DALLAS — Two issues of transportation debt and a $228.6 million refunding from the state lead the way this week in Texas, and there’s a number of Lone Star school districts planning to price bonds as well.
The Texas Transportation Commission will offer $1.1 billion of mobility fund bonds Wednesday through a negotiated sale led by UBS Securities LLC and Estrada Hinojosa & Co. Due to the size of the deal, the underwriting syndicate includes eight other firms. McCall, Parkhurst & Horton LLP is bond counsel to the state agency.
The bonds, which are backed by revenues and a tax pledge, carry underlying ratings of AA-plus from Fitch Ratings, AA from Standard & Poor’s, and Aa1 fro Moody’s Investors Service.
The mobility program is funded by state fees for vehicle registrations, driver licenses, and traffic fines.
The Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority expects good demand for its first debt issue on Thursday — $237 million of pass-through toll revenue bonds backed by a pledge of annual payments from the Texas Department of Transportation upon completion of the project by developer J.D. Abrams of Austin.
Abrams brought the unsolicited proposal to build the so-called “Inner Loop” in El Paso to TxDOT in 2006, with the financing plan completed in 2007. The 7.4-mile roadway will handle increased traffic from Fort Bliss, which will expand by 20,000 troops and an anticipated 40,000 dependents by 2010.
The RMA will decide on insurance for the bonds, which carry ratings of A2 from Moody’s and A from Standard & Poor’s, on the date of issuance. First Southwest is financial adviser on the deal, with Fulbright & Jaworski as bond counsel. Citi is lead manager.
The Texas Public Finance Authority plans to issue about $228.6 million of general obligation refunding bonds this week in a negotiated sale led by UBS Securities.
Coastal Securities is the financial adviser to the state agency.
Standard & Poor’s rates the credit at AA and Fitch assigned a AA-plus rating to sale. Fitch analysts said the strong rating reflects the state’s low debt, conservative financial operations, and an economy that’s expanding and diversifying.
The deal was originally set to price in August but was pushed back due to market conditions.
No fewer than 10 Texas school districts expect to issue debt this week with the majority of the bonds coming to market backed by the state’s triple-A rated Permanent School Fund. Last week, another 10 school districts priced bonds with more on the schedule in the coming weeks.
“One of the main reasons we’re seeing ISD’s price bonds in a bunch is the Legislature now allows for only two elections, one in May and one in November,” said a financial adviser who brought a PSF-backed issue to market last week. “The 30-day contest period for bond passed in November was in mid-December and no one sells bonds in mid-December. So it’s only natural that we’re seeing more PSF-backed debt in the market now.”
The adviser added that the size of a bond sale by a Texas school district usually dictates the level of retail interest, noting that larger deals — $25 million and up — usually see only institutional investment.
The Port Arthur Independent School District will issue $65 million of school building bonds Wednesday through a negotiated sale. The underwriting syndicate includes Loop Capital Markets LLC, Citi, Morgan Keegan & Co., and Siebert Brandford Shank & Co.
The bonds won’t be backed by the PSF due to the district’s debt-service requirement being higher than the $1,250 per student maximum allowed under the program. But the debt will be wrapped with triple-A rated insurance from Assured Guaranty Corp.
The district, which has a current enrollment of 9,238, will have about $175 million of debt outstanding following this week’s sale.
The Gulf Coast district carries underlying ratings of A3 from Moody’s and A-minus from Fitch, which said the rating reflects the district’s improved management, moderate debt levels, and strong tax-base growth.
“With various large capital investments in development or under construction by local refinery and petrochemical concerns,” Fitch analysts say they expect continued tax-base growth for the district.
The Teague Independent School District plans to bring $39.7 million of school building bonds to market at some point this week through a negotiated sale led by First Southwest Co.
RBC is the financial adviser to the district with an enrollment of about 1,200 students in east central Texas.
Mary Clary-Smith, the district’s business manager, said proceeds will fund a new junior high school-high school complex.
“We’ve got a tilt-wall high school and the repairs got to the point where we realized it best to just go ahead and build a new facility,” she said.
Eagle Pass Independent School District will offer nearly $22 million of school building bonds this week via a negotiated sale led by Southwest Securities Inc.
The South Texas border district has an enrollment of nearly 14,000.
The Lovejoy Independent School District plans to issue $45 million of school building bonds at some point this week, using proceeds to expand several campuses.
RBC Capital Markets is lead manager for the sale, with Southwest Securities and Morgan Keegan as co-managers. The growing North Texas district used to serve only kindergarten through sixth grade with a student population of slightly less than 1,000 in 2004.
The current enrollment is about 2,500 students in kindergarten through 10th grade. The district’s 11th and 12th grade students attend class in the adjacent Allen Independent School District, but officials expect to transition to a K-12 district by 2010.
Juniors will begin attending class in the recently completed high school this fall followed by seniors in 2009.
In the competitive market this week, the Gulf Coast community of Baytown is offering a two-tranche issue worth about $42.4 million Thursday.
First Southwest is the financial adviser to the city that sits on the Trinty Bay about 25 miles east of downtown Houston.
Baytown will offer $29.5 million of combination tax and revenue certificates of obligation and $12.9 million of general obligation bonds.