BRADENTON, Fla. — Florida's Tampa International Airport is using major financings this week and in August to support its largest capital plan in more than four decades.
The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, owner and operator of TPA, priced $334 million of senior and subordinate bonds on Wednesday with Bank of America Merrill Lynch as the book-runner.
Closing on the bonds is set for Aug. 13.
Preliminary pricing earlier in the week indicated that the offering would be well received, according to HCAA finance director Ann Davis.
Bond proceeds will go toward expanding the main terminal, redeveloping concessions and building a new concession warehouse, taxiway improvements, and major work on a 1.4-mile automated people mover.
The HCAA will be back in the bond market the week of August 17 with a second deal to finance another portion of a multi-year, $2.5 billion three-phase master expansion plan.
The fixed-rate transaction issued Wednesday was expected to be structured as $156.7 million of senior general airport revenue bonds subject to the alternative minimum tax, $20.03 million of subordinate AMT bonds, and $157.3 million of subordinate non-AMT bonds.
All bonds have final maturity in 2044. The subordinate debt is also backed by passenger facility charge revenues.
The airport's improving financial metrics and low-cost structure contributed to rating upgrades from Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's, while Fitch Ratings revised its outlook to positive from stable.
Moody's raised its ratings on the senior lien bonds to Aa3 from A1 and on the subordinate bonds to A1 from A2, while S&P raised its senior debt ratings to AA-minus from A-plus and the subordinate bond ratings to A-plus from A.
Fitch rates the senior bonds A-plus, and Kroll Bond Rating Agency assigns its AA-minus rating.
The subordinate bonds are rated A by Fitch, and A-plus by Kroll.
The authority sought ratings for this first time from Kroll in part because of the extensive credit reviews the agency offers prospective investors, said Damian Brooke, vice president of finance and information technology.
Kroll issued a 30-page report for this week's transaction.
Brooke also said more airports are using Kroll, including the agency's recent addition to an offering by Miami International Airport.
New ratings are expected for the authority's issuance of $357.4 million of tax exempt and taxable, non-AMT customer facility charge revenue bonds, which price in about four weeks.
Proceeds from the CFC bond deal will finance the construction of a consolidated rental car facility and complete financing for the automated people mover system that will connect the rental car facility and economy parking garage with the terminal.
In addition to bond financing, the airport is using federal and state grants as well as pay-as-you-go funds for the master plan.
Tampa's current terminal, known for its spoked-wheel design with separate concourses connected by monorails, was constructed in 1971. The facility was designated as a large-hub airport in 1973.
The airport saw 8.7 million enplanements in 2014, down from the peak of 9.6 million in 2007.
However, Fitch said the rate of traffic recovery has accelerated in recent years with fiscal 2015 year-to-date enplanement growth of 6.5% "demonstrating continued, robust growth."
Airport officials have revised the master plan and delayed major expansion projects a number of times as the economy ebbed due to events such as the recent recession.
Construction on the $953 million first phase of the current capital program began in November. All three phases will be implemented as various stages through 2023.
Kroll said phasing of the master plan is a strength that provides airport officials with the ability to adapt the capital program to changes in forecast passenger demand.
The authority benefits from "a long period of strong, conservative management and long-term capital planning," said Moody's analyst Kurt Krummenacker.
"Tampa International Airport is at the beginning of a capital program that will transform the airport and leave the airport's finances in a position as strong as it has ever been," he said.
During implementation of the master plan, Krummenacker said financial metrics will improve with the debt service coverage ratio remaining above 2 times while the cost per enplanement will remain below $7.
Moody's said its rating also considers the airport's diversified revenue stream with about a quarter of the revenue comes from airlines.
S&P said its rating upgrade also reflected the ability of airport officials to manage the CIP while maintaining low airline cost per enplanement and strong projected debt coverage levels.
According to the feasibility study completed for the 2015 financing, enplanements are projected to rise at a compound annual growth rate of 2.1% through 2024 largely due to international growth of 6.2% through 2024 compared to 1.9% growth in domestic enplanements, said S&P analyst Todd Spence.
"We view these projections as reasonable given recent strength in international enplanements, which have increased 6.2% annually from 2004 through 2014," Spence said.
Fitch said its positive outlook reflects the Tampa airport's improving financial metrics, which include reduced overall leverage compared to earlier master plans.
Brooke said the phase 1 projects of the master plan are expected to be completed by October of 2017.
In addition to the overall master plan projects, he said the airport is working on a separate development program to bring in additional revenues.
The separate plan, which is expected to be completed by 2020, includes an office, hotel and restaurant complex that will eventually connect to the rental car center by a sky bridge, he said. Financing for that program has not been determined.
Public Financial Management Inc. is the authority's financial advisor.
In addition to BofA Merrill Lynch, other underwriters on this week's deal are Citi, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley & Co., Raymond James & Associates, Inc. and RBC Capital Markets LLC.
Holland and Knight LLP is bond counsel. GrayRobinson PA is disclosure counsel. Bryant Miller Olive PA is underwriter's counsel.
Citi is the book-runner for TPA's financing in August, though all other professionals remain the same.