Student Accommodation:

Unite Students has taken over rival student accommodation group Liberty Living after the Competition and Markets Authority gave its approval for the student accommodation specialists’ merger.

Unite Students has a portfolio of around 130 student blocks in university towns around the country accommodating some 50,000 students every year, and with plans to grow the estate by 6,000 beds over the next three years.

On the 29th of November, Unite Group Plc announced the completion of the acquisition of Liberty Living Group Plc from Liberty Living Holdings Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

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The Liberty Livings estate has over 24,000 beds under management across 51 residences in 19 university towns around the UK, and a portfolio valued at over £2bn in 2017.

Both companies are trend leaders in student living, the majority of rooms with en-suite and shared kitchens and social areas. Both companies partner with educational institutions throughout the UK providing accommodation for mainly first-year domestic and international students.

Both companies are members of ANUK, The Accreditation Network UK for private rented housing providers.

Richard Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Unite Students, said of the move:

“I am delighted that we have completed the transformational acquisition of Liberty Living, reinforcing our position as a leading provider of purpose-built student accommodation in the UK. This deal brings together two complementary businesses who share a commitment to providing high quality, affordable student accommodation with a focus on service and welfare and a strategic alignment to universities where student demand is strongest.

“The deal will accelerate our earnings, driving meaningful accretion from 2020 onwards. It also gives us enhanced scale which, combined with our best-in-class operating platform, means we are well-placed to meet the substantial market opportunity from the 1.5 million students requiring accommodation each year.”

According to Cushman & Wakefield’s research the UK has four of the top ten cities in Europe for student accommodation investment. London it says was the top investment destination in the world in 2018, receiving £1.9bn of investment, while Sheffield (£170m), Coventry (£160m) and Swansea (£103m) came seventh, eighth and ninth respectively.

A report by Knight Frank’s for 2018/19 says cities with a low pipeline of new purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) being developed, despite a high demand, include London, Brighton, Bath and Manchester. Northern cities including Liverpool, Newcastle, and Leeds are all strategic cities containing dual or multiple well-regarded universities, and large numbers of students.

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