Notice of General Meeting for REIT Conversion and Trading Update
8 November 2016
General Meeting at 09:30am on 30 November 2016 (proposed amendments to Unite Group’s Articles of Association in connection with its proposed conversion to a REIT).
Press Release: Notice of General Meeting for REIT Conversion and Trading Update – 08 November 2016
Unite Students, the UK’s leading manager and developer of student accommodation, today gives notice of a General Meeting in relation to its REIT conversion and provides an update on trading covering the period to 7 November 2016.
REIT conversion and Notice of General Meeting
Unite Students has issued a Circular and is convening a General Meeting of shareholders to be held at 9.30am on Wednesday 30 November 2016 at 66 Queen Square, Bristol, BS1 4BE.
The purpose of the meeting is to seek approval for various amendments to the Company’s Articles of Association required in connection with the proposed conversion to a Real Estate Investment Trust (“REIT”) with effect from 1 January 2017. Further details are provided in a Circular posted to shareholders and also available on the Company’s website at www.unitegroup.com.
2016/17 sales performance
Occupancy across the portfolio is at 98% for the 2016/17 academic year with average rental growth for the full year of 3.8%. Given this high occupancy and rental growth performance, in line with our expectations, we remain on track to deliver an EPS yield of around 4.5% in 2016.
The student intake by UK Universities in 2016/17 is again at record levels, driving growth in overall student numbers of approximately 40,000. Growth has been strongest at the upper and mid-tariff Universities where our portfolio is concentrated, which are up 3% and 1% respectively compared to a slight reduction at the lower tariff Universities.
Customer satisfaction remains very high and we have received positive feedback on our new services, such as enhanced Wi-Fi speeds, longer opening hours to meet students’ needs, the roll out of our business wide welfare training and our new ambassador programme in which we recruit mature resident students to provide support to new students during their transition from home to life at university. The ambassadors receive the relevant training and gain valuable employability experience. By the end of 2017, we will have created over 100 opportunities for students.
2017/18 sales outlook
We started taking bookings for the 2017/18 academic year on 2 November and 1,500 students have already re-booked for next year. Universities have confirmed 17,000 nomination beds, taking occupancy to 37% compared to 35% at the same point last year. The strong start supports our view of 3%-3.5% average rental growth for the 2017/18 academic year.
We continue to make good progress with our regional development programme of over 5,500 beds. We have secured a site in Sheffield for around 570 beds in line with our target returns of 8.0-8.5%, subject to planning. We have also obtained planning for the site on Skelhorne Street in Liverpool for over 1,000 beds. Both sites are in excellent central student locations and will complement Unite’s existing properties in each city. We also remain confident that we will secure planning consents on the remaining 2018 and 2019 pipeline.
The development market in our target regional locations remains attractive and we are reviewing a number of schemes in line with our target returns. We are also reviewing a small number of development opportunities in London which are approaching our target returns of 7.0-7.5%.
Transaction volumes have remained healthy with investment from a wide range of buyers in our market. The quarterly valuation of USAF and LSAV both reported stable average net initial yields of 5.6% and 4.9% respectively. We would expect to see further third-party transactions over the remainder of this year supportive of current valuations.
Greetham Street, Portsmouth and Gosford Gate, Coventry were sold to USAF in September for a combined value of £88.4 million. Both properties, comprising 1,122 beds, were completed in 2016 and are fully let on long-term nomination agreements to Portsmouth University and Coventry University, generating an income yield on cost of 9.3%. We have now delivered our targeted level of disposals in 2016, having sold £113 million of assets (on a see-through basis). We will continue to recycle assets from the portfolio to re-invest in our development programme and to ensure that we have the highest quality portfolio available at a range of price points.
Richard Smith, Chief Executive of Unite Students, commented: “The outlook for the student accommodation sector remains positive with an ongoing shortage of purpose-built accommodation available for the growing numbers of students. We remain focused on owning and managing the highest-quality portfolio and retaining our competitive advantage by strengthening our relationships with Universities while increasing the services we offer to students. Unite remains well positioned for continued strong performance and growth as we continue to grow the portfolio through selective, accretive development while maintaining a strong, flexible capital structure.”
Unite Group plc will hold an investor and analyst day on 1 December 2016 and release its preliminary results on 22 February 2017.
For further information, please contact:
Joe Lister, Chief Financial Officer
Paul Richmond, Corporate Affairs Director
Tel: +44 117 302 7005
Tel: +44 20 3772 2562