From education to employment

Strong rental growth underpins confident outlook and increased dividend target

rental stock

Empiric Student Property plc (ticker: ESP), the owner and operator of premium, studio-led, student accommodation across the UK, is pleased to provide a business and trading update as at 02 November 2023.


  • 99% revenue occupancy achieved for academic year 2023/24    
  • Like-for-like growth in average weekly rents for academic year 2023/24 at 10.5%    
  • EPRA EPS of approximately 4.0 pence per share anticipated for financial year 2023    
  • Dividend target for 2023 financial year increased to 3.5p, 27% ahead of 2022    
  • Minimum like-for-like rental growth of 5.0% targeted for academic year 2024/25    

Duncan Garrood, Chief Executive Officer of Empiric Student Property plc, said:

“The booking cycle for academic year 2023/24 has exceeded all expectations, with the estate effectively full and like-for-like rental growth above ten per cent. Notwithstanding the inflationary backdrop, this is a superb result demonstrating the increasing quality of our portfolio, customer service proposition and the power of our operating platform, providing confidence in outlook and dividend expectations.

Underpinned by the continued attractiveness of the UKs Top Tier Universities, the demand for high quality student accommodation remains strong. With demand and supply imbalance expected to continue for the foreseeable future, our premium accommodation offering and high quality customer service, positions us well for growth within this resilient and growing market.”

Academic year 2023/24

Building on our best ever re-booker campaign, the booking cycle for academic year 2023/24 has tracked significantly ahead of the prior year. For the second year running, our accommodation is effectively full with revenue occupancy ahead of target at 99 per cent (AY 2022/23: 99 per cent).

Like-for-like rental growth of 10.5 per cent has been achieved. The revision upwards is largely the result of a higher level of late cancellation and rebooking activity, crystalising further the benefits of dynamic pricing.

The Group continues to have a greater proportion of UK students than in previous years, with demographics largely unchanged since our half year report. UK students represent 50 per cent of all bookings, the balance comprising 31 per cent Chinese and 19 per cent other international. 

Disposals and refurbishments

Steady progress continues to be made on disposals and refurbishments. The sale of Grosvenor Apartments, London completed as anticipated in August 2023, generating gross proceeds of £7.0 million. We remain under offer on properties valued at over £25.0 million.

The annual refurbishment cycle was completed to plan, delivering 254 newly refurbished beds and associated amenity areas across six core locations. In addition, our second Post-Grad exclusive site at Talbot Studios in Nottingham has been completed and welcomed students from September 2023.

As previously announced, we took the decision to close one of our larger properties, Brunswick Apartments, Southampton for the duration of the 2023/24 academic year. Works have now begun on this 173 bed property which will reopen to students from September 2024 following a full room and amenity refurbishment, alongside fire safety, energy efficiency and decarbonisation works.

In response to recent concerns surrounding the use of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (“RAAC”), we commissioned external surveyors and structural engineers to assist with a portfolio wide review based on construction type and building age. Onsite inspections have now been undertaken and we have not identified this material at any of our highest risk properties.

Acquisitions and growth

Properties valued at over £40.0 million are under offer in Top Tier university cities, which are complementary to our core strategy and in locations where we have an existing operational presence.

As announced in our half year report, the Board has continued to explore opportunities to accelerate the roll out of its Post-Graduate product. PwC on the Board’s behalf, has commenced conversations with appropriate parties to establish suitable partnership interest as well as the potential, and appropriate timing, for a joint venture as a means to facilitate continued growth.

Debt & liquidity

As at 30 September 2023, property LTV was 28.2 per cent (based on 30 June 2023 valuations) with a weighted average cost of debt of 4.4 per cent, and a weighted average term to maturity of 4.2 years. Cash and available facilities totalled £109.5 million.

As previously announced, we expect to amalgamate and refinance all 2024 and 2025 maturities in early 2024. Following refinancing, based on current forward interest rates, we anticipate the weighted average cost of debt to be within the range of 4.5 to 4.7 per cent


With EPRA earnings of approximately 4.0 pence per share anticipated for the financial year ended 31 December 2023, the Board now confirms its intention to increase its dividend target.

Alongside full year results in March 2023, the Company set out a dividend target for the year of 3.25 pence per share, an 18 per cent increase on the full year dividend paid in respect of the 2022 financial year. With stronger than expected growth in like-for-like rents achieved and occupancy having exceeded our target of 97 per cent, sufficient confidence exists to increase the full year target to 3.5 pence per share. If achieved, this would represent a 27 per cent increase in dividends paid, year on year.

The dividend will continue to be paid to shareholders quarterly. As such, today we have declared a 0.9375 pence per share third quarter dividend, in line with this revised target.

Key appointments

Joanne Pollard joined the business in October 2023 as Chief Operating Officer, