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Half year results for the 6 months to 30 June 2020 – 29 July 2020

29 July 2020

Richard Smith, Chief Executive of Unite Students, commented:

“I am proud of the response of our business through this uniquely challenging period. Our focus has been on doing the right thing for all stakeholders. We were the first student accommodation provider to forgo summer term rents and one of the first to have Covid Secure status accredited by the British Safety Council. I believe our decisive actions have enhanced our reputation with Universities, students and parents.

 “We have growing visibility over our income for 2020/21 and our market-leading operating platform gives us the flexibility to rapidly adjust marketing strategies in response to changes in demand. 97% of Universities plan to provide in-person teaching this Autumn and UCAS data reveals a record share of 18-year-olds applying to University. With the Government providing strong financial support, we are confident in the prospects for the UK’s world-class Higher Education sector and expect strong demand for the 2021/22 academic year.

“We see significant opportunities for growth through University Partnerships, new developments and by attracting more of the 855,000 students currently living in Houses of Multiple Occupancy. The proceeds of our recent placing will be used to accelerate growth opportunities in those markets where we see strongest demand from students.”


H1 2020

H1 2019



EPRA earnings1,3





EPRA earnings per share1,3





(Loss)/profit before tax





Dividend per share





Total accounting return1




EBIT margin1




As at

30 June 2020

30 June 2019

31 December 2019

Change from 31 December 2019

EPRA NAV per share1





EPRA NTA per share1










Net debt2





Loan to value2






EPRA earnings of £74.8 million, up 22% (H1 2019: £61.2 million) and EPRA EPS of 20.5 pence, down 12% (H1 2019: 23.2 pence)3

  • Reflecting the acquisition of Liberty Living in H2 2019 and rent forgone for the summer term of 2019/20 in response to Covid-19
  • Loss before tax of £73.9 million (H1 2019: £125.5 million profit), driven by a valuation loss of £138.4 million in the period (H1 2019: £74.3 million gain)
  • (2.3)% total accounting return (H1 2019: 6.3%)
  • Guidance for EPRA EPS of 22-25 pence for FY2020 (2019: 39.1 pence)
  • Anticipate reinstating dividend payments following the start of the 2020/21 academic year, assuming occupancy and income in line with our expectations and a positive outlook for 2021/22

Focused on doing the right thing for students, employees and other stakeholders

  • First PBSA provider to forgo summer term rents for students returning home
  • First student accommodation provider to have Covid Secure status accredited by the British Safety Council
  • Decisive actions have enhanced our reputation with Universities, creating new partnership opportunities

Growing visibility and confidence over income for the 2020/21 academic year

  • 97% of Universities plan to provide in-person teaching in the Autumn term of 2020/214
  • 1% growth in UCAS acceptances compared to 2019/20, reflecting record participation from 18-yearolds. Deferrals also reduced YoY, albeit higher risk around international student numbers
  • Reservations for 2020/21 academic year at 84% (2019/20: 93%), of which half underpinned by nomination agreements
  • Targeting 90% occupancy for 2020/21, resulting in a 10-20% anticipated reduction in rental income compared to 2019/20 (prior to the impact of cancellations in 2019/20 due to Covid-19)

Growing pipeline of University Partnerships and developments, driving future earnings growth

  • Secured pipeline of 5,370 beds (2019: 6,580 beds), generating a 6.6% yield on cost
  • £300 million placing, enabling continued investment in the company’s best-in-class platform
    • Exchanged contracts for a 300-bed development site in central Edinburgh
    • Two further sites currently under offer for a total development cost of c.£225 million
  • Continue to see opportunities to add to University Partnership and development pipeline at enhanced returns

Successful integration of Liberty Living

  • All Liberty Living employees and properties now moved across to the Unite operating platform
  • Secured cost synergies of £5-6 million in 2020 and £15 million p.a. from 2021
  • Now targeting additional costs synergies from energy efficiency and procurement

High-quality portfolio aligned to the strongest Universities

  • 76,354 operational beds for 2020/21 academic year, with a value of £7.8 billion; Unite share £5.0 billion (31 December 2019: 74,108 beds, valued at £7.7 billion; Unite share £4.8 billion)
  • EPRA NAV of 833 pence, down 2% (31 December 2019: 853 pence)
  • IFRS NAV of £3,273 million, up 7% (31 December 2019: £3,072 million)
  • 2.6% reduction in property values in H1 on a like-for-like basis, reflecting income deductions for disruption to rental income and stable property yields
  • Removal of material uncertainty clause for valuations of student accommodation by RICS post-period end
  • 88% of Unite’s portfolio located at High and Mid-ranked Universities (30 June 2019: 90%)

Robust balance sheet and liquidity position

  • LTV of 33% at 30 June2 (31 December 2019: 37%), maintaining 35% target over the medium-term
  • Planned repayment of £207 million of Group secured debt at a blended coupon of 4.8%, incurring swap breakage costs of £24 million
  • Continued targeting of disposals in 2020 and 2021 to enhance portfolio quality

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. See glossary for definitions

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

4. Universities UK survey published 17 June 2020


Read the full statement here


The presentation for analysts and investors was held at 8:15am 29 July 2020. The archived webcast is accessible via this link. (This is best viewed using Google Chrome as a browser)

For further information, please contact:

Unite Students

Richard Smith / Joe Lister / Michael Burt

Tel: +44 117 302 7005

Unite press office

Tel:   +44 7754 749 301


Justin Griffiths / Victoria Heslop

Tel: +44 20 7250 1446