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Unite Group plc Half-year Report

Richard Smith, Chief Executive of Unite Students, commented:

“The first half of 2019 has been a transformative period for Unite. Our proposed £1.4 billion acquisition of Liberty Living will create a portfolio with a gross asset value of £7 billion, comprising approximately 75,000 beds across the UK, with some 1.5 million students requiring accommodation each year.

“The Liberty Living business is complementary to our own, with a shared commitment to providing high-quality, affordable student accommodation and a portfolio strategically aligned with many high and mid-ranked Universities where student demand is strongest. The acquisition will utilise our best-in-class operating platform to accelerate and extend earnings and dividends growth.

“We have delivered further growth in our sustainable earnings during the first half, supporting an 8% increase in our interim dividend. Our growth remains underpinned by our high-quality portfolio in the best locations, deep and long-standing relationships with Universities, our operating platform and positive market dynamics.

“We maintain our positive outlook for the business with a record 92% of beds already reserved for the 2019/20 academic year. As such, we remain confident in a rental growth outlook of 3.0-3.5% for 2019/20 and 2020/21. Our development and University partnerships pipeline of 6,600 beds to be delivered over the next four years will further improve operating efficiency and generate significant earnings growth.”

 H1 2019H1 2018FY2018Change
EPRA earnings*£61.2m£52.9m£88.4m16%
EPRA earnings per share*23.2p20.7p34.1p12%
Profit before tax£125.5m£142.5m£245.8m(12)%
Dividend per share10.25p9.5p29.0p8%
Total accounting return*6.3%7.8%13.2% 
EBIT margin76.0%73.7%71.3% 
As at30 June 201930 June 201831 December 2018Change from31 December 2018
EPRA NAV per share*820p761p790p4%
Net debt**£897m£770m£856m5%
Loan to value**29%27%29% 

HIGHLIGHTS

EPRA Earnings up 16% to £61.2m (H1 2018: £52.9 million)

·      Increased dividend, up 8% to 10.25p, driven by growing earnings (H1 2018: 9.5p)

·      Profit before tax down 12% to £125.5 million (H1 2018: £142.5 million)

·      6.3% total accounting return (H1 2018: 7.8%)

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

·      Two highly-complementary portfolios, comprising a combined c.75,000 beds

·      Liberty Living to be integrated onto PRISM platform, delivering £15 million p.a. of synergies from 2021

·      Materially earnings enhancing from 2020, supporting an EPS yield of approximately 6% by 2021

·      Maintaining 35% LTV target, reflecting disposal plan for £150-200 million p.a. over the next three years

·    Completion expected in early Q4 2019, subject to shareholder and CMA approval – continue to progress pre-notification

High-quality income, portfolio and University relationships support rental growth

·      Reservations for 2019/20 academic year at record levels of 92% (2018: 91%)

·      Supports rental growth outlook for 2019/20 of 3.0-3.5%

·    Nomination agreements with Universities represent 60% of Unite’s beds (2018: 60%), with a WAULT of six years (2018: six years) providing visibility over income and rental growth

·  New long-term nominations agreements with the University of Birmingham and Oxford Brookes University commencing from the 2019/20 academic year

·   Further progress with University partnerships – one deal secured so far in 2019 and a pipeline of 10 active discussions across a range of different models

Over 6,500 beds in secured pipeline, driving future earnings growth

·      Secured pipeline of 6,580 beds (2018: 6,500 beds), generating a 7.0% yield on cost

·      2,390 beds opening for the 2019/20 academic year with c.70% secured by nomination agreements

·      Resolution to grant planning permission for 913 bed Middlesex Street development in London

·      One London and three regional development sites currently under offer

High-quality portfolio aligned to high-ranked Universities where intake continues to grow

·      51,200 operational beds for 2019/20 academic year, with a value of £5.5 billion; Unite share £3.0 billion (30 June 2018: 49,900 beds, valued at £5.1 billion; Unite share £2.8 billion)

·      90% of Unite’s portfolio now located at high and mid-ranked Universities (30 June 2018: 88%)

Strong financial position

·      £105 million of disposals to USAF agreed in H1 (Unite share: £79m)

·      LTV of 29% at 30 June** (31 December 2018: 29%), cost of debt at 3.8% (31 December 2018: 3.8%)

·      USAF raised £250 million in new equity in May 2019

* 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.

PRESENTATION

There will be a presentation for analysts this morning at 08:30 at Numis Securities Limited, The London Stock Exchange Building, 10 Paternoster Square, London EC4M 7LT. A live webcast will be available at: www.unite-group.co.uk. To register for the event or to receive dial-in details, please contact unite@powerscourt-group.com.