08.11.2012 04:54
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Milwaukee (County of) WI -- Moody's revises outlook to negative on Milwaukee County Airport's (WI) A1 rated general airport revenue bonds

Affirmed A1 rating on approximately $200 million of general airport revenue bonds outstanding

New York, November 07, 2012 -- Moody's Investors Service has revised the outlook to negative and affirmed the A1 general airport revenue bond rating on Milwaukee County's (WI) approximately $200 million general airport revenue bonds outstanding.

RATINGS RATIONALE

The change in the outlook to negative reflects the significant enplanement declines experienced over the last year that are expected to continue in 2013 as Frontier Airlines dehubs its operations. The outlook change also reflects the uncertainty around Southwest/AirTran's final presence at the airport as it continues to reconfigure its routes nationally, especially noting their large presence at nearby Chicago airports.

The A1 rating is based on the county airport's relatively stable medium sized origination and destination (O&D) market with some competition from the airports in Chicago to the south. The rating also incorporates Moody's view that the recent enplanement volatility is likely to settle at a level experienced in the mid to late part of the 2000's. The rating also reflects the airport's adequate financial metrics with average debt service coverage and leverage and an improving liquidity position with modest additional indebtedness expected for future capital improvements.

OUTLOOK

The negative outlook reflects the uncertainty surrounding the airport's future market position as Frontier completes its dehubbing that it initiated in the spring of 2012 and Southwest finalizes its post merger service offerings at the airport.

What Could Change the Rating - UP

The rating is unlikely to move up. The outlook could return to stable if the airport maintains its financial metrics through the current dehubbing and the airport's market position stabilizes with enplanement levels above or near 3.5 million.

What Could Change the Rating - DOWN

The rating could experience downward pressure if the declining enplanement trend continues and enplanements fall below 3.5 million annually, if the airport loses another large carrier whose service offerings are not readily replaced, and/or if financial metrics notably deteriorate below current levels.

STRENGTHS

* Relatively stable service area economy and origin and destination (O&D) market

* Fully residual airline use and lease agreement expires in December 2015 and Frontier is a signatory airline assuring continued revenues despite their dehubbing

* Southwest/AirTran's growing presence over the past couple of years partially mitigates the loss of Frontier

* Airport increased its Passenger Facility Charge to $4.50 from $3.00 as of November 1, 2012, which provides additional funds for future facility capital improvements

* Modest debt needs to complete the latest five-year capital improvement plan

* Low cost per enplanement at $5.43 in 2011 but it is expected to rise to a more moderate $8.14 in 2012

CHALLENGES

* Competition from Chicago (City of) IL O'Hare Airport Ent. (O'Hare, senior lien revenue bonds rated A2, stable outlook) and Chicago (City of) IL Midway Airport Ent. (Midway, first lien revenue bonds rated A2, stable outlook) attracts customers away from Milwaukee, especially international travelers

* Frontier Airlines (unrated) has drastically reduced service to Milwaukee as it dehubs its operations, resulting in close to a 20% year-over-year decline in enplanements as of August 2012 with more declines expected through 2013

* Uncertain future service offerings from Southwest as it reconfigures its routes post merger with AirTran

* Although the airport's unrestricted liquidity position has been improving in recent years, days cash on hand remains below Moody's 2011 median for other A1 rated airports

RATING METHODOLOGY

The principal methodology used in this rating was Airports with Unregulated Rate Setting published in July 2011. Please see the Credit Policy page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

The Global Scale Credit Ratings on this press release that are issued by one of Moody's affiliates outside the EU are endorsed by Moody's Investors Service Ltd., One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E 14 5FA, UK, in accordance with Art.4 paragraph 3 of the Regulation (EC) No 1060/2009 on Credit Rating Agencies. Further information on the EU endorsement status and on the Moody's office that has issued a particular Credit Rating is available on www.moodys.com.

For ratings issued on a program, series or category/class of debt, this announcement provides relevant 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 relevant 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 relevant 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.

Information sources used to prepare the rating are the following: parties involved in the ratings, parties not involved in the ratings, and public information.

Moody's considers the quality of information available on the rated entity, obligation or credit satisfactory for the purposes of issuing a rating.

Moody's adopts all necessary measures so that the information it uses in assigning a 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 Moody's Rating Symbols and Definitions on the Rating Process page on www.moodys.com for further information on the meaning of each rating category and the definition of default and recovery.

Please see ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for the last rating action and the rating history. The date on which some ratings were first released goes back to a time before Moody's ratings were fully digitized and accurate data may not be available. Consequently, Moody's 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 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.

Jennifer Chang Analyst Public Finance Group Moody'sInvestors Service, Inc.250 Greenwich StreetNew York, NY 10007 U.S.A. JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376 SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653Maria Matesanz Senior Vice President Public Finance Group JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376 SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653 Releasing Office: Moody's Investors Service, Inc.250 Greenwich StreetNew York, NY 10007 U.S.A. JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376 SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653(C) 2012 Moody's Investors Service, Inc. and/or its licensors and affiliates (collectively, "MOODY'S"). All rights reserved.

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