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Student accommodation specialist Unite halts development programme

16 Nov 11 Student accommodation specialist Unite has called a halt to its development programme due to the uncertain financial climate.

The firm said it “continues to see attractive development opportunities emerging but is maintaining a cautious stance towards committing to further development activity at this time until the funding climate becomes clearer”.

Unite has £200 million of debt facilities maturing on balance sheet in 2013 and so will not make any new development commitments until these debt maturities have been addressed.

Its development pipeline stands at 3,283 beds, comprising:

  • Three properties in London (1,341 beds) and one in Glasgow (477 beds), which are under construction.
  • A 563 bed project in Camden, central London due to open in 2013, for which planning consent and debt finance has been secured. Construction is expected to commence early in the New Year.
  • A 902 bed project in Stratford, East London, for which a planning application was recently submitted. It would open in 2014.

Despite this caution over future development, Unite enjoys 99% occupancy across its portfolio for the 2011/12 academic year. Growth in net operating income is likely to be above 3% and profits above management expectations as a result.

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The firm said applications to study at UK Universities in 2011/12 increased by 1.2% above 2010/11 levels, with 208,000 applicants unable to obtain a place at University this year, underlining the continued strength of demand for places.

Mark Allan, chief executive, commented: "We have continued to make good progress in line with our strategy and have seen excellent performance through the third quarter, in terms of reservation levels, customer service and financial performance.

"We remain well positioned to outperform the wider student accommodation sector as a result of our London focus, the high quality of our portfolio, strong university relationships and our established brand platform. However, we continue to monitor closely the capital markets and the broader economic picture and believe that a cautious approach to investment and managing debt is prudent in the near term." 

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