Milwaukee County last week sold $31.5 million of new-money revenue bonds for projects at General Mitchell International Airport and $56.3 of refunding airport revenue bonds.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Siebert Brandford Shank & Co. served as underwriters and Public Financial Management Inc. and Peralta Garcia Solutions were financial advisers.

Ahead of the sale, Fitch Ratings affirmed its A-plus rating on the county’s airport revenue bonds, including $128.9 million of outstanding debt, while Moody’s Investors Service affirmed its A1 rating. The bonds are secured by net revenues of airport operations.

The new-money proceeds will be used to fund five capital-improvement projects while the refunding bonds will consist of 2011 to 2025 maturities from a 2000 issue. The refunding is expected to generate $6.6 million in present-value savings.

“Fitch believes that the airport’s current set of financial strengths and favorable cost profile, together with its solid service base of three low-cost carriers, are the key drivers to maintaining the ratings for the outstanding bonds,” analysts wrote. “Traffic losses, relative to current performance, that lead to stresses on financial performance could pressure the rating.”

Between 2000 and 2009, the airport’s passenger volume grew at a compound annual growth rate of 3.1%. For the first seven months of the year, volume grew 30.9% due to increased service from the entry of Southwest Airlines.

The county issued a supplement to its preliminary offering statement following the announcement late last month that Southwest would acquire AirTran Airways. AirTran accounts for 25% of passenger volume and Southwest has 8%.  A further $84.2 million of debt is expected in the next five years to fund part of the capital improvement plan.

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