Richard Smith, Chief Executive of Unite Students, commented:
“Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, I am proud that Unite has emerged from a tough year showing our operational resilience and building on our commitment to doing the right thing to support students. We were the first PBSA provider to forgo rents during the first national lockdown and to date have provided rental discounts to students totalling over £100 million alongside a number of other supporting measures. In particular, I would like to thank our teams for their dedication over the past year. The pandemic has also showcased the resilience of our best-in-class operating platform, which successfully delivered the integration of Liberty Living’s 24,000-bed portfolio during the year.
The outlook for the business and the UK Higher Education sector is strong. A record share of school leavers are choosing to attend University, demographic growth is significant over the next decade and international student numbers continue to increase. We expect strong demand for the 2021/22 academic year, supporting a return to full occupancy and 2-3% rental growth. Together with our development and University partnership pipeline of c.4,000 beds, this provides high visibility over a rapid recovery in earnings as market conditions stabilise.
While Covid-19 provides some ongoing uncertainty, we remain confident in the medium and long-term outlook for the business thanks to our alignment to the strongest Universities as well as the significant growth opportunities from new developments, University Partnerships and by attracting more of the 955,000 students living in Houses of Multiple Occupancy. As a result, the Board is recommending a final dividend of 12.75p.” …