With universities in reopening mode as the COVID-19 crisis recedes in Britain, Singapore’s Mapletree Investments has taken the opportunity to acquire four purpose-built student housing assets in England for a total consideration exceeding £165 million ($227 million).
The 917-bed portfolio includes properties in Nottingham, Leeds, Exeter and Bristol, Mapletree said Monday in a press release. The unit of state-owned Temasek Holdings bought the assets from UK residential developer Vita Group, which will operate all four under the Vita Student brand.
Chua Tiow Chye, deputy group CEO of Mapletree, said high vaccination rates and strong student enrolment figures in Britain have boosted pre-leasing of student beds for the coming academic year, providing reinforcement for the group’s pursuit of the traditionally high-yielding sector.
“Mapletree will continue to expand its global footprint in this asset class for its attractive long-term growth prospects supported by strong fundamentals of domestic and international students’ demand,” Chua said.
Each of the portfolio’s four properties is within walking distance of a higher-education campus and within three kilometres (1.9 miles) of two such schools.
Newly opened in 2020, Station Street in Nottingham provides 321 beds and serves the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University, with rents starting at £232 per week. The building features amenities such as a cinema room, a coffee lounge and bike storage and is steps away from Nottingham’s railway station.
The 2020-vintage Portland Crescent in Leeds houses 308 beds near the University of Leeds and Leeds Beckett University, with rents starting at £278 a week. The facility boasts extras such as a communal roof terrace, a karaoke room and an on-site supermarket.
Portland House in Exeter has 156 beds and sits near the University of Exeter and Exeter College, while Zed Alley in Bristol sleeps 132 and welcomes students from the University of Bristol and City College of Bristol. Both properties were completed in 2014 and their rents start at £238 and £330 a week, respectively.
“We are excited to partner strategically with Mapletree, agreeing the sale of four assets,” said Vita Group chief executive Mark Stott. “In securing this deal, it provides the business with the capital and the confidence to continue to develop the Vita Group platform to thrive, with an ever-increasing future pipeline of projects.”
Back to Campus
The latest acquisition brings Mapletree’s student accommodation portfolio to 55 assets with over 23,000 beds across 37 cities in the UK, the US and Canada, totalling S$4 billion (close to $3 billion) in assets under management. About 60 percent of the beds are held by a private fund, the Mapletree Global Student Accommodation Private Trust.
After snapping up British student housing assets in 2019, when transactions included Mapletree’s $117 million purchase of a pair of assets in Coventry from London-listed Unite Students, Singapore investors paused as the protracted pandemic put a halt to in-person learning and campus life.
Signs of a thaw have emerged in recent months, as Unite Students announced in June that it had sold two student housing properties in London to its 50:50 joint venture with Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC for $472 million.
Earlier in the year, Singapore’s Metro Holdings added a second asset to its student housing fund with the purchase of a 181-bed accommodation near the University of Bristol for $41.2 million.