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MOODY'S ASSIGNS Aa2/VMIG 1 RATING TO WASHINGTON AND LEE UNIVERSITY'S $15 MILLION SERIES 2010 REVENUE BONDS AND AFFIRMS EXISTING Aa2 RATINGS; OUTLOOK IS STABLE

24 Sep 2010

UNIVERSITY HAS A TOTAL OF $130 MILLION OF PRO FORMA RATED DEBT

Lexington Industrial Development Auth, VA
Higher Education
VA

Moody's Rating

ISSUE

RATING

Educational Facilities Revenue Bonds (Washington & Lee University), Series 2010

Aa2/VMIG 1

  Sale Amount

$15,000,000

  Expected Sale Date

09/30/10

  Rating Description

Private University Revenue

 

 
Moody's Outlook   Stable
 

Opinion

NEW YORK, Sep 24, 2010 -- Moody's Investors Service has assigned a Aa2/VMIG 1 ratings to Washington and Lee University's $15 million Series 2010 Educational Facilities Revenue Bonds to be issued through the Industrial Development Authority of the City of Lexington Virginia. The VMIG 1 rating is based on the University's self liquidity. At this time we have also affirmed our existing Aa2 long-term ratings on the University's Series 1994, 1998, and 2001 Bonds issued by the Virginia College Building Authority. The rating outlook is stable.

RATINGS RATIONALE

USE OF PROCEEDS: Proceeds will fund various capital improvement projects and to pay for costs of issuance.

LEGAL SECURITY: Unsecured general obligation of the University.

DEBT-RELATED INTEREST RATE DERIVATIVES: The University has two interest rate swaps in association with the 1997 and 2003 variable note issues. The 1997 Swap is with Wells Fargo (rated Aa2) and expires in December of 2012 and the 2003 swap is with SunTrust (rated A2 on watch for possible downgrade) and expires in April of 2018. The swaps have a currently combined notional amount of just under $4 million. As of June 30, 2010 the market value of the two agreements was a liability to the University of approximately $255,000.

STRENGTHS

*Robust student market position with undergraduate (liberal arts, science and business) and graduate (law) programs totaling 2,153 FTE students in fall 2009 demonstrated by a high degree of selectivity (19% of freshmen applicants accepted in the Fall of 2010) with a 38% yield. This market strength has translated to solid tuition revenue growth, with net tuition per student at $25,345 in FY 2009 up from $18,633 in FY 2005.

*Large base of financial resources of just over $1 billion including funds held in trust by others, or $465,000 per student. Expendable financial resources of $372 million at FY 2009 cushion pro forma debt by 2.8 times and operations by 2.9 times.

*Excellent track record in donor and alumni support with average total gift revenue of $91 million per year in fiscals years 2007 through 2009.

* Healthy trend of positive operations resulting in a three-year average operating margin of 4.4%. While FY 2009 operations were somewhat weaker than prior years given growing financial aid, operations remained healthy with 2.2% operating margin, 13.9% cash flow margin yielding debt service coverage at 1.9 times. Diverse revenue mix comprised of 53% tuition and auxiliaries, 30% investment income and 16% gifts.

CHALLENGES

* Concentration of 78% of investments under the full control of one manager coupled with significant liquidity restrictions. The decision to outsource all long-term investments to a single manager with sole control over investment allocation adds concentration risk and, in this case, liquidity risk due to a lock-up commitment of one year. Aside from a 5% annual distribution to support endowment spending, University assets held by the manager would not be available with less than one year notice.

*Given the limited liquidity restrictions of the investment strategy, the University's liquid resources remain markedly limited relative to peers. At fiscal year end 2009, monthly liquidity of $50 million represented 153 days cash on hand, well below our median for Aa-rated private universities of 376 days. Annual days cash on hand of 406 days, however, is in line with peers with a Aa median of 404 days.

MARKET POSITION/COMPETITIVE STRATEGY: SELECTIVE STUDENT MARKET POSITION COMBINING UNDERGRADUATE AND LAW PROGRAMS WITH STRONG TUITION REVENUE

Moody's believes that given Washington and Lee's solid reputation and its demographically vibrant core markets in the mid-Atlantic and Southeast, the University will successfully generate greater tuition revenues while maintaining a stable to slightly growing enrollment and increasing student quality. Enrollment has remained relatively level with 2,152 full-time equivalent students (fall 2009), 81% of whom are undergraduates. Freshman selectivity has improved to 19% for the fall of 2010, down from 28% five years ago. Yield on admitted freshmen was38% in the fall 2010, in line with recent years. In the 2008-2009 academic year the University began the Johnson Scholarship Program which covers costs of attendance and will be awarded to about 10% of each entering class. Funded by a $100 million gift, the Program has led to a marked increase in applications and is intended to attract exceptional students. Lead competitors include University of Virginia (rated Aaa), Wake Forest University (Aa3), Vanderbilt University (Aa2), University of Richmond (Aa1), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Aaa), and the College of William and Mary. Net tuition per student of $25,345 is comparable to other highly selective Universities and points to a solid market niche and relatively affluent student population.

