Restructured Texas Toll Road Emerges From Chapter 11
Income generate by tolls did not meet projections
A bankrupt Texas toll road has new financing and new management.
Fifteen months after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, SH 130 Concession Co., the private entity that operates and maintains the 41-mile southern section of state Highway 130, announced in late June the new ownership, new senior management and $260 million in new financing.
Strategic Value Partners LLC is leading the new ownership group, while Louis Berger Services will operate and maintain the roadway.The toll road bankruptcy is one of a few failures in what is seen as a largely successful, still-developing trend for states to use public-private partnerships for transportation infrastructure.
The new team replaces Spanish-owned Cintra and Zachry American Infrastructure, which, together, formed SH 130 in 2005 to develop and manage the roadway. They borrowed funds from a combination of U.S. and international banks, combined with a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan, explains Andy Bailey, the new CEO of the replacement concession.
The partners put up equity and took on about $1.4 billion in debt to acquire rights of way, design the route and pay concessions. But income generated by tolls did not meet the original projections, which were established just before the Great Recession hit, Bailey explains.
Toll rates along SH 130 have remained the same and were unaffected by the bankruptcy or restructuring. Those rates are set with the Texas Dept. of Transportation in the company’s Facility Concession Agreement, which still remains in place.
“As the company emerged from bankruptcy … the institutions that had that initial debt, some had sold their interest to others, some remained in, but essentially that original debt that was on the books was wiped out,” Bailey says.
The financial reorganization removed the debt from the firm’s balance sheet and will significantly improve the liquidity of the business, he adds. “Zachry and Cintra’s stock ownership of the company was eliminated, as well,” Bailey says.
Cintra has agreed to assist for up to 90 days following the bankruptcy emergence, explains Patrick Rhode, U.S. vice president of corporate affairs for Cintra.
“Cintra’s managers and technical team are working to ensure a smooth transition to the new operator. After that, Cintra will have no involvement or ownership in the project or company as a result of the restructuring process,” Rhode says.
Neither the state nor the Texas DOT were financially impacted by the restructuring, Rhode adds.
Bailey explains that a $260-million exit facility was negotiated with Goldman Sachs, and those funds will provide the concession with working capital, making it possible to repay some of the lenders and the interest that had not been paid during the bankruptcy period.
The concession has noted that, along the southern section of SH 130, more than 7.68 million toll transactions were completed in 2016, which was an 11% increase over 2015 figures, while truck traffic along the roadway increased by 15%. The exit facility has a three-year tenure, according to Ken Baker, SH 130’s CFO.
There are no projects in planning stages, Bailey says.