BRADENTON, Fla. - Triple-A rated Georgia has selected an underwriting team to sell a new-money general obligation bond deal for the state.

Because of market conditions, Georgia has joined a handful of other states that usually sell such debt on a competitive basis and sought a syndicate to go the negotiated route.

Last month, Georgia officials at the State Financing and Investment Commission released a request for proposals seeking underwriting firms to participate in the sale of $613.85 million of general obligation bonds early next month.

Twenty-seven firms responded to the RFP and they were selected, under various titles, to participate in the transaction. The state included a selling group of the firms to increase distribution of the bonds, particularly to retail investors. The syndicate may be used on future offerings.

The book-running senior manager is Merrill Lynch & Co. The co-senior managers are Citi and JPMorgan.

The co-managers are Bank of America Securities LLC, Barclays Capital, Jackson Securities LLC, Morgan Keegan & Co., Morgan Stanley, Raymond James & Associates Inc., SunTrust Robinson Humphrey Inc., and Wachovia Bank NA.

The selling group consists of Backstrom McCarley Berry & Co., BB&T Capital Markets, Cabrera Capital Markets LLC, TD Securities USA LLC, Depfa First Albany Securities LLC, Edward Jones, Fidelity Capital Markets Services, Jesup & Lamont Securities Corp., M.R. Beal & Co., Pershing LLC, Prager, Sealy & Co., Rice Financial Products Co., SBK-Brooks Investment Corp., Siebert Brandford Shank & Co., Stephens Inc., and Toussaint Capital Partners LLC.

Public Resources Advisory Group is the financial adviser to the state. Alston & Bird LLP is bond counsel. Greenberg Traurig LLP is disclosure counsel.

In anticipation of continuing disruption in the credit markets, Florida in November selected 12 firms for a new underwriting pool although it typically sells debt competitively. It has yet to use the syndicate.

The Florida Division of Bond Finance Jan. 14 completed its largest competitive bond sale in several months - $200 million for public education capital outlay - selling to Merrill Lynch & Co. at a true interest cost of 4.71%.

The uninsured, full faith and credit bonds were rated AAA by Standard & Poor's, AA-plus by Fitch Ratings, and Aa1 by Moody's Investors Service. The Sunshine State, however, has a negative outlook on its debt due to the worsening recession and the severe impact it has had on state revenues.

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