Norterra executives tight-lipped about talk of First Air purchase

“To speculate on this flies in the face of confidentiality”


Officials connected to Canadian North, Nunasi Corp. and the Norterra group of companies have neither denied nor confirmed suggestions that Norterra Inc. has negotiated the imminent purchase of First Air from Makivvik Corp..

Sources told Nunatsiaq News late last week that Norterra and Makivvik are close to an agreement that would see First Air, legally known as Bradley Air Services, sold to Norterra by Makivvik.

Over the past decade, Makivvik officials have made no secret of their desire to sell all or part of First Air to Nunavut interests.

In 2010 and 2011, First Air struck regional joint-venture deals with Sakku Corp. and Qikiqtaaaluk Corp. to create the Sakku First and Qikiqtani First airlines.

But when contacted April 13, officials with Inuit-owned Norterra and its subsidiaries had little to say about the idea that they, and not a consortium of regional Inuit birthright corporations, will buy First Air.

“To speculate on this flies in the face of whatever confidentiality people have. That’s all I can tell you,” said Tracy Medve, the president of the Canadian North airline, a subsidiary of Norterra.

Medve did not deny the potential purchase, saying “rumours circulate over time and some seem to be very reliable.”

The Norterra group is owned 50-50 by the Inuit of Nunavut through Nunasi Corp. and the Inuvialuit of the Northwest Territories through the Inuvialuit Development Corp..

Tim Zehr, the president and CEO of Nunasi, described recent talk of Norterra’s purchase of First Air as “rumours.”

“There are lots of rumors out there, like every other year. You would have to contact Norterra,” Zehr said.

Norterra board member Wilf Wilcox was equally tight-lipped, referring questions to Zehr.

Mark Gardhouse, the president of Norterra, did not immediately return repeated calls and email messages left April 12 and April 13 at Norterra offices.

The annual revenues for Bradley Air Services, whose trade name is First Air, stood at an estimated $230 million in 2008, according to information in a past credit analysis of First Air by Dun and Bradstreet.

First Air does not publish financial statements, and supplied no financial information to Dun and Bradstreet for its most recent credit analysis of First Air. Its current financial status is private.

Makivvik bought Bradley Air Services in 1990. In 1998, First Air merged with Northwest Territorial Airways Ltd.

First Air employs about 1,000 people, owns about 30 vehicles and 20 aircraft located throughout seven branch offices and other locations, with a subsidiary company, Above and Beyond magazine.

The Dun and Bradstreet document report suggests First Air enjoys a good credit rating.

First Air’s commercial credit score, which predicts the likelihood that a company will pay its bills in a severely delinquent manner within the next 12 months based on information in Dun and Bradstreet’s files, stands at 522 — where 101 is the worst and 690 is the best.

The summary notes it’s a “securely established company” in a medium-risk industry.

The business summary gives the airline a 72 ranking on its “paydex” ranking, which reveals how quickly it has been paying its bills.

This rating means First Air is prompt, but a little slow in paying bills, 15 days beyond terms.

Up until this past August, the company was more prompt in making payments to suppliers, a graphic embedded in Dun and Bradstreet’s analysis report reveals.

The Dun and Bradstreet overview, dated April 1, 2012, said the members of First Air’s board of directors are:

• former Makivvik Corp. president Pita Aatami;

• Kristopher Dolinki, First Air’s president, director, and chief executive officer since 2012;

• Makivvik employee Eileen Klinkig;

• former Makivvik corporate secretary George Berthe;

• Makivvik treasurer Anthony Ittoshat;

• former Kativik Regional Government chair Johnny Adams; and

• Michael Gordon, a Makivvik vice-president.

with files from Jim Bell and Jane George

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