Winner: Trans-Jamaican Highway
SPONSOR: National Road Operating and Construction Company
FINANCING TYPE AND SIZE: $225 million senior secured project bond
BANKS: UBS, NCB Capital Markets
LAW FIRMS: DunnCox, Hogan Lovells, Mayer Brown, Patterson Mair Hamilton, Paul Hastings
SUPPORT: PriceWaterhouseCoopers (advisor)
Perhaps no transaction in the Caribbean garnered as much attention as the $225 million senior secured project bond for building the Trans-Jamaican Highway (TJH).
Highway 200-300 East-West, is a toll road that is the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken in the English-speaking Caribbean.
To achieve such a milestone, TJH went through a series of refinancing transactions in December 2019, which included a $133.6 million debt bridge facility to repay existing indebtedness, a $72 million equity bridge facility and a $16.4 million loan from the National Road Operating and Construction Company. The NROCC is wholly owned by the Jamaican government. This financing was used by NROCC to purchase 100% of the outstanding shares of TJH. The NROCC sold the shares in the public offering of approximately $14 billion Jamaican dollars. This marked the largest initial public offering in Jamaica to date, and according to the Jamaican Stock Exchange, more than 36,000 people applied to participate in the transaction.
The strength of the project could be seen in the credit rating. Not only was it the first Jamaican infrastructure asset financed in the international capital markets, but it also represented one of two infrastructure assets in Latin American and the Caribbean to have received a rating that pierced above the sovereign rating, at the time.
Fitch Ratings gave the TJH a rating of BB- versus a B+ for the sovereign. The rating was constrained by the BB- country ceiling, Fitch said.
The pandemic has put strains on the toll road given the reduction in traffic. The toll road serves an area that covers 52.8% of Jamaica’s population.
Had the IPO been delayed, wrote Mayer Brown, one of the legal firms advising on the transaction, the release of escrow funds would have been delayed and therefore the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic would have likely scuttled both deals. In the 2008 recession, toll roads took hits to their revenue streams, but eventually rebounded.
“The COVID-19 pandemic will have a similar material adverse effect on the project, but as an essential asset with strategic importance for Jamaica, the toll road will overcome this setback as well,” Mayer Brown said.
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