The Empiric Student Property business and trading report highlights the strong operational metrics and resilience of the PBSA sector.
“The booking cycle for academic year 2023/24 continues to track significantly ahead of 2022/23, which was itself a record year for the Company. We remain confident in achieving occupancy rates above 97% and pleasingly, delivering rental growth in excess of 7% like for like, ahead of earlier guidance. The business is in great shape, our net promoter scores continue to improve, and we’ve made good progress on our non-core disposal programme. We are optimistic that 2023 will be another strong year for the company.”Duncan Garrood, Chief Executive Officer, Empiric Student Property Plc
As previously announced, the sale of Emily Davis House located in Southampton which was exchanged for sale in December last year for £13.9m, is now unconditional and will complete on 31 May 2023.
Revenue occupancy for academic year 2023/24 is now at 86% and continuing to track significantly ahead of the prior year.
Like for like growth in average weekly rents for the academic year 2023/24 are improving and are now expected to exceed 7%.
Contracts were also exchanged for the disposal of a further two non-core properties generating £18.1m, which is above book value.
Academic year of 2023/24
The report highlights that 86% of Empiric’s 2023/24 income was contractually secured, making it their best rebooker campaign to date.
An increasing number of students are deciding to stay with the company, as reflected through the satisfaction levels via their Hello Student platform.
With expectations for the portfolio to remain full, occupancy should be above 97% by the start of the new academic year.
Empiric’s dynamic pricing platform continues to drive revenue growth across the portfolio, with like for like rental growth to exceed 7%; up from 6% as announced in March.
Contracts have recently been exchanged for the disposal of a further two non-core properties generating £18.1m, £0.2m above their 31 December 2022 book values.
The sales cumulatively represent 233 operational beds and reduce by one, the cities in which the company has an operational presence.
Both contracts are unconditional and anticipated to complete by 30 June 2023.
Since March 2021, including the above, the company has generated £91.9m from the disposal of non-core assets.
Numerous other non-core assets sales are at various stages of negotiation, including under offer. Empiric are confident that their disposal programme will be materially completed this year.
They continue to actively consider several high-quality, well located investment opportunities that are in-line with their core-strategy.
Debt and liquidity
As at 31 March 2023, property LTV was 31.0% (based on 31 December 2022 valuations) with a weighted average cost of debt of 4.2%, and a weighted average term to maturity of 4.6 years.
Cash and available facilities totalled £75.9m.
Although there are no residual 2023 refinancing requirements, Empiric are active in discussions with existing and new lenders in respect of medium-term requirements.
Lender appetite for the sector remains encouraging.
Alongside their full year results in March this year, the company hopes to meet a minimum full year dividend of 3.25 pence per share for 2023.
Today they have declared their first quarter dividend of 0.8125 pence per share, in line with this target.