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Grapevine: A lesson in bonds

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Both Rutgers and Rowan universities are getting pieces of UMDNJ as a result of the higher education realignment, but the effects on their bond ratings look very different, and experts are hesitant to say why.

Rutgers got a downgrade, while Rowan's ratings were maintained by the bond rating agencies. Standard & Poor's said Rutgers "faces increased operational, financial and credit risk from what is effectively, but not in the strictest legal sense, an assumption of approximately 72 percent of the assets and related liabilities" of UMDNJ. Meanwhile, also on July 1, Rowan will acquire UMDNJ's School of Osteopathic Medicine, along with its $57 million in debt; S&P called that a "slight" increase in risk.

That's essentially all experts in New Jersey bonds will say about the divergent ratings. "It's complicated, and it's politically sensitive," one source said.

In Christie's corner

Outside political groups — those not affiliated with candidates or parties — are playing an outsized role in this fall's gubernatorial and legislative elections, according to data from the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. And while most of the groups support Democratic candidates, the biggest spender is a Chris Christie backer.

The Committee for Our Children's Future has raised and spent $7.8 million, according to preliminary figures from ELEC. The group has been airing pro-Christie ads since 2011.

That's far more than the next group on the list — One New Jersey — which supports Democrats like gubernatorial hopeful Barbara Buono. ELEC says One New Jersey has raised and spent $1.8 million, though media reports put the figure at $2.8 million.

Other left-leaning groups spending money here include Garden State Forward, the group formed by the New Jersey Education Association; the Fund for Jobs, Growth and Security, a Washington-based Democratic group that recently won a legal battle with ELEC over campaign contribution limits; and NJ Workers Voices, a group launched last month and chaired by veteran Democratic operative Alicia D'Alessandro. Also spending money here: the Republican Governors Association and the National Association of Realtors.

No signal from Verizon

While speculation intensifies, Verizon Communications Inc. is mum about the terms of any potential buyout of Vodafone PLC's 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of both companies.

Reuters reported that Verizon was preparing a $100 billion cash-and- stock bid — which would rank as the third-largest acquisition on record — for Vodafone's stake. The news agency also reported some Verizon share- holders would support paying $120 billion to $130 billion to persuade a resistant Vodafone.

Representatives for Verizon and Vodafone declined to comment.

Securing Verizon Wireless would make Verizon the largest phone carrier in the United States, topping AT&T. The company formed in 2000 after Bell Atlantic Corp. — the predecessor to Verizon Communications — agreed to merge its mobile unit with Vodafone's in 1999.

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Tom Bergeron at tomb@njbiz.com.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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