PUBLIC FINANCE

MIA gets a thumbs up from Moody’s

 

Miami International Airport received a clean bill of credit health this week by Moody’s, which extended the county agency’s A2 bond rating.

The report did note MIA’s sizable indebtedness, saying its roughly $6 billion debt amounts to one of the highest debt-per-passenger amounts ($283 a head) in the country. But surging traffic to and from Latin America and Europe and higher restaurant and retail sales have bolstered revenue to the point that the fees MIA charges airlines are coming in lower than expected.

The costs airlines pay to operate at MIA are forecast to stay under $22 per passenger through 2018, “significantly lower than previously forecast” but stil about double the average $10 that airlines pay for each passenger in most of the country’s major aiports. (In Broward’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, the costs is about $4 per passenger, according to Moody’s rival Fitch.)

While Miami-Dade’s airport maintained its strong credit rating, the county’s seaport received a downgrade last year from Moody’s. One big difference: Moody’s notes most of MIA’s major borrowing is behind it for now, while PortMiami plans to take on about $400 million more in the coming years.

Greg Chin, an MIA spokesman, said the Moody’s report was welcome news as the airport prepares to sell about $158 million in government bonds on Wall Street.

“We are pleased that Moody's has affirmed our rating at a time when the municipal market is stressed,’’ he said.

DOUGLAS HANKS

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