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Rating Action:

Moody's assigns Aa3 rating to Wildlife Conservation Society's Series 2013A Revenue Bonds; outlook is stable

14 Feb 2013

Society will have $89.2 million of pro-forma rated debt, including current offering

New York, February 14, 2013 -- Moody's Rating

Issue: Revenue Bonds, Series 2013A (Wildlife Conservation Society); Rating: Aa3; Sale Amount: $89,200,000; Expected Sale Date: 02-28-2013; Rating Description: Revenue: 501c3 Unsecured General Obligation

Opinion

Moody's Investors Service has assigned a Aa3 rating to the Wildlife Conservation Society's ("WCS" or "the society") Revenue Bonds, Series 2013A issued through the Trust for Cultural Resources of the City of New York. At this time we have also affirmed the Aa3 rating on the Series 2004 Revenue bonds. The rating outlook is stable.

SUMMARY RATING RATIONALE

The Aa3 rating is based on WCS's strong market position, experienced management team that engages in long-range planning and budgeting, diverse revenue sources, healthy liquidity and satisfactory balance sheet coverage of debt. The rating also incorporates thin operating performance and projected operating deficits over the next few years resulting from the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy at the New York Aquarium, complexity of managing work in many international countries, and investment manager concentration risk.

STRENGTHS:

*Leadership role as a global wildlife conservation organization and manager of four New York City zoos and the New York Aquarium. Total operating revenue was $228.1 million as of FY 2012.

*Excellent revenue diversity, with gifts representing the largest percentage of total operating revenue at 23.0% based in FY 2012. WCS receives funding from local, domestic and foreign governments, multi-lateral, bi-lateral and other not-for profit organizations, membership and visitorship revenue in New York, investment income and private gifts. In addition to operating support, the Aa2-rated City of New York also continues to provide capital grants.

*Despite a nearly 15% year-over-year decrease in expendable financial resources to $253.2 million in FY 2012 (in part due to a $7 million increased postretirement benefit obligation), expendable financial resources provide good coverage of pro-forma direct debt at 2.84 times, though we note below the FY 2010 median for Aa-rated non-profits of 3.3 times. WCS's expendable financial resource coverage of operations is more narrow at 1.06 times as of FY 2012.

*Experienced management team engages in multi-year budgeting and projections related to reopening the New York Aquarium. The Aquarium has implemented a thoughtful approach to preserve the collection at the Aquarium following Hurricane Sandy and hire experts to help assess next steps and benefit from a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursement.

CHALLENGES:

*Closure of the New York Aquarium from October 2012 to a potential partial reopening in spring 2013, with expectations for full reopening in FY 2017, will result in moderate operating deficits over the next few years. We anticipate that government funding, primarily FEMA reimbursement, will fund repairs at the New York Aquarium, but note potential strain on WCS's cash flow if reimbursement is delayed, particularly relevant given narrower cash flow expected in the near term. WCS's satisfactory liquidity, with 300 days cash on hand, as well as access to liquidity facilities, will help mitigate these risks.

*Complex operations, with conservation efforts in 57 countries and five venues in New York City, that require skilled staff to manage animal care and various risks. Global conservation work exposes the society to operational and financial conditions outside its immediate control.

*Limited investment transparency and significant concentration and liquidity risk since about 60% of investments are held by one multi-asset-class fund of funds investment manager.

Outlook

The stable outlook is based on WCS's strong balance sheet coverage of debt, satisfactory liquidity, and important role in the City of New York. The outlook also reflects our expectation that WCS will receive external (government and gift) funding to cover virtually all (over 90%) of the costs related to repair the New York Aquarium.

WHAT COULD MAKE THE RATING GO UP

Significantly improved level of financial resources with limited additional debt issuance; improved operating cash flow reduction in leverage; reduced investment concentration and increased liquidity

WHAT COULD MAKE THE RATING GO DOWN

Sustained declines in operating cash flow; significant and/or unexpected delay in government reimbursement for capital construction, particularly if it leads to additional leverage; reduction in liquidity; decline in financial resources weakening cushion for debt and operations; significant additional debt issuance without offsetting financial resource growth

The rating on the Wildlife Conservation Society's bonds was assigned by evaluating factors believed to be relevant to the credit profile of WCS such as 1) the business risk and competitive position of the issuer versus others within its industry or sector, 2) the capital structure and financial risk of the issuer, 3) the projected performance of the issuer over the near to intermediate term, 4) the issuer's history of achieving consistent operating performance and meeting budget or financial plan goals, 5) the nature of the dedicated revenue stream pledged to the bonds, 6) the debt service coverage provided by such revenue stream, 7) the legal structure that documents the revenue stream and the source of payment, and 8) the issuer's management and governance structure related to payment.

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

For ratings issued on a program, series or category/class of debt, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series or category/class of debt or pursuant to a program for which the ratings are derived exclusively from existing ratings in accordance with Moody's rating practices. For ratings issued on a support provider, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider's credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the provisional rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive rating that may be assigned subsequent to the final issuance of the debt, in each case where the transaction structure and terms have not changed prior to the assignment of the definitive rating in a manner that would have affected the rating. For further information please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page for the respective issuer on www.moodys.com.

Please see www.moodys.com for any updates on changes to the lead rating analyst and to the Moody's legal entity that has issued the rating.

Please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for additional regulatory disclosures for each credit rating.

Emily Schwarz
Analyst
Public Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Dennis M. Gephardt
Vice President - Senior Analyst
Public Finance Group
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Moody's assigns Aa3 rating to Wildlife Conservation Society's Series 2013A Revenue Bonds; outlook is stable
No Related Data.
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