10 minute read | October.31.2023
Municipal tender offers have rapidly increased in volume since 2020, and 2023 is anticipated to be the highest volume year for voluntary municipal tender offers. As reported by the Bond Buyer, 2021 and 2022 each saw about $4 billion in municipal tender offers. As of July, about $14.1 billion has been tendered or invited to tender this year. In the current interest rate environment, municipal issuers increasingly use tender offers to generate debt service savings, especially since advance refundings were eliminated by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017. Many issuers are navigating these transactions for the first time.
Here’s an overview of the basic structure, documentation and timeline of a tender offer to help issuers determine whether this financing structure could help them achieve their financing goals.
In a tender offer, a bond issuer makes a public offer to bond holders to relinquish or “tender” their bonds for cash or to exchange their existing bonds for new bonds. The tendered bonds are then purchased by the issuer and canceled or exchanged for new bonds and then canceled.
Issuers use tender offers to refinance or restructure outstanding debt. Bonds with an above-market coupon rate that are not callable are particularly primed for a tender offer. Examples of scenarios when a tender offer could be indicated include:
The participants in a tender offer include the regular deal team, plus a Dealer Manager and an Information Agent and Tender Agent.
A Dealer Manager is a broker-dealer who acts as the issuer’s agent in conducting the tender offer. A Dealer Manager structures the tender and communicates with holders to “market” the tender, in the same manner as an underwriter structures and markets the sale of the bond. Often, the broker-dealer serving as the Dealer Manager will also serve as the senior managing underwriter since tender offers frequently involve issuing new bonds to fund the purchase of the tendered bonds.
The Information Agent and Tender Agent plays an important technical role which involves interfacing with the Depository Trust Company (DTC), identifying and engaging with bondholders, distributing tender offer materials to holders (including through DTC) and assisting with receiving and processing bonds tendered by holders.
Tender offers for municipal bonds are subject to federal antifraud laws just like new offerings of municipal bonds but are exempt from SEC rules that govern corporate tender offers.
Significant steps in a tender offer include:
Board/governmental authorization: As with any new bond issuance, the issuer (and borrower/obligor, if applicable) authorizes the tender offer and the preparation and execution of the necessary documentation. It is important to confirm that a tender is not prohibited by the underlying bond documents governing the bonds that are the subject of the tender offer (“target bonds”).
Voluntary EMMA notice: The issuer may choose to post a voluntary disclosure notice on EMMA to alert the market of the anticipated tender offer.
Preparation of Dealer Manager Agreement: The Dealer Manager agrees to solicit tenders of target bonds and perform other related customary services. The Dealer Manager Agreement is prepared by dealer manager counsel and sets out:
The Dealer Manager Agreement includes representations and warranties of the issuer that are similar to those included in a Bond Purchase Agreement.
Preparation of Invitation: The invitation to tender is the document provided to existing bond holders that provides the necessary information that allows them to decide whether to tender their bonds.
Federal securities antifraud laws prohibit the issuer and other transaction participants from making any material misstatements or omissions in connection with a tender offer. It therefore requires the preparation of a tender offer disclosure, which consists of an invitation describing the material terms and procedural matters of the tender offer. When new bonds are being issued to fund the purchase of tendered bonds, the invitation includes the preliminary official statement for such bonds.
Although the SEC’s procedural rules related to tender offers do not apply to tender offers for municipal bonds, it is helpful to structure the invitation referencing the information required by the SEC for regulated corporate tenders. Counsel drafts the invitation with significant input from the dealer manager(s), Information Agent and Tender Agent and financial advisors.
Invitations for tender offers generally include:
Launch: The “launch” of the tender offer is the dissemination of the invitation to holders of the target bonds. The Dealer Manager Agreement is signed on the launch date and includes a list of deliverables and opinions required at launch. The POS for any new bonds being issued to fund the purchase of bonds subject to the tender offer is posted on the launch date and attached to the invitation.
EMMA Material Event Notice of Tender: The launch of a tender is a listed event under Rule 15c2-12. The issuer’s disclosure counsel will coordinate with the issuer to ensure that the tender invitation is filed on EMMA concurrently with launch.
Acceptance of Offers and Pricing: The period between launch and expiration of the tender offer is analogous to the marketing period between posting a POS and pricing. The Dealer Manager interacts with holders of the target bonds to “market” the tender. The invitation will specify:
The purchase price can be set in a variety of ways. The price may be:
New Bonds: If the issuer is funding the tender by issuing new bonds, which is often the case, the new bonds will be offered and sold in a parallel process. Because the proceeds of the new bonds will pay the purchase price of the target bonds, tender offer acceptance happens in tandem with new bond pricing.
Closing: On the closing date, the target bonds that have been accepted by the issuer for purchase are purchased and canceled (or, in an exchange transaction, the target bonds are exchanged for new bonds and canceled). When new bonds are issued to pay the purchase price of the tender, the tender payment occurs immediately after the delivery of new bonds.