Two of the top credit reporting agencies have affirmed the South Carolina State Ports Authority’s (SCSPA) solid financial position, citing strong financial management, high debt service coverage and competitive advantages relative to other ports in the region.
The ratings come as the SCSPA issues $165 million in new revenue bonds to fund several major projects included in its 10-year, $1.3-billion capital plan. This is the first bond issue for the organization in nearly 12 years.
“The Ports Authority’s core mission as an economic driver for the state involves being financially self-sufficient,” said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the SCSPA. “These ratings reaffirm that the financial industry has faith in the success of South Carolina’s ports over the long term.”
Standard & Poor’s has assigned its A+ long-term underlying rating with a stable outlook on the SCSPA’s series 2010 bonds while it affirmed the A+ rating on the SCSPA’s existing series 1998 bonds. Specifically, the rating agency referenced the SCSPA’s well-balanced cargo flow between imports and exports, diversity among its customers and solid regional position.
Moody’s Investors Service has assigned an A1 rating with a stable outlook to the SCSPA’s series 2010 bond issue and affirmed the A1 rating on outstanding series 1988 revenue bonds. Moody’s cited the SCSPA’s low debt levels and distinct competitive advantages, including Charleston’s deep water, which makes the port well-positioned after the Panama Canal expansion is completed in 2014.
The SCSPA is issuing the new series of revenue bonds to fund nearly $78 million in new projects – including a new terminal operating system, new cruise terminal and major improvements to Columbus Street Terminal. The bonds also will reimburse the SCSPA $86 million in capital expenditures. The SCSPA plans to close on the bond issue in early December.
Port revenue bonds and the interest payable on them are an obligation of the SCSPA – not the state of South Carolina or taxpayers.