Puerto Rico this week restructured $375 million of general obligation debt to achieve near-term savings and reduce fiscal 2010 GO debt service by $198 million.
The transaction pushed interest costs on existing debt out to future years on the commonwealth’s public improvement bonds. Morgan Stanley priced the debt Tuesday, with bonds maturing in 2036 through 2039, according to the final pricing wire.
Puerto Rico’s fiscal 2010 debt-service costs now total $570 million, down from $768 million. Conversely, its interest costs, beginning in fiscal 2013, will increase each year by roughly $20 million as a result of the restructuring. In addition, the proceeds will help cover a portion of interest payments in the next two fiscal years, according to Emily Raimes, an analyst at Moody’s Investors Service.
“It’s something that we are seeing some other states doing,” Raimes said. “When budgets get really tight, states start to look at every way that they can to save money and often one of the big costs is debt service, and so it’s one way to lower debt service costs.”
The commonwealth earlier this year opted to restructure outstanding bonds to lower fiscal 2010 interest payments and to help balance this year’s budget. The Government Development Bank for Puerto Rico, which accesses the capital markets for the commonwealth, is considering additional restructuring deals of GO debt but has yet to finalize future transactions.
Fernando Batlle, executive vice president of financing and treasury at the GDB, said the administration has not designated a specific amount of restructuring savings in fiscal 2010 to help bring down immediate costs.
“We’re working together with the Office of Management and Budget to look at what the situation is overall,” Batlle said. “And to the extent of what can be done, we have those discussions, but there’s not a particular mandate saying that you have to lower it by this much.”
Meanwhile, fiscal 2010 first-quarter revenue collections came in $62 million higher than prior estimates, to total $1.69 billion. In September, the commonwealth received $23 million above earlier revenue projections, with taxes withheld from nonresidents and a special real estate tax surpassing prior calculations. During the same month, personal income tax receipts came in $10 million below estimates.
The GDB also calculates that its economic activity index in September showed a positive month-over-month increase of 0.8%. The GDB-EAI consists of payroll employment, electric power consumption, cement sales, and gas consumption.
“With respect to September 2009, the GDB-EAI appears to be showing the first signs of stabilization of our economy,” GDB president Carlos García said in a prepared statement. “We are optimistic about the actual trend of the local economy and will continue to closely monitor the progress and direction of the GDB-EAI in the coming months.”
While year-over-year payroll employment declined by 5.5%, September’s payroll employment increased by 7,000. Cement sales increased from August to September, as did gas consumption, with the island using 90 million gallons of gasoline on average per month in 2009. Electrical use declined in September, but has grown by 2.5% year-over-year.
Officials also announced Wednesday that the government will postpone 7,191 layoffs that were originally set for today to January due to a technical glitch in how departments were notified of the layoffs. Overall, the government will implement 14,521 of net layoffs. Delaying a portion of the layoffs to January will cost $60 million in cash-flow projections, but the GDB said it would still realize $386 million of savings.