The Massachusetts Port Authority, which owns and operates Boston's Logan International Airport, held a retail order period Tuesday for $285 million of revenue bonds.
According to Betsy Taylor, the authority's director of finance and treasury, Massport would hold a second retail day if demand is high.
Quasi-public Massport will sell $120 million of Series 2012A fixed-rate bonds to fund the cost of airline terminal and gate relocations, primarily to reflect the merger of United and Continental airlines and the expansion of JetBlue Airways, now the biggest carrier at Logan.
The $165 million of Series 2012B revenue bonds will refund all or a portion of the outstanding Series 2003A and C bonds. Based on market conditions, the refunding is expected to produce net present savings close to 10% of par refunded, Fitch Ratings said in a report.
Fitch rated the bonds AA, while Standard & Poor's assigned AA-minus. Moody's Investors Service rated them Aa3. "We have double-A credit. Not many airports have it. This reflects investor recognition of Logan," said Taylor.
Fitch cited Massport's debt service coverage, leverage and liquidity robust, "driven by the proven revenue-generating capabilities of the authority's asset portfolio." Massport's revenue bonds are secured by the net revenues generated from Port Authority properties, which include Logan and various maritime facilities within the Port of Boston.
Nearly 90% of Massport's revenue debt is fixed rate with a conservatively structured amortization profile, according to Fitch.
Taylor said Massport prefers to sell new and refunding bonds together.
Massport, she added, intends to relocate United, which absorbed Continental's flights under its own name on March 3, to gates that previously served a commuter airline, and enlarge the gates. Although the airlines announced the merger in 2010, they had operated out of different Logan terminals.
Massport plans to also connect the United, American Airlines and US Airways gates through a new connection beyond the security checkpoints. "This will make Logan much more flexible as carriers expand," Taylor said.
The gate shuffling will also benefit JetBlue, which in its nine years has become the biggest carrier at Logan. According to Fitch, JetBlue had 21% of the passenger plane volume there in fiscal 2011, ahead of Delta Airlines and US Airways, which had 15% and 13.3%, respectively.
"This passenger airline mix is considered a strong positive operating attribute at Logan considering it served a large domestic travel base complemented by international gateway service among many foreign-flag carriers," Fitch said.
JetBlue, which is expanding in Terminal C, will realize a new connection to the international Terminal E, which Taylor said will benefit passengers flying to and from the Caribbean.
While acknowledging Massport's regional clout, Moody's said the authority's role in regional economic development exposes its capital program to expenditures on noncore projects.
Moody's said a takeover by Massport of ferry operations now run by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which operates greater Boston's subway public transportation system, "could have a significant negative financial impact."
The state legislature, when it covered the MBTA's $51 million deficit last month, called for studies exploring such a takeover.
Massport three weeks ago approved its $380.4 million operating budget for fiscal 2013. The authority will spend $101 million on debt service. It also added $37 million to the 2012-2016 capital program its board approved in May.