CHICAGO — Minnesota plans to price $468 million of general fund appropriation-backed bonds for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium Monday, two weeks after the state pulled the deal due to an 11th hour legal challenge.
Minnesota Management and Budget said the state is now targeting Jan. 27 now that the legal dispute has been resolved. Officials working on the sale said it was expected that a retail order period would come before the institutional pricing. The state originally planned to take retail orders on Jan. 13 and price the bonds for institutions on Jan. 14.
RBC Capital Markets is bookrunner with JPMorgan and Wells Fargo Securities serving as co-senior managers. Public Financial Management Inc. is financial advisor and Kutak Rock LLP is bond counsel.
The decision to go forward with the issue came after the Minnesota Supreme Court dismissed the challenge on Tuesday. The state posted a supplement to its offering statement on Thursday with updated information on the legal dispute.
"The sale should be well-received and a see broad-based investor demand as the lawsuit seems to be largely removed as an issue," said Thomas Spalding, senior investment officer at Nuveen Investments.
The state is under the gun to move quickly as the public agency overseeing the $975 million construction projection has warned its running out of cash and a lengthier delay could threaten the expected 2016 opening date of the new venue for the National Football League team.
The state carries general obligation ratings in the high-double-A category from all three rating agencies and appropriation-backed ratings of AA from Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's.
The bond sale will cover Minneapolis' up to $150 million contribution and the state's up to $350 million contribution for the new stadium. The 65,000-seat stadium is being built adjacent to the team's longtime home, the 31-year-old Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which is already being dismantled.
The group of citizens challenging the deal filed a writ of prohibition with the state's high court just days before the scheduled pricing prompting the state to pull it. They argued the city's portion of the financing package, which relies on convention sales and hospitality taxes in the 2012 stadium legislation signed by Gov. Mark Dayton, violated state law.
The court dismissed the petition finding it did not have jurisdiction over the issue, which should be heard at the local district court level. The group had previously filed a similar challenge in the Hennepin County District Court asking that the court require the city's contribution be put to a voter referendum. A local judge dismissed it last year and the appellate court last week said the group waited too long to file its appeal. The group has 30 days from Jan. 21 to ask the Minnesota Supreme Court to review it. The lawsuit targets only the city's repayment stream and the state appropriation.
The bonds are being offered two series including a $397.7 million tax-exempt tranche and a $70.3 million taxable tranche. The tax-exempt piece matures through 2043 with principal repayment beginning in 2015. The tentative structure on the tax-exempt securities calls for term bonds of $89 million in 2038 and $114 million in 2043. Term bonds in 2034 for $12.6 million and in 2043 for $32.6 million are planned. The tax-exempt piece features a 10-year call and the taxable a 10-year make-whole call.
The state has carved a series of revenue sources to repay the bonds but earmarked revenues from a gambling expansion have proven tenuous and the state is stressing with investors that no specific revenue stream is pledged but instead a sturdier general fund appropriation pledge.
""Given that debt service will be paid from the state's general fund, the performance of these offsetting revenues is not a rating factor," Fitch Ratings said in its report on the deal.
Like most appropriation pledges, the legislature could vote to alter or repeal it and the governor has un-allotment powers when state revenues are faltering. The state stresses that governors have never unalloted debt service funds.
The state's only other appropriation backed deal was a tobacco refunding sold last year. The state has stressed the "continuing" appropriation as a strength with the offering statement differentiating between it and other limited payment obligations that require an annual or biennial appropriation. The legislature has on several occasions in past decades failed to include in the budget full payments tied to non-continuing appropriations tied to debt issued by a zoo board and a Minnesota city.
"Fitch would expect an issuer of the strong credit quality of Minnesota to continue to protect its debt service obligations," analysts wrote.
The sale will cover all of the public costs of the stadium, Hanson said. The taxable piece will finance the state's costs for the team's locker room and other facilities and corporate suites with a heavier private use. The state opted for a 30-year term on the bonds to match the lease's term.
In an investor roadshow, state officials say the state's financial condition which was bolstered over the last year by both an improving economy and tax increases resulting in a billion dollar surplus. The state's $38.3 billion two-year budget signed last year included an income tax on higher earners, a cigarette tax hike, and corporate income tax changes.