DALLAS — Louisiana officials were gratified Tuesday with significant investor interest in the state’s first offering of new-money debt in three years.
The state sold $200 million of new-money general obligation bonds for the first time since 2006 in a competitive deal on Tuesday, along with a $119 million tranche of refunding bonds.
Eight bids were received for the new-money bonds, with Barclays Capital submitting a winning offer of 3.95%. Co-managers are UBS Securities LLC and Siebert Brandford Shank & Co. The state received a premium of $12.4 million on the bonds.
JPMorgan won the refunding bonds with a bid of 1.499%. The noncallable refunding bonds, which mature in 2014, drew a premium of $7.1 million.
The State Bond Commission accepted the bids Tuesday morning during a meeting scheduled to coincide with the sale.
Freda Johnson, president of Government Finance Associates, the financial adviser to the state, said the number of bids and the favorable rates showed a high level of investor confidence in the state.
“To break 4% in the new-money sale and come in under 1.5% on the refunding bonds was very, very satisfying,” Johnson said. “Everyone on the Bond Commission is very pleased with the results of the two sales.”
Almost every major financial institution in the United States participated in the bidding, she said.
“We had a very strong amount of bidding, much stronger than we had anticipated,” Johnson said. “The state is very pleased with the number of bids, and the low interest costs.”
She said the state was pleased but not surprised by the bond premiums.
“That’s just a function of the bond market right now,” she said. “We were not surprised, but still it is nice to have the extra money.”
The state had planned to issue $124.8 million of refunding bonds, but resized the tranche to $119.02 million.
Total savings on the refunding bonds was $8.13 million. Present value savings of $7.85 million are 6.3% of the value of the 1998 bonds being refunded.
Foley & Juddell LLC and Phelps Dunbar LLP are the state’s co-bond counsels.
Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s raised their ratings on Louisiana’s GO debt to AA-minus from A earlier this month. Moody’s Investors Service retained its A1 rating on Louisiana’s GO debt, but raised the outlook to positive from stable.
State Treasurer John Kennedy, chairman of the Bond Commission, said the higher ratings are recognition of good financial management by state government.
“I credit the governor and the Legislature,” Kennedy told the commissioners. “The rating agencies were impressed with how we handled our current deficit, and our plans for dealing with reduced revenues.”
The high level of investor interest can be attributed to a combination of several factors, Johnson said.
“The state has not been in the new-money market in three years, and its ratings haven’t been this high since 1985,” she said. “It’s also a matter of supply and demand.”
The market this year has been dominated by taxable Build America Bonds, with fewer issuers opting for conventional tax-free debt, Johnson said.
“There are still a lot of traditional fixed-rate, tax-free debt buyers out there, and our two issues obviously filled a need. I think that’s why the buyers jumped at these bonds,” she said.
“I’m not saying BABs are bad, but this structure worked out better for Louisiana.”