Pittsburgh Water launches investor website in transparency move

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The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has launched an investor-relations website that officials say is a significant step at attracting more investors to its bond programs and enhancing transparency.

The site provides a single location for investors to access its financial and operating data, said Edward Barca, its deputy director of finance and treasurer.

PWSA employees work on a street project.

“We’re committed to doing everything we can to make sure we borrow at the lowest possible rates, and a key is to drive demand for our bonds by being transparent and accessible," Barca sad.

PWSA, which began in 1984, is Pennsylvania's largest combined water and sewer authority. It provides services to more than 300,000 customers throughout Greater Pittsburgh.

BondLink, a Boston-based financial technology company, is powering the site. BondLink's has partnered with bond issuers across the country, including other municipal water authorities such as DC Water, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the Las Vegas Valley Water District.

The firm's co-founder, former Massachusetts deputy state treasurer Colin MacNaught, called Pittsburgh Water "one of the most sophisticated issuers in Pennsylvania."

S&P Global Ratings and Moody's Investors Service Authority’s rate the authority's bonds A and A3, respectively.

Moody's last July revised its outlook to stable from negative, citing operational improvements and controls implemented through state Public Utility Commission oversight, and the strength of a new management team that took over early in 2019. Moody's also referenced the Pittsburgh's diversity and its strong "eds-and-meds" higher-education and healthcare presence.

The PUC regulates the authority's rates and fees, and must approve any additional debt. The authority had $872.1 million of debt outstanding as of Dec. 19, according to bond documents.

"In particular, the authority has never had a really good line of communication with the public and the rating agencies," Barca said. "One of our goals is to be a more transparent agency."

PWSA is doing limited projects during the COVID-19 pandemic, notably on consent-decree work.

Its capital program from 2020 to 2024, according to Barca, will enable the authority to catch up on vital projects.

"It's an old system with a lot of deferred maintenance," Barca said. "Our capital improvement plan is our largest driver. It really gives folks, whether they're Pittsburgh residents, the investment community and the rating agencies a look at the work we're doing."

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