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The effect of United States commercial airport rate-setting methods on airport bond ratings

Bahareh Golkar (Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics, North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota, USA)
Siew Hoon Lim (Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics, North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota, USA)
Fecri Karanki (School of Aviation and Transportation Technology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA)

Managerial Finance

ISSN: 0307-4358

Article publication date: 19 April 2024

Issue publication date: 17 July 2024

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Abstract

Purpose

A major source of external funding for US airports comes from issuing municipal bonds. Credit rating agencies evaluate the bonds using multiple factors, but the judgments behind the ratings are not well understood. This paper examines if airport rate-setting methods affect the bond ratings of US airports.

Design/methodology/approach

Using a set of unbalanced panel data for 58 hub airports from 2010 to 2019, we examine the effect of the rate-setting methods and other airport characteristics on Fitch’s airport bond rating.

Findings

We find that compensatory airports consistently receive a very high bond rating from Fitch. The probability of getting a very high Fitch rating increases by ∼28 percentage points for a compensatory airport. Additionally, the probability of getting a very high rating is about 33 percentage points higher for a legacy hub.

Research limitations/implications

The study uses Fitch bond ratings. Future studies could examine if S&P’s and Moody’s ratings are also influenced by airport rate-setting methods and legacy hub status.

Practical implications

The results uncover the linkage between bond ratings and their determinants for US airports. This information is important for investors when assessing airport creditworthiness and for airport operators as they manage capital project financing.

Originality/value

This is the first study to evaluate the effects of rate-setting methods on airport bond rating and also the first to document a statistically significant relationship between airports’ legacy hub status and bond ratings.

Keywords

Citation

Golkar, B., Lim, S.H. and Karanki, F. (2024), "The effect of United States commercial airport rate-setting methods on airport bond ratings", Managerial Finance, Vol. 50 No. 8, pp. 1424-1443. https://doi.org/10.1108/MF-09-2023-0548

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2024, Emerald Publishing Limited

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