TIDMUTG

RNS Number : 7412O

Unite Group PLC (The)

05 October 2023

PRESS RELEASE

5 October 2023

THE UNITE GROUP PLC

('Unite Students', 'Unite', the 'Group', or the 'Company')

TRADING UPDATE AND Q3 FUND VALUATIONS

FULL OCCUPANCY , STRONG RENTAL GROWTH AND STABLE PROPERTY VALUES

Unite Students, the UK's leading owner, manager and developer of student accommodation, today announces an update on current trading and quarterly property valuations for the Unite UK Student Accommodation Fund ('USAF') and the London Student Accommodation Joint Venture ('LSAV') as at 30 September 2023.

Highlights

   --    99.7% occupancy for the 2023/24 academic year (2022/23: 97.9%) 
   --    Rental growth of 7.3% for the 2023/24 academic year 
   --    Property values broadly stable in Q3 (USAF: +0.2%, LSAV -0.2%) 

Richard Smith, Unite Students Chief Executive Officer, commented:

"We have delivered record occupancy and strong rental growth for the 2023/24 academic year, with increasing demand from both students and universities reflecting the growing attractiveness of our fixed-priced, all-inclusive offer. The strong letting performance increases our confidence in delivering at least 5% rental growth for the 2024/25 sales cycle and supports our property valuations as the market adjusts to an environment of higher interest rates.

" The UK is increasingly short of suitable student accommodation as HMO landlords continue to leave the market at pace. As the leading provider of PBSA, we have a crucial role to play and are uniquely positioned to address this supply need. We continue to work closely with universities to ensure students have access to high quality, affordable accommodation."

Current trading

2023/24 lettings performance

Entering the final stages of the 2023/24 academic year letting cycle, the Group has let 99.7% of beds across its portfolio (2022/23: 97.9%). Demand has been strong across all the Group's markets, where the supply of purpose-bult student accommodation is unable to meet demand as traditional HMO landlords leave the sector. This has resulted in rental growth of 7.3% for the 2023/24 academic year (2022/23: 3.5%). Rental growth from nominations agreements has exceeded direct-let tenancies as university partners increasingly recognise the value our accommodation provides and are willing to agree increased rental levels on single year deals and new multi-year agreements.

The ongoing strength of student demand, together with the shortage of new PBSA supply and a retreating HMO sector supports at least 5% rental growth in the 2024/25 academic year sales cycle. We are mindful of the cost of living crisis and remain focussed on offering value-for-money accommodation, while also delivering sustainable rental growth to mitigate rising operating costs and support our significant ongoing investment into our properties.

Funding update

During the quarter, Moody's Investors Service upgraded the Group's unsecured credit rating to Baa1 (previously: Baa2), reflecting the positive impact of the Group's GBP300 million capital raise and commitment to a reduced c.30% LTV target and net debt: EBITDA of 6-7x.

Development pipeline update

We recently announced an option agreement for a new 800 bed development scheme at Central Quay, Glasgow, increasing our total pipeline to 5,600 beds. Morriss House in Nottingham reached practical completion in August and is fully let for the 2023/24 academic year. We are making good progress at Lower Parliament Street in Nottingham which will open in September 2024 and work has started on-site at our two 2025 deliveries, Temple Quarter in Bristol and Abbey Lane in Edinburgh. The planning process for Meridian Square in Stratford is also progressing in line with expectations with approval targeted in Q4 2023.

Building safety

We have not identified any Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in any our buildings. A limited number of additional surveys are ongoing but given an average age of 12 years for our portfolio, should any RAAC be found, we do not anticipate any material issues.

In line with Government regulations, we continue to progress with cladding remediation across the estate and will complete 15 projects during 2023. The expected cost of remediation projects in 2023 is GBP80 million (Unite share: GBP41 million), which was fully provided for at 31 December 2022. We continue to prioritise projects based on our external risk assessments and, having completed detailed surveys, expect to maintain our run-rate of 10-15 projects in 2024. Expected future spend is in-line with previous guidance for an average of c.GBP500 per bed per annum (net of recoveries through claims) over the next 3-5 years.

To date, we have successfully made claims against the original build contractors for a total of GBP30 million (Unite share: GBP24 million) representing 80% of the costs on those projects. This supports our view that 50-75% of costs will ultimately be recoverable, although no provision has been made for future recoveries in our balance sheet. While positive legal precedents are being established on a case-by-case basis, it is taking longer than anticipated to settle these disputes, meaning we anticipate a greater level of net spend in the earlier years of the remediation programme.

Quarterly fund valuations

At 30 September 2023, USAF's property portfolio was independently valued at GBP2,929 million, a 0.2% increase on a like-for-like basis during the quarter. The valuation increase in USAF is driven by quarterly rental growth of 1.9% and a 9 basis point increase in property yields. The portfolio comprises 27,922 beds in 71 properties across 19 university towns and cities in the UK.

LSAV's investment portfolio was independently valued at GBP1,936 million, a 0.2% decline on a like-for-like basis during the quarter. The valuation decrease in LSAV is driven by quarterly rental growth of 2.0% and a 9 basis point increase in property yields. LSAV's investment portfolio comprises 9,716 beds across 14 properties in London and Aston Student Village in Birmingham.

The USAF and LSAV portfolios are now valued at weighted average yields of 5.2% and 4.3% respectively.

ENDS

For further information, please contact:

Unite Students

   Richard Smith / Joe Lister / Mike Burt                           Tel: +44 117 302 7005 

Unite press office Tel: +44 117 450 6300

Powerscourt

   Justin Griffiths / Victoria Heslop                                   Tel: +44 20 7250 1446 

About Unite Students

Unite Students is the UK's largest owner, manager and developer of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) serving the country's world-leading higher education sector. We provide homes to 70,000 students across 157 properties in 23 leading university towns and cities. We currently partner with over 60 universities across the UK.

Our people are driven by a common purpose: to provide a 'Home for Success' for the students who live with us. Unite Students' accommodation is safe and secure, high quality, and affordable. Students live predominantly in en-suite study bedrooms with rents covering all bills, insurance, 24-hour security and high-speed Wi-Fi. We also achieved a five-star British Safety Council rating in our last audit.

We are committed to raising standards in the student accommodation sector for our customers, investors and employees. This is why our Sustainability Strategy, launched in 2021, includes a commitment to become net zero carbon across our operations and developments by 2030.

Founded in 1991 in Bristol, the Unite Group is an award-winning Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), listed on the London Stock Exchange. For more information, visit Unite Group's corporate website www.unitegroup.com or the Unite Students' site www.unitestudents.com

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END

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