BRADENTON, Fla. — The Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority expects to sell $280 million of tax-exempt bonds Tuesday.
Proceeds of the Series 2010C bonds will fund projects in the central Florida agency’s five-year work plan. It is the authority’s last new-money sale until 2012, an OOCEA official said.
The deal is expected to be structured with serial bonds maturing between 2025 and as long as 2031, and two terms bonds in 2035 and 2040.
Once again, the authority is foregoing the use of taxable Build America Bonds due to its concerns about potential risks that were cited in previous offerings, such as reliance on a federal interest subsidy and additional tax reporting and audit requirements, said chief financial officer Nita Crowder.
There might be another advantage to not using BABs since a considerable amount of transportation-related debt is expected to be sold this week.
“Actually, the market is very attractive right now in terms of absolute low rates, of course, but the big volume we’re seeing [on the bond calendar this week] is mostly in the taxable arena, or BABs,” Crowder said. “So we think we have a nice, sizeable transaction for the tax-exempt market.”
The bonds are rated A by Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s. Both agencies affirmed their stable outlooks and A ratings on the OOCEA’S $2.4 billion of outstanding revenue bonds.
Analysts credited agency officials for taking actions during the economic downturn to reduce expenses, delay projects, increase tolls about 25 cents to maintain debt-service coverage, and tie future toll increases to an index.
Beginning in 2012, toll increases will be linked to the greater of the consumer price index or 3% every five years. In fiscal year 2009, transactions decreased by 7.1% but revenues were down 0.2%, due in part to a toll increase in April 2009.
For the 12 months ending August, traffic was down 1.3% but gross revenue was up 18.4%, reflecting a full 12 months of the toll hike, Fitch said. Debt-service coverage for fiscal 2010 was 1.8 times, an increase over the previous year’s level of 1.6 times.
Fitch said the Expressway Authority is projecting debt-service coverage of 1.7 times for the current year based on an expected 3.4% increase in gross toll revenues and transactions.
“The OOCEA has a history of delaying expansion projects while maintaining its existing asset base when revenues have faltered, project costs increased, or market conditions have not been favorable for borrowing, and Fitch expects this prudence to be continued,” said analyst Emma Griffith.
Standard & Poor’s noted that the authority has strong financial resources, with more than $230 million of unrestricted cash and investments at the end of fiscal 2010, or 1,479 days’ cash on hand. It has a $1.4 billion, five-year capital program.
First Southwest Co. is the financial adviser for the authority.
Citi is the book-runner for the syndicate, which includes Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays Capital, Goldman, Sachs & Co., JPMorgan, Loop Capital Markets LLC, Morgan Stanley, Raymond James & Associates Inc., RBC Capital Markets, and Wells Fargo Securities.
Broad and Cassel PA and Ruye H. Hawkins PA are co-bond counsel on the offering. Greenburg Traurig PA and KnoxSeaton are co-disclosure counsel. Bryant Miller Olive PA is underwriters’ counsel.