The University's School of Law also enjoys a prestigious reputation and solid student market position with its relatively small size (409 students in the fall 2010) and emphasis on faculty-student interaction. In the fall of 2010 the School of Law accepted 22% of its applicants and yielded 15% of admitted students. The yield reflects a high degree of competition for the professional school.

OPERATING PERFORMANCE: STRONG CASH FLOW MARGINS SUPPORT HEALTHY DEBT SERVICE COVERAGE

Moody's calculation of Washington and Lee's operating performance for the three-year period ending with fiscal year 2009 is 4.4%, with a slight decline to 2.2% in FY 2009. In that same year the operating cash flow margin of 13.9% supported debt service coverage of 1.9 times and maximum annual debt service coverage of 1.7 times. Sound budgeting practices should continue to produce similar results as management reports in preliminary results for FY 2010.

The College's operating revenue base was $131 million in 2009, and is reasonably diversified among student charges (53%), investment income (30%), and gifts (16%), with the contribution from student charges up from 43% in 2002. The University's endowment spending policy is the lesser of the prior-year endowment spending increases by an inflation factor, 6% of the three-year trailing average, or 5% of the fiscal year end value.

BALANCE SHEET POSITION: OVER $1 BILLION OF TOTAL FINANCIAL RESOURCES PROVIDING A SUBSTANTIAL CUSHION, BUT LIQUIDITY REMAINS LIMITED FROM INVESTMENT STRATEGY

Washington & Lee gains substantial credit strength from its large base of financial resources of just over $1 billion including funds held in trust by others of $272 million at June 30, 2009, the largest of which is the Letitia Pate Evans Foundation. Expendable financial resources of $372 million at FY 2009 cushion pro forma debt by 2.8 times and operations by 2.9 times. With pro forma debt of $134 million and maximum annual debt service of 8.4% of operations operating leverage remains manageable. The pro forma debt is 86% fixed rate with $15 million of demand debt (the Series 2010 self liquidity bonds) and combined with several smaller variable rate notes. The University currently has no future borrowing plans and expects near term capital needs to be met through donor support and regular capital spending from operations.

We expect Washington & Lee will continue to garner substantial philanthropic support. The University, over the past three years, has generated substantial gift revenues averaging $91 million annually; double the three-year average 2008 Aa-rated median of $43 million. A productive development enterprise has obtained three specifically large gifts of $100 million, $33 million and $17 million, recognized over the three year period. The University is a in seven-year campaign with a $450 million and has raised $279 million to date, with $146 million already received in cash.

In 2007, Washington & Lee made the decision to allocate significant investment funds to Makena Capital L.P. Makena operates a single portfolio under which the University does not control asset allocation decisions. The University currently invests 78% of its total endowment portfolio with Makena with the intention to move toward approximately 97% invested in the coming years as other positions are liquidated. Moody's has reviewed the total asset allocation of Makena which consists of a diverse asset mix utilizing 150 underlying managers. Makena investment returns for the 2009 fiscal year and the first quarter of the 2010 fiscal year are similar to those of comparable peer endowments. The Makena Capital funds had a 14.8% return in FY 2010, with the total portfolio including the legacy assets returning 14.3% for the year. In FY 2009 the pooled fund had an 18.6% loss.

The decision to outsource all long-term investments to an outsourced manager with sole control over investment allocation adds concentration risk and, in this case, liquidity risk due to a lock-up commitment of one year. Aside from a 5% annual distribution to support endowment spending, University assets held by Makena will not be available with less than one year notice. Currently, operating and quasi-endowment cash and cash equivalents held by the University are adequate at the current rating level, equaling over five months of operating expenses. There is elevated potential for future rating pressure related to the University's investment strategy. This potential arises from high exposure to operating risks of a single manager, the possibility of unexpected declines in operating and quasi endowment liquidity and the possibility of future University decisions to incorporate more risk into their conservative debt profile.

Given the limited liquidity restrictions of the investment strategy, the University's liquid resources remain markedly limited relative to peers. At June 30, 2009, monthly liquidity of $50 million represented 153 days cash on hand, well below our median for Aa-rated private universities of 376 days. Annual days cash on hand of 406 days, however, is in line with peers with a Aa median of 404 days. Monthly liquidity cushions pro forma demand debt by 333%.

