated shutting down sugar operations.

A&B project could bring 2K homes to Central Maui

WAILUKU – A&B Properties has released for public review a draft environmental impact statement for Wai’ale, a master-planned community on about 545 acres in Central Maui.

While the project raises the prospect of the construction of more than 2,000 homes in one of Maui’s fastest-growing regions, the development also faces some steep challenges, particularly in gaining access to drinking water and sewage treatment.

A&B Vice President Grant Chun said the project’s tentative design was “informed by the standards and goals of the Maui Island Plan,” which is pending review by the Maui County Council.

The planning and entitlement process is expected to take “many years,” Chun said Monday. Project planners are at the start of working with state officials on the project’s environmental review before seeking a district boundary amendment, he said.

The property is on either side of East Waiko Road, with Kuihelani Highway to the east and Honoapiilani Highway and Waikapu to the west. It is bordered on the north by Maui Lani’s Legends and Traditions subdivisions and the Waikapu Stream to the south.

Plans call for building 2,550 single- and multifamily homes, with land set aside for commercial and retail space, offices, civic and other public facilities, including an 18-acre middle school, a community center, regional and neighborhood parks, and a possible wastewater treatment plant. Now, the land is fallow sugar cane fields, a plant nursery, portions of a cattle feed lot, sand stockpiles and vacant land,

A&B’s agribusiness sector recovers but shipping down – Mauinews.com | News, Sports, Jobs, Visitor’s Information – The Maui News

Although its agribusiness sector continued its recovery in the first quarter, Alexander & Baldwin’s usual profit center, Matson Navigation Co., lost money, and the company reported a thin profit of $5.2 million, or 12 cents per share, Tuesday.

President Stanley Kuriyama said Matson couldn’t adjust its fuel surcharges fast enough to keep up with soaring oil prices.

Agribusiness, primarily Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., had an operating profit of $2.6 million, compared with a loss of $1.1 million in the first quarter of 2010.

It is difficult to compare quarter-to-quarter results for HC&S, since in the first quarter of 2010 the Puunene mill shut down for an extended overhaul and harvesting did not begin until the second quarter. But Kuriyama pointed out that the company’s agriculture operation has now experienced four straight quarters of profitability, following years of serious losses.

It is also difficult to compare quarter-to-quarter changes at Matson, because it signed a significant connecting carrier agreement with a large international carrier and opened a second service to China. Both increased business, but the startup costs for the second “string” of voyages to China resulted in a loss.

Hawaii container traffic was up to 34,000, from 31,400 the year before, partly indicating expansion in the island economy.

Alexander & Baldwin stock jumps 19% after talk of break up

Shares of Alexander & Baldwin stock soared 19 percent today to close up $8.82 at $54.47 following yesterday’s announcement that a New York hedge fund manager and a partner bought up shares to become A&B’s largest owner.

The closing price was the highest since Sept. 9, 2007, when A&B’s stock closed at $57.73 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Bloomberg News reported that Wells Fargo Securities, which downgraded A&B’s stock last week, raised its expectations for the stock and estimated A&B’s “break up” value — that is splitting apart core divisions of ocean cargo transportation, commercial real estate and agribusiness potentially to be sold — at about $54 a share.

Stock analysts and some company insiders anticipate that the hedge fund manager, Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management LP, will seek to break up A&B.

Ackman’s firm, along with former Pershing Square partner Richard McGuire of San Francisco-based Marcato Capital Management LLC, disclosed yesterday after the stock market closed that they recently bought $168 million of A&B’s stock to give them a 9.9 percent stake.

Ackman and McGuire paid an average of $41.04 for their shares, making their stake worth about $224 million at today’s closing price, or $56 million more than the average paid.

Alexander & Baldwin stock jumps 19% after talk of break up – Hawaii News – Staradvertiser.com

Stock buy foments talk of local firm’s breakup

One of Hawaii’s last venerable Big Five companies, Alexander & Baldwin Inc., could be under pressure to break itself up.

A New York hedge fund manager known to agitate for change in his investment targets bought nearly 10 percent of A&B along with a partner, it was announced yesterday. The purchase triggered expectations the 141-year-old kamaaina company will be split into pieces to elevate stock value.

Neither A&B nor the hedge funds would disclose what the intent of the A&B stock purchase — a $168 million deal — might be yesterday.

“We expect to have a constructive dialogue with them as we do with all of our shareholders,” said Suzy Hollinger, A&B’s director of investor relations.

But stock analysts with insights to A&B and people with ties to the 2,300-employee company say the play almost certainly is a breakup of the conglomerate’s three core businesses — ocean cargo transportation, commercial real estate and agriculture.

“Are the parts worth more than the whole? That’s what this comes down to,” said local stock analyst Randy Havre, echoing views of two other analysts who closely follow A&B.

Mainland firms buy 9.9% stake in A&B

Two mainland investment firms have combined to purchase a 9.9 percent stake in Honolulu-based Alexander & Baldwin Co., according to a regulatory filing today.

New York-based Pershing Square Capital Management LP, led by activist hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, bought an 8.6 percent stake and San Francisco-based Marcato Capital Management LLC, led by Richard McGuire, acquired a 1.3 percent stake.

Mainland firms buy 9.9% stake in A&B – Hawaii News – Staradvertiser.com

Sweet Smell of Success

The rain came down. The price went up, and Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. finished the year with a much improved crop.

The final raw sugar shipment was loaded at Kahului Harbor’s Pier One on Wednesday and Thursday.

The harvest was just shy of 172,000 tons, much better than the 127,000 tons in 2009, but well short of the 200,000 tons the plantation can make in a good year.

In a telephone interview from New York on Thursday, HC&S General Manager Chris Benjamin said that although there is still “a ways to go,” the improved crop and better world prices take the immediate pressure off the plantation.

A year ago, after experiencing heavy losses attributed to a long drought, the directors of Alexander & Baldwin took a hard look at HC&S. The 37,000-acre plantation was the origin of the A&B conglomerate, but today it accounts for only about 7 percent of revenues.

The board approved continuation of the business only until the end of this year, pending improved results.

Financial results won’t be published until next year, but Benjamin said he believes that the board is already satisfied that the operation is on the right track.

At this week’s price of nearly 40 cents per pound of raw sugar (in New York), the crop would be worth more than $130 million, not counting molasses and electricity byproduct revenue, plus the premium for the part of the crop sold as specialty sugars.

Alexander & Baldwin buys California shopping center

Alexander & Baldwin Inc. has added a California neighborhood shopping center to its commercial real estate portfolio, paying $48 million for a 165,500-square-foot complex in Temecula, Calif.

The Honolulu-based company said it bought Rancho Temecula Town Center through subsidiary A&B Properties Inc., in part, using proceeds from a warehouse complex in Ontario, Calif., it sold in October for $43 million.

A&B said the shopping center, which was built three years ago and is 97 percent occupied, is one of Temecula’s best-performing retail properties and is expected to benefit from population growth.

Alexander & Baldwin buys California shopping center – Hawaii News – Staradvertiser.com