DALLAS - The last in a $3 billion series of debt issued to build the Denver International Airport is likely to be sold in September, project officials say.
The city tentatively plans to issue $365 million of bonds the week of Sept. 9, Patricia Beer, Denver's manager of revenue, said yesterday. She added that part of the deal may be insured, increasing chances that the issue could find a wider market than its predecessors.
The deal should wrap up financing for the airport's construction and is expected to be the final debt issue backed by general airport revenues, Ms. Beer said.
"We're trying to make this our last issue," she explained. "That's the goal. The only thing that might change that is if something unexpected happened."
The city now plans to sell $215 million of fixed-rate bonds and $150 million of variable-rate bonds this fall. Originally, project officials had said a sale of $100 million or more might be needed in January 1993 to cover any contingencies.
"There was a kind of clean-up issue planned in January," said Janet Ross, project analyst for the city. But officials decided that setting the September issue at $365 million would make that unnecessary, she said.
After the $ billion construction financing is complete, the only bond sales expected before the airport opens late next year will be to pay for customizing of terminals and construction of specialized facilities for airlines.
Rather than depending on a pledge of general airport revenues, these sales will be backed by payments from specific airlines.
Most notably, the city has committed to selling up to $160 million of special facilities debt for such projects for Chicago-based United Airlines, the number one carrier at the airport.
The Denver project, the nation's biggest airport project in two decades, is rated conditional Baal by Moody's Investors Service and BBB by Fitch Investors Service and Standard & Poor's Corp.
After enduring tough markets with low-grade ratings, the final sale could be partially insured and actively sold to a broader market of retail investors that have largely shunned the project, project officials said.
Ms. Beer said yesterday that she remains hopeful that Financial Security Assurance may qualify the fixed-rate portion of the next deal for its triple-A backing.
She said an independent engineering firm hired by FSA is reviewing the project this week and should report back to the insurer sometime next week.
"As soon as FSA gets that report, we should know," she said.
A spokesman at FSA has confirmed that the insurer is reviewing the project, but decline comment. No other bond insurance company is known to be considering insuring the deal.
When Denver goes to market in September, the transaction will be handled by separate senior manager teams. The variable-rate deal will be sold by a group led by Dain Bosworth Inc.; Goldman, Sachs & Co.; and M.R. Beal & Co. The fixed-rate deal will be underwritten by a team led by bookrunner Pryor, McClendon, Counts & Co.; Lehman Brothers; Artemis Capital Group Inc.; and Piper, Jaffray & Hopwood Inc.
Also, Ms. Beer said the fixed-rate offering will not likely be sold as an issue enhanced by the new passenger facility charge, the $3 per passenger tax the city began collecting on July 1 at Stapleton International Airport.
"The current thinking out there is that there is no value from it," she said. "I think it's so new that people are scared of it."
Wall street rating analysts have said they would not give strong consideration to bonds secured only by the passenger facility charge because it is a revenue source that Congress could stop in the future.
As a result, many airport finance experts have said the inclusion of such revenues into a transaction are not likely to improve pricing of new issues even if the charge increases coverage.
"People on the Street have come to see it as a non-issue because as a credit feature it is here today and maybe gone next year," said one Wall Street banker who was involved in drafting the passenger facility charge legislation. "I don't see it ever having a real [positive] impact unless it becomes a permanent revenue source with some history behind it. I don't think that will happen."
Beginning in 1993, Denver projects collections from the head tax will total $38.9 million.