SHORT TERM RATING RATIONALE: NEW SELF LIQUIDITY PROGRAM

Moody's believes that University's self-liquidity program offers adequate coverage for the tender features of its $15 million in term rate bonds. The obligation to make payments on tendered bonds that are not remarketed is a general obligation of the University. Moody's applies the Standard Approach to our self-liquidity assessment of Washington & Lee, and we believe that the self-liquidity program currently provides adequate coverage for the tender features of the new variable-rate demand bond in the weekly tender mode. Moody's expects the College will maintain coverage from discounted same day assets in excess of its self liquidity debt. At August 24, 2010, the College held a discounted $24 million in investments with same-day liquidity, including $16 million in US Treasury securities held in its own name and $8 million in deposit accounts with BB&T. The discounted funds provided 1.6 times coverage of the self liquidity debt. Additionally, the University has approximately $50 million in a commingled short-term investment funds to supports its liquidity needs.

Washington & Lee's treasury management team has developed a series of procedures to guide its responsibilities under the self liquidity program. The procedures include a commitment to transfer to the trustee an amount adequate to cover any tendered bonds not successfully remarketed on the day prior to a purchase date, offsetting concerns around the relatively limited number of hours between notification of that amount on the purchase date and the obligation to wire funds to the trustee by 2:00 pm.

Outlook

Moody's expects that, despite near term revenue stress, Washington and Lee will continue to enjoy a robust market position, generate healthy cash flow margins, and maintain strong financial resource coverage of debt and operations. Moody's also expects that the University will at least maintain current levels of liquid relative to cushion outstanding debt and operations.

What could change the rating-UP

Further growth in student demand statistics, significant growth of financial resources to support debt and operations; increased liquidity of resources

What could change the rating-DOWN

Reduction in monthly liquidity below recent levels, introduction of additional demand debt or other potential demands on liquidity, extended revenue pressure resulting in a trend of weakened operating margins

KEY INDICATORS (FY 2009 financial data and fall 2009 enrollment data)

Total Full-Time Equivalent Students (FTE): 2,152 students

Freshman acceptance rate: 19%

Freshman matriculation rate: 49%

Total pro forma direct debt: $134 million

Expendable financial resources: $371 million

Expendable financial resources to pro forma direct debt: 2.8 times

Expendable Resources to Operations: 2.9 times

Monthly Unrestricted Liquidity: $50 million

Monthly Days Cash (unrestricted funds available within 1 month divided by operating expenses excluding depreciation, divided by 365 days): 153 days

Monthly liquidity to pro forma demand debt: 333%

Three-year Average Operating Margin: 4.4%

Operating Cash Flow Margin: 13.9%

Reliance on Student Charges: 53.4%

RATED DEBT

Series 1998 Revenue: Aa2: insurance provided by National Public Finance Guarantee Corp. whose financial strength rating is Baa1 with a developing outlook

Educational Facilities Revenue Bonds Series 2001 & 2006: Aa2

Educational Facilities Revenue Bonds Series 2010: Aa2/VMIG 1

CONTACTS

University: Steven G. McAllister, Vice President for Finance and Treasurer, 540-458-8942

Financial Advisor: Emily Abrantes, Public Financial Management, 703-741-0175, ext. 256

The last rating action with respect to Washington and Lee University was on December 18, 2009 when the Aa2 rating with a stable outlook was affirmed.

The principal methodology used in rating Washington & Lee University was Moody's Rating Approach for Private Colleges and Universities rating methodology published in September 2002. Other methodologies and factors that may have been considered in the process of rating this issuer can also be found on Moody's website.

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

Information sources used to prepare the credit rating are the following: parties involved in the ratings, parties not involved in the ratings, confidential and proprietary Moody's Analytics' information.

Moody's Investors Service considers the quality of information available on the credit satisfactory for the purposes of assigning a credit rating.

MOODY'S adopts all necessary measures so that the information it uses in assigning a credit rating is of sufficient quality and from sources MOODY'S considers to be reliable including, when appropriate, independent third-party sources. However, MOODY'S is not an auditor and cannot in every instance independently verify or validate information received in the rating process.

Please see ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on Moodys.com for the last rating action and the rating history.

The date on which some Credit Ratings were first released goes back to a time before Moody's Investors Service's Credit Ratings were fully digitized and accurate data may not be available. Consequently, Moody's Investors Service provides a date that it believes is the most reliable and accurate based on the information that is available to it. Please see the ratings disclosure page on our website www.moodys.com for further information.

Please see the Credit Policy page on Moodys.com for the methodologies used in determining ratings, further information on the meaning of each rating category and the definition of default and recovery.

Analysts

Dennis M. Gephardt
Analyst
Public Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service

Stephanie Woeppel
Backup Analyst
Public Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service

Contacts

Journalists: (212) 553-0376
Research Clients: (212) 553-1653


Moody's Investors Service
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New York, NY 10007
USA

MOODY'S ASSIGNS Aa2/VMIG 1 RATING TO WASHINGTON AND LEE UNIVERSITY'S $15 MILLION SERIES 2010 REVENUE BONDS AND AFFIRMS EXISTING Aa2 RATINGS; OUTLOOK IS STABLE
No Related Data.
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