CHICAGO - The Omaha Public Power District plans to sell up to $20 million of revenue mini-bonds within the next 18 months, according to the treasurer of the district's board of directors.
A $10 million issue of capital appreciation revenue mini-bonds, sold last month, ushered the district into the small group of utilities that have handled their own debt sales. That deal's success gave rise to the new plans, said the treasurer, John K. Green, on Monday.
The proceeds from the $10 million sale will be used for general capital improvements for the utility, Mr. Green said. The bonds were sold in $200 and $500 denominations.
Mr. Green first started thinking about issuing mini-bonds after he read an article two years ago that described a mini-bond program by the Salt River Public Power District in Phoenix.
"The program fits in with our philosophy that the people who are customers and owners of the district ... can go one step further in financing at a level they can afford, Mr. Green said.
The bond sale, which was coordinated by the Omaha Public Power District's finance administrators, received a "spectacular" response from Nebraska citizens, Mr. Green said.
The district documented 1,700 buyers for the program, with an average purchase of $5,600. The district had to turn away 310 potential buyers who wanted to invest $2.5 million more than the $10 million already sold, Mr. Green said.
The AMBAC Indemnity Corp.-insured bonds, which carry a 6% interest rate and a maturity of 15 years, received triple-A ratings from both Standard & Poor's Corp. and Moody's Investors Service.
Moody's currently rates $962 million of the power district's unenhanced debt Aa, while Standard & Poor's rates $1.6 billion of its unenhanced debt AA. The bonds, which were sold only to Nebraska residents, are payable from and secured by a pledge of the power district's revenues, according to the official statement. Mr. Green said the bonds will be sent to purchasers in October.
The power district limited to $1 million the amount of bonds it will allow investors to put, or sell, back to the power district per year, the official statement says.
John Costagliola, a director at Standard & Poor's, said that utilities such as the Modesto, Calif., Irrigation District, have issued mini-bonds without the assistance of underwriters.
"Mini-bonds are a way to build public confidence [in the utility] by giving individuals the opportunity to invest. They're usually so minimal in comparison to a [utility's] total debt," Mr. Costagliola said. David Ambler, a vice president at Moody's, said it was "unusual" for a major utility to handle its own deal.
Meanwhile, the power district on Tuesday priced 165 million of new and refunded electric system revenue bonds in a negotiated deal headed by Lehman Brothers. The bonds were rated Aa by Moody's and AA by Standard & Poor's.