DALLAS — After a few weeks of relatively light volume in the Texas municipal market, a few larger issues are set to price this week.
In the largest deal of the week, the Waco Education Finance Corp. plans to offer $115 million of revenue refunding bonds to restructure bonds sold on behalf of Baylor University that are tied up in auction-rate and variable-rate debt insured by XL Capital Assurance.
The negotiated sale of Series 2008C fixed-rate bonds led by Lehman Brothers is the first of two issues expected to come to market over the next two weeks. The issuer plans to offer $159 million of Series 2008A and B variable-rate bonds the following week. The new variable-rate debt will carry a standby purchase agreement provided by JPMorgan Chase & Co. that replaces the XLCA insurance.
The deals are the first in which Baylor received a credit rating. Both Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings assigned a AA-minus underlying rating to the private Baptist university, which is the oldest continuously operated college in the Lone Star state.
Elsewhere, the Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1 is bringing $72 million of general obligation bonds to market Tuesday on the heels of an upgrade to AA-minus from A-plus from Standard & Poor’s.
Proceeds will fund improvements to levees on the Rio Grande to bring the embankments into compliance with Federal Emergency Management Agency requirements.
Moody’s Investors Service assigned its Aa3 rating to the issue.
Noe Hinojosa, president and chief executive of Estrada Hinojosa & Co., the financial adviser to the district, said the issuer is the first in the South Texas Rio Grande Valley to attain ratings in the double-A category, calling it a “real coup” for the district.
The bonds will be sold competitively and insurance will be at the bidder’s option.
“It’s a great market for issuers with strong underlying credits that are looking to access the capital markets,” Hinojosa said. “Now more than ever investors are looking at the underlying credits.”
Montalvo & Ramirez is bond counsel to the Hidalgo County district.
Estrada Hinojosa is also the financial adviser to Brownsville, which plans to offer $36.7 million of combination tax and revenue bonds today.
JPMorgan is lead underwriter for the sale with Wachovia and Morgan Keegan & Co. as co-mangers.
Hinojosa said the sale exhausts a 2001 authorization and proceeds will fund improvements to the city’s airport, as well as construction of a multi-use athletic complex. The bonds will be insured, he said, but the choice of insurer won’t be made until the time of sale.
Brownsville, which is the southernmost city in Texas, carries underlying ratings of A-plus from both Fitch and Standard & Poor’s.
The Judson Independent School District is bringing $71.3 million of unlimited-tax school building bonds to market this week through a negotiated sale led by RBC Capital Markets.
Fitch assigned an A-plus underlying rating and Moody’s assigned its A1 rating to the issue. The debt won’t be backed by the state’s triple-A rated Permanent School Fund because the district’s debt service is higher than the $1,250 per-student maximum under the program.
Moody’s said the ad valorem values of the suburban San Antonio district averaged annual growth of 12.2% the past five years, including a gain of more than $766 million from fiscal 2007 to 2008 to reach $5.4 billion.
Analysts said about 60% of the growth is attributable to new construction in both the residential and commercial sectors with continued growth projected.
The district’s current enrollment of about 20,600 has risen steadily the past decade, including gains of more than 5% the past two years. And officials believe the enrollment may double in the next 15 to 20 years.
SAMCO Capital Markets Inc. is the district’s financial adviser.
The Port Neches-Groves Independent School District will offer $60 million of unlimited-tax school building bonds in the competitive market Wednesday.
Coastal Securities Inc. is the financial adviser to the Gulf Coast district. Orgain, Bell & Tucker LLP is bond counsel.
The district carries underlying ratings of A1 from Moody’s and A-plus from Standard & Poor’s, which upgraded its rating from A due to continued expansion of the property-tax base and maintenance of good financial reserves.
The bonds will come to market with the triple-A wrap provided by the PSF.
This is the second sale from a $123 million authorization passed by voters in May for two new middle schools, major renovations to the high school and athletic stadium, upgrades to other facilities, and 24 new buses. Following this issue the district will have $45.7 million remaining from the approved bond package.
Business manager Cheryl Hernandez said proceeds from this tranche will fund the start of construction on the new middle schools, the beginning of the high school refurbishment, and technology upgrades for the district’s elementary campuses.
Port Neches-Groves has had a declining student population at its nine campuses the past few years. The 2008 enrollment of about 4,600 is down from 4,900 six years ago.
Hernandez said an influx of new students may be coming due to the increased activity in the petroleum and petrochemical sectors.
Standard & Poor’s said “recent strength in the petrochemical industry” pushed the district’s fiscal 2008 assessed value to $3.21 billion, which is an increase of 15% from the year earlier and nearly 35% higher than five years ago.