Richard Smith, Chief Executive of Unite Students, commented:

“Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, I am proud that Unite has emerged from a tough year showing our operational resilience and building on our commitment to doing the right thing to support students. We were the first PBSA provider to forgo rents during the first national lockdown and to date have provided rental discounts to students totalling over £100 million alongside a number of other supporting measures. In particular, I would like to thank our teams for their dedication over the past year. The pandemic has also showcased the resilience of our best-in-class operating platform, which successfully delivered the integration of Liberty Living’s 24,000-bed portfolio during the year.

 

The outlook for the business and the UK Higher Education sector is strong. A record share of school leavers are choosing to attend University, demographic growth is significant over the next decade and international student numbers continue to increase. We expect strong demand for the 2021/22 academic year, supporting a return to full occupancy and 2-3% rental growth. Together with our development and University partnership pipeline of c.4,000 beds, this provides high visibility over a rapid recovery in earnings as market conditions stabilise.

 

While Covid-19 provides some ongoing uncertainty, we remain confident in the medium and long-term outlook for the business thanks to our alignment to the strongest Universities as well as the significant growth opportunities from new developments, University Partnerships and by attracting more of the 955,000 students living in Houses of Multiple Occupancy. As a result, the Board is recommending a final dividend of 12.75p.”

 

Year ended

31 December 2020

31 December 2019

Change

EPRA earnings1,3

£97.3m

£110.6m

(12)%

EPRA earnings per share1,3

25.5p

39.1p

(35)%

IFRS loss before tax

£(120.1)m

£(101.2)m

n/a

IFRS basic EPS

(31.8)p

(31.5)p

n/a

Dividend per share

12.75p

10.25p

24%

Total accounting return

(3.4)%

11.7%

 

Like-for-like rental growth

(0.6)%

3.4%

 

EBIT margin

62.1%

71.7%

 

 

As at

31 December 2020 

31 December 2019

 

EPRA NTA per share1

818p

847p

(3)%

IFRS net assets per share

809p

845p

(4)%

Net debt2

£1,742m

£1,884m

(8)%

Loan to value2

34%

37%

 

MSCI ESG

AA rating

AA rating

 

GRESB score

81/100

72/100

 

 

HIGHLIGHTS

EPRA earnings of £97.3 million, down 12% (2019: £110.6 million) and EPRA EPS of 25.5p, down 35% (2019: 39.1p)3, in line with the Board’s expectations

  • Reflecting the acquisition of Liberty Living, rent forgone for the summer term of 2019/20 and reduced occupancy as a result of Covid-19
  • IFRS loss before tax of £120.1 million (2019: loss of £101.2 million), driven by a valuation loss of £178.8       million (2019: £198.1 million gain and £384.1 million impairment of goodwill and intangibles)
  • EPRA NTA down 3% to 818p (31 December 2019: 847p), resulting in a total accounting return of (3.4)% for the year (2019: 11.7%)
  • LTV reduced to 34% (2019: 37%) through placing proceeds with 35% target maintained

Reinstatement of dividends with 12.75p final dividend payable in May

  • Full year dividend of 12.75p (2019: 10.25p), reflecting a payout ratio of 50% of EPRA EPS (2019: 26%)
  • Targeting increased payout ratio as earnings visibility improves

88% contracted occupancy and 1.1% growth in weekly rents for 2020/21 (2019/20: 98% and 3.5%)

  • 95% rent collection to date for the 2020/21 academic year
  • Confident in retaining headroom under all our ICR covenants

Successfully completed integration of 24,000-bed Liberty Living acquisition

  • Target annual cost synergies increased from £15 million to £18 million from 2021

Anticipate strong student demand for 2021/22

  • Reservations for 2021/22 at 66% with later booking cycle expected due to Covid-19 (2019/20: 77%)
  • Anticipate occupancy of 95-98% and 2-3% rental growth for 2021/22

Significant and growing development pipeline

  • Secured development and University partnerships pipeline of £599 million (c.4,000 beds) for delivery over the next four years, generating an attractive 6.4% yield on cost
  • Opportunities to add to University partnerships and development pipeline at enhanced returns

 

Launch of new Sustainability Strategy, aligned to our value of ‘doing what’s right’

  • Targeting net zero carbon operations and construction from 2030
  • Commitment to providing opportunities for all, backed by new diversity targets

 

1. 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.

2. Excludes IFRS 16 related balances recognised in respect of leased properties, following the adoption of IFRS 16. See glossary for definitions.

3. Excludes integration and acquisition costs in relation to Liberty Living.

 

Read the complete preliminary statement 

 

PRESENTATION

There will be a presentation for analysts this morning at 08:30 GMT. A live webcast will be available via this link. 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 / Michael Burt                                                

   Tel: +44 117 302 7005

  Unite press office                                                                                           

  Tel: +44 117 450 6300

  Powerscourt

  Justin Griffiths / Victoria Heslop                                                                 

  Tel: +44 20 7250 1446