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Illinois Finance Authority Gives Nod to $600M

CHICAGO — The Illinois Finance Authority board Tuesday advanced about $600 million of borrowing planned by the University of Chicago, Children’s Memorial Hospital, and others before the end of the year and into 2012.

Children’s Memorial Hospital received preliminary approval to borrow up to $65 million through a direct bank purchase to reimburse itself for the ongoing costs of its $915 million replacement facility under construction in downtown Chicago. Children’s broke ground in April 2008 on its new Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital. which is scheduled to open next June.

Children’s, which currently operates on a campus north of downtown, is the only freestanding pediatric hospital in Illinois.

“For more than 60 years, Children’s Memorial has served as the pediatric training site for Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, training residents, medical students and fellows who will comprise the next generation of health care providers,” IFA documents read.

The hospital will select a bank through a competitive selection process, according to the IFA. Kaufman Hall & Associates is financial advisor and Jones Day is bond counsel. The hospital has a AA-minus from Fitch Ratings and an A-minus from Standard & Poor’s.

Children’s borrowed $380 million through the IFA in 2008 primarily to finance the project. In a rating review last year, Fitch cited the hospital’s prominent reputation, leading market position, and close ties to Feinberg as credit strengths.

“CMH maintains a leading inpatient market share position in nearly every pediatric specialty and sub-specialty clinical line,” Fitch wrote.

Fitch said it remained concerned over CMH’s heavy debt burden, the need to expand capacity until the new hospital was completed, and a high 47% exposure to Medicaid for gross revenues in fiscal 2009. The current hospital operates 270 licensed beds and had total operating revenues of $634 million in fiscal 2009.

The board gave final approval to the University of Chicago’s sale that includes $200 million of new money and room to refund up to $280 million of debt depending on potential interest rate savings. The school is considering a mix of floating-rate and fixed-rate securities.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch is senior manager and Wells Fargo Securities is co-senior manager. Loop Capital Markets LLC, Northern Trust Securities, PNC Capital Markets LLC, and William Blair & Co. are co-managers. Prager, Sealy & Co. is financial advisor, Chapman and Cutler LLP is bond counsel, and Schiff Hardin LLP is borrower’s counsel. The school is planning to enter the market early next year.

The university, founded in 1890 as a private, nonsectarian school by John D. Rockefeller, would use proceeds to finance various projects at its campuses, including construction of its 265,000-square-foot William Eckhardt Research Center on its main campus in Hyde Park.

The building will house offices, conference rooms, and laboratories for the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Studies, and the Enrico Fermi Institute. It will also house the university’s new program in molecular engineering. Construction is expected to be completed in 2014.

The university also intends to use some of the proceeds to finance renovations and an expansion of its popular Lab Schools, allowing it to boost enrollment in the nursery-school-through-high-school program.

The university’s current ratings are Aa1 from Moody’s Investors Service, AA-plus from Fitch, and AA from Standard & Poor’s. It also has top short-term marks. All three affirmed their ratings last year.

In a spring report, Moody’s said the school’s rating recognizes its market position as a leading national research university, its favorable operating performance and cash flow, and strong fundraising.

Challenges include a highly leveraged balance sheet, a debt structure with relatively low near-term principal amortization, and $307 million in unfunded pension liabilities.

The board also gave final approval to the National Hellenic Museum’s issue slated for this year of up to $8 million to refinance debt associated with the construction of its new 40,000-square-foot museum and educational facility in Chicago’s Greek Town.

First Midwest Bank NA will directly purchase the bonds. Greenberg Traurig LLP is bond counsel. The museum is not rated. The bonds will be secured by a first mortgage and first security interest on museum assets.

The facility hosts a research library with 10,000 books and documents, an extensive collection and archive of over 7,000 artifacts, and more than 5,000 Greek record albums, one of the largest collections in the United States.

The board gave preliminary approval to the real estate firm Janko Alcion Vernon Hills LLC’s request for an allocation of Midwestern disaster area bonding of up to $24.8 million. It would use proceeds for renovations to a four-story building in the Chicago suburb of Vernon Hills.

The U.S. government established the disaster bond program in 2008 to provide tax-exempt borrowing assistance through next year for Midwestern states hit with spring storm damage. Eighteen Illinois counties were designated disaster areas.

William Blair & Co. is the placement agent. Shanahan & Shanahan Co. is bond counsel.

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