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New Jersey Transportation Deal Leads the Primary Slate

DEC 2, 2012 5:24am ET
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After strong demand and a municipal rally provided strength for last week’s new issues, a pair of New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund Authority revenue offerings totaling more than $1.2 billion will dominate this week’s primary market amid an array of other sizable offerings from Texas, Colorado, and New York.

Those deals are expected to get keen attention as many investors are shopping for some of their final municipal bond purchases before the usual lull in supply ahead of the holidays and year end, municipal experts said.

“There is plenty of cash and deals continue to get done. People want yield, but there is just as strong a demand for quality,” said a New York underwriter at a large Wall Street firm. “There is a healthy variety of deals, so it’s going to be an interesting week,” he said, adding that inflows continue to be brisk into tax -exempt mutual funds and there is pent-up demand among retail investors. “Funds, retail, and separately managed accounts are pretty active and there is no indication that the music is going to stop.”

Last week’s deals were easily cleared -- some accelerated and some oversubscribed – and that contributed to another strong week for municipals as the hearty demand pushed municipal yields in the 10 and 30-year parts of the curve further into record territory than the prior week.

For example, the 20-bond GO index of 20-year general obligation yields declined eight basis points last week to 3.29% -- its lowest level since Sept. 2, 1965 when it was also 3.29%.

Heading into this week, The Bond Buyer and Ipreo LLC estimated that $8.36 billion of new volume is expected to arrive -- anchored by the larger of the two New Jersey transportation sales. Last week, the market saw a revised $6.75 billion priced, according to Thomson Reuters.

The $920.7 million New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund Authority offering of 2012 Series AA program bonds will lead off the negotiated activity when it is priced by Barclays Capital on Tuesday.

Structured as serials maturing from 2014 to 2032 and a term bond in 2038, the New Jersey deal is expected to be rated A1 by Moody’s Investors Service, and A-plus from Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings.

Barclays will also price on Tuesday $326.2 million of Series A transportation system bonds for the authority that features a term bond in 2042 with the same ratings.

An $829.2 million highway improvement general obligation bond deal from the Texas Transportation Commission will add to the week’s negotiated activity. Wells Fargo Securities will hold a retail order period on Monday, followed by an official pricing on Tuesday.

Rated Aaa by Moody’s, AA-plus by Standard & Poor’s, and AAA by Fitch, the deal is structured with serial bonds maturing from 2019 to 2042.

Besides its tax-exempt offering, the commission will also sell a separate $100 million series of taxable GO bonds in the competitive market on Tuesday. That deal’s structure consists of serial bonds maturing from 2014 to 2019, and is expected to have the same ratings as the tax-exempt series.

This week, municipal experts said investors will be looking for credits that offer value and name recognition.

A $435 million New York City Municipal Water Finance Authority water and sewer second general resolution revenue sale should offer investors both of those characteristics, according to executive director Tom Paolicelli.

“It’s a very strong credit and it’s a good time to be in the market,” he said of the authority’s Series BB sale, which will be offered to individual investors during a retail order period on Monday, followed by the official pricing on Tuesday by Raymond James | Morgan Keegan.

“New York Water is a sterling credit and it has been highly well-received over a long time period, and very well-managed,” said Raymond Orlando, director of investor relations for the authority.

Paolicelli said the deal is tentatively structured as a single bullet maturity in 2046 and is expected to be affirmed at Aa2 by Moody’s, AA-plus by Standard & Poor’s and Fitch. “We think there’s going to be really strong demand for this bond,” he said late last week.

The last time the authority issued long-dated GO bonds was back in June, but that deal included serial bonds and a refunding component by comparison, he noted.

“With the structure such as it is and the level debt requirements, there is not a lot of opportunity to offer bonds shorter” in the new sale, Paolicelli explained.

Sizable negotiated activity is also expected in the Midwest where the Denver School District #1 is planning to issue $466 million of GO bonds on Monday in a pricing led by RBC Capital Markets.

The deal is structured as $450 million of Series 2012 B tax-exempt bonds and $16 million of taxable Series 2012 C Qualified Zone Academy bonds; the maturity structure was still being finalized at press time.

The district is also selling $67.2 million of Series 2012 D taxable GO bonds in a separate deal being priced by Stifel, Nicolaus & Co.

Back in Texas, the Austin Electric Utility System is earmarked to issue $385 million of revenue debt in a two-pronged offering that is expected to be priced on Tuesday by Citi.

Rated A1 by Moody’s and AA-minus by Standard & Poor’s and Fitch, the Series 2012 A tax-exempt electric system revenue refunding bonds are structured to mature serially from 2015 to 2020; from 2023 to 2032; with term bonds in 2037 and 2040, while the Series 2012 B taxable portion is structured as serial bonds maturing from 2015 to 2022 with a term bond in 2027.

Morgan Stanley & Co., meanwhile, is on tap to price $380.5 million of Commonwealth of Massachusetts GO refunding debt on Wednesday.

Series B is designated as $230 million of refunding Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association index bonds, and $150 million of Series D consolidated loan bonds, but the final structure was being finalized at press time. The deal is rated Aa1 by Moody’s and AA-plus by Standard & Poor’s.

In the Southwest, a $336.9 million offering of federal highway grant anticipation bonds from the Alabama Federal Aid Highway Financing Authority is planned for pricing by Goldman, Sachs & Co. on Wednesday. The bonds are rated Aa3 by Moody’s and AA by Standard & Poor’s, and the serial structure matures from 2013 to 2026.

This week’s busy primary slate comes on the heels of last week’s fairly brisk post-Thanksgiving market when new-issue activity centered on $779.13 million Miami-Dade County, Fla., aviation revenue refunding bond offering.

The deal was priced by Bank of America Merrill Lynch & Co. last Thursday with top yields in 2032 of 3.34% -- 87 basis points higher than the benchmark 30-year triple-A GO bond at the time of pricing, according to Municipal Market Data.

The deal, which was rated A2 by Moody’s and A by Standard & Poor’s and Fitch, arrived amid pent-up demand as the market sustained the prior week’s strong tone when 30-year munis remained attractive relative to Treasuries, intermediate and long yields again rallied to record lows, and municipal bond indexes fell on all but the short end to the lowest levels in 47 years.

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A recent phenomenon is the emergence of bonds with shorter call protection as funding alternatives for municipalities. However, the shorter call protection also dampens the potential upside for investors, which in turn reduces the price they are willing to pay.

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