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Unite Group targets portfolio growth as profits jump in first half

The FTSE 250 student accommodation group reported a pre-tax profit of £142.5mln for the period, up from £83.9mln in the same period a year ago
Student accommodation kitchen
The firm also hiked its interim dividend by 30% to 9.5p

Unite Group PLC (LON:UTG) is targeting a marked increase in its property portfolio over the next few years after reporting a jump in pre-tax profits in its half-year results.

The FTSE 250 student accommodation group reported a pre-tax profit of £142.5mln for the period, up from £83.9mln in the same period a year ago while revenues increased to £52.9mln from £40.4mln. The firm also hiked its interim dividend by 30% to 9.5p.

6,500-bed development pipeline

Unite also said that its development pipeline comprised of 6,500 more beds that were due for delivery over the next three years, while it was also on track to open 3,075 new beds across seven new buildings for the 2018/19 academic year.

The firm added that reservations for the upcoming academic year stood at 91% of its portfolio, supporting a rental growth outlook for the 2018/19 period of between 3%-3.5%.

In its outlook, the company said the fundamentals of the sector provided a “supportive backdrop” as UK universities extended their global reputations and student intakes remained in line with record levels seen over the last few years.

Unite added that its approach to university partnerships, alongside several other opportunities such as energy efficiency savings, would drive growth in the medium term.

Richard Smith, chief executive of Unite, said that the company’s focus on its “operating platform, property platform and university partnerships, supported by attractive market dynamics” had continued to drive growth.

He added that the company’s “market leading brand, scalable operating platform and deep development pipeline” left it on track to deliver its expected earnings and dividend growth for the full year.

In a note to clients, analysts at City broker Liberum said that Unite had delivered income and capital growth ahead of their expectations.

They added that “Unite remains a key sector pick given its predictable rental growth, pipeline of higher return developments and scale efficiencies which should drive sector-leading returns”.

In early morning trading Tuesday, Unite shares were down 0.3% at 837p.

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