CHICAGO - Confident the market has begun to recover from last year's turmoil, two major Ohio issuers plan to enter the market today with a pair of long-delayed bond issues.

The Ohio Public Facilities Commission will price three refunding issues that officials had postponed for nearly a year while waiting for improved market conditions.

Also today, Ohio State University plans to begin retail sales for a $231 million fixed-rate deal originally planned for October but delayed amid the credit crunch. The sale is part of the school's $1.5 billion capital improvement campaign.

After waiting out the market for nearly a year, the commission today plans to refund three fixed-rate general obligation issues that total $138 million. The state will sell $56.9 million of higher education GOs, $31.8 million of common schools GOs, and $49.4 million of infrastructure improvement GOs.

The infrastructure bonds are currently callable, while the higher education and common schools bond issues are both advance refundings, according to Larry Scurlock, the state's assistant debt manager.

Merrill Lynch & Co. is senior manager on the transaction and Fifth Third Securities Inc. is co-senior manager. Five additional firms round out the underwriting team.

"Back in February of 2008 we had this ready, and then the auction-rate market collapsed," Scurlock said. "Then we had it set again for later in the year and again, the market pulled away. I guess the third time's a charm. The market has improved enough in the new year."

The finance team hopes to achieve a 5% present-value savings on the higher education and common schools issues and around a 4.5% savings on the infrastructure bonds.

As with the state's recent sales, the finance team is hoping for strong retail interest in the bonds, Scurlock said. Ohio has increasingly lobbied local retail investors to purchase bonds over the last few years under former Treasurer Richard Cordray, who in November became the state's attorney general.

Meanwhile, Ohio State University plans today to open a one-day retail order period for a $230 million fixed-rate issue that is part of its $1.5 billion, six-year capital improvement plan. Officials had planned to issue the bonds last October, a few weeks after it sold $130 million of variable-rate debt, but postponed the issue when the market froze amid a lack of investor interest, said Alvin Rodack, OSU's associate treasurer.

Since then, "we've been constantly looking at the market and felt that rates had gotten too high, and at some point they'd come down enough," Rodack said. "Now is a good time - the rates have come down." The finance team is expecting to capture a roughly 4.5% interest rate on the issue, he added.

Morgan Stanley is senior manager with SBK-Brooks Investment Corp. as co-senior. Citi, Fifth Third, and Rice Financial Products Co. are also on the team.

The fixed-rate bonds mature in 20 years, like much of the university's roughly $1 billion debt portfolio, Rodack said. Officials keep the bonds under 30 years in order to pay off the debt by the time projects need to be renovated, he said. About 35% of OSU's debt is floating rate.

The bonds will be backed by the university's general receipts. OSU's revenue totaled more than $2.5 billion in fiscal 2007, according to credit analysts.

Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's assigned a AA rating to the bonds. Moody's Investors Service, which maintains an Aa2 rating on the debt, was expected to release its rating on the new issue later yesterday.

With a student population of more than 59,000, the state's flagship university enjoys a solid market position as well as a strong balance sheet anchored by state aid and revenue from the Ohio State University Health System. OSU's main campus is in Columbus.

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