With Tampa International Airport stabilizing its ridership numbers along with an improving local economy, Moody’s Investors Service affirmed an A1/stable rating on outstanding Hillsborough County Aviation Authority senior lien bonds and assigned an A2 rating to $186.2 million in new bonds.
The new issue will refund 2003 bonds and a portion of a loan to SunTrust Bank, and will help prepare the airport for borrowing in 2015 for new master plan projects.
The A1 and A2 ratings, fifth and sixth highest in Moody’s rankings, reflect high quality bonds with very low credit risk.
Ridership at the airport declined from 2008 through 2010 before improving 0.6 percent in 2011 to about 16.7 million passengers. It remained flat in 2012 and in 2013 projections with a 0.7 and 0.5 percent increases respectively, but airport officials predict modest growth.
Moody’s noted that the increasing pace of recovery of the local economy, diversified airport revenue with airlines accounting for only 25 percent of overall revenue, minimal changes in projected debt service coverage ratios and a flexible capital improvement plan as positive signs.
“In the past year, Tampa has grown faster than any other metro area in Florida with the housing sector leading the recovery and the financial industry continuing to expand,” the report issued last week said.