Only about 1 percent of American municipalities have been given a junk rating by S&P:
S&P on Tuesday lowered Puerto Rico’s general obligation bond rating to double-B-plus from triple-B-minus, stripping the island of its investment grade rating. The rating firm said it cut the rating because of Puerto Rico’s “reduced capacity” to borrow and the contraction in its economy in all but one year since 2006. It kept the island’s ratings on watch and warned of further cuts if the island is unable to raise money.
Puerto Rico has also been weighed down by large pension obligations, a 15% unemployment rate and big losses in the value of some of its debt. But the Puerto Rico government has been taking steps to bolster the economy and improve its fiscal outlook by overhauling pensions and raising taxes.
Despite the benign response to the downgrade, the cut adds pressure on Puerto Rico to shore up its finances with a near-term borrowing, analysts said. Puerto Rico, which has $70 billion of debt, has been able to put off borrowing in recent months, but its flexibility is fading, said Daniel Hanson, a credit analyst at Height Securities LLC.
Island officials have been planning a bond offering of some $2 billion in coming weeks, according to people familiar with the matter. The officials have been weighing how to raise money with offerings backed by sales taxes or the island’s general fund, or a deal structured by hedge funds and other distressed investors who may demand yields near 10%.
Moody’s and Fitch are expected to be next with their downgrades.
Gov. Alejandro García Padilla is finally trying to cut the budget and reduce the deficit to $75 million, something he’s been avoiding, considering how his predecessor, Luis Fortuño, was not re-elected for doing just that.
To add to García Padilla’s woes, a misspelling of his name caused a flurry of tweets under the hashtag #GobiernoPandilla (gangster government), including the news that the administration-appointed telecommunications board (Junta Reglamentadora de Telecomunicaciones) granted contracts to partisans, and that the University of Puerto Rico’s administrators’ payroll increased by 35%:
Monumental payroll increase UPR for #GobiernoPandilla’s #FriendsOfTheHeart
— PNP (@pnp_pr) January 30, 2014
No word as to whether García Padilla, commonly referred to as Agapito (for Alejandro GArcía PadIlla + “to“), has considered laying off his five relatives working for the government.