The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is seeking investment banking services, as the agency could refinance fixed-rate bonds associated with $800 million of floating-to-fixed-rate swaps.
MassPike released a request for qualifications yesterday on behalf of its successor agency, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
On Nov. 1, MassPike will cease to exist and MassDOT will oversee its two main toll roads, the Western Turnpike and the Metropolitan Highway System.
The new agency will also manage most surface transportation entities within Massachusetts, including the state’s main such agency, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
Responses to the RFQ are due by Oct. 26 at 4 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Officials anticipate selecting firms for senior manager and co-manager positions in early November. There are no plans for oral presentations, according to the RFQ.
Interested parties must outline their investment banking experience in Massachusetts, particularly with transportation agencies and toll facilities, and prior work with variable-rate demand bonds. The RFQ asks firms to consider a potential refunding of MHS bonds, options for such a transaction, and a recommended course of action.
“It is the intent of the authority to select the best-qualified firm whose background demonstrates experience and expertise as an underwriter and or remarketing agent including ... evaluation of security and indenture for the refunding bonds related to the UBS AG swaps, as well as other funding and refunding opportunities related to the authority’s MHS bonds,” the RFQ says.
MassPike has $207.6 million of fixed-rate senior MHS bonds and $592.3 million of subordinate MHS bonds that are attached to five floating-to-fixed-rate derivatives with UBS Securities LLC as counterparty. The mismatch of having fixed-rate debt coinciding with floating-to-fixed rate swaps costs the agency more than $2 million of additional interest costs per month, as of the beginning of the year. Refinancing the fixed-rate bonds into variable-rate mode would help address that issue.
Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings rate the MHS subordinate debt AA and A, respectively. Moody’s Investors Service assigns its A1 rating to the subordinate debt.
The authority’s subordinate debt carries higher credit ratings than its senior bonds since state lawmakers in mid-July approved allocating $100 million each year towards MassPike’s subordinate debt. That $100 million dedication is not subject to appropriation.
MassPike’s senior bonds carry BBB-plus and Baa2 ratings from Fitch and Moody’s, respectively. Standard & Poor’s rates the senior credit A-minus.
Recent upgrades to the subordinate bonds and a new rating from Standard & Poor’s helped cure a termination event on four UBS swaps associated with the subordinate bonds. The bonds or the swap’s insurer must carry a single-A rating or face a termination event. Ambac Assurance Corp. insures the derivatives and no longer has a single-A rating.
Officials continue to work with UBS regarding the fifth swap for a notional amount of $207.6 million that is attached to the senior bonds. The current mark-to-market value of that swap is approximately $78 million. The current deadline to cure the termination event is Friday. Massachusetts officials and UBS have extended cure dates on that swap several times since the summer.
The UBS derivatives carry Massachusetts’ double-A general obligation pledge. That GO credit extension will expire on Nov. 1.