Richard Smith, Chief Executive of Unite Students, commented:

 

“2019 was a successful and transformational year for Unite. We made good progress against all of our key metrics and continued to deliver meaningful growth in our recurring earnings. We also leveraged our best-in-class operating platform to complete the acquisition of Liberty Living’s 24,000-bed portfolio. Our strong results remain underpinned by the quality of our value-for-money product and the strength of our long-term relationships with Universities. These qualities differentiate Unite in a sector that remains undersupplied and is anticipating strong growth in student numbers over the next decade, as UK Higher Education maintains its global standing. A UK University education is highly valued by young people around the world.

 

The outlook for the business remains strong. Reservations for the 2020/21 academic year are in line with record levels, supporting our like-for-like rental growth guidance of 3.0-3.5% through a combination of further utilisation enhancements and value-driven price increases. Together with our development and University partnership pipeline of over 5,000 beds, this provides high visibility over sustainable earnings growth and we maintain our positive outlook.

 

While Brexit negotiations and the ongoing review of Higher Education funding provide some uncertainty, our strategy of aligning to the best Universities and providing good-quality, value-for-money accommodation for growing segments of the market underpins our long-term confidence in the business.”

Year ended 31 December 2019 31 December 2018 Change
EPRA earnings* £110.6m £88.4m 25%
EPRA earnings per share* 39.1p 34.1p 15%
(Loss) / profit before tax £(101.2)m £245.8m  
Profit before tax excluding items relating to the Liberty Living acquisition £305.3m £245.8m 24%
Dividend per share 33.2p 29.0p 14%
Total accounting return 11.7% 13.2%  
Like-for-like rental growth* 3.4% 3.2%  
EBIT margin 71.7% 71.3%  
As at 31 December 2019 31 December 2018  
EPRA NAV per share* 853p 790p 8%
Net debt** £1,884m £856m 120%
Loan to value** 37% 29%  
MSCI ESG AA rating AA rating  
GRESB score 72/100 71/100  

 

 

HIGHLIGHTS

EPRA EPS up 15% to 39.1p (2018: 34.1p)

  • Like-for-like rental growth of 3.4% and 98% occupancy (2018: 3.2% and 98%)
  • Full year dividend increased by 14% to 33.2p, driven by earnings growth (2018: 29.0p)
  • EPRA profit includes £4.6 million (1.6p) from partial recognition of the LSAV performance fee
  • Statutory loss before tax of £101.2 million, primarily the result of the impairment of goodwill and intangibles of £384.1 million relating to the Liberty Living acquisition (2018: profit of £245.8 million)
  • Total accounting return of 11.7% (2018: 13.2%)

 
Transformative acquisition of Liberty Living for £1.4 billion, utilising Unite’s best-in-class operating platform

  • Two highly complementary portfolios, creating a 74,000-bed portfolio across 27 cities
  • Progress on integration has increased 2020 cost synergies to £5-6 million, rising to £15 million in 2021
  • Immediately earnings accretive with further growth opportunities and operational enhancements

 
Reservations support rental growth outlook

  • Reservations for 2020/21 at 73%, in line with record levels in 2018
  • Like-for-like rental growth outlook for 2020/21 of 3.0-3.5% through increases in utilisation and price

 
Earnings growth underpinned by University relationships, operating platform and development pipeline

  • Nomination agreements with Universities covering 41,500 beds with an average WAULT of 6 years (2018: 29,000 and 6 years)
  • Secured development and University partnerships pipeline of £681 million for delivery over the next four years, generating an attractive 6.8% yield on cost
  • Together with rental growth and cost synergies, these new openings net of disposals could add 16-20p to earnings per share
  • Further opportunities to grow development pipeline, including zone 1 and 2 London sites

 
Strong financial position

  • £298 million of disposals (Unite share £249 million), reflecting strong investor appetite
  • LTV increased to 37% (2018: 29%), following acquisition of Liberty Living
  • Maintaining 35% LTV target, reflecting disposal plan for £150-200 million per annum

Improving performance and transparency on Sustainability

  • AA rating from MSCI and Most-Improved Award under EPRA’s Sustainability BPRs
  • Sustainability report and new targets to be launched in 2020

 
* The financial statements are prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). These financial highlights are based on the European Public Real Estate Association (EPRA) best practice recommendations and these performance measures are published as they are intended to help users in the comparability of these results across other listed real estate companies in Europe. The metrics are also used internally to measure and manage the business and to align to the performance related conditions for Directors’ remuneration. See glossary for definitions.
** Excludes IFRS 16 related balances recognised in respect of leased properties, following the adoption of IFRS 16. See glossary for definitions.

Read the complete Preliminary Results Statement
 
PRESENTATION
There will be a presentation for analysts this morning at 09:30 at One Moorgate Place, London, EC2R 6EA. A live webcast will be available at: https://brrmedia.news/9qnfk. To register for the event or to receive dial-in details, please contact unite@powerscourt-group.com.
 
For further information, please contact:
Unite Students
Richard Smith / Joe Lister / Paul Richmond
Tel: +44 117 302 7005 

Powerscourt

Justin Griffiths / Victoria Heslop

Tel: +44 20 7250 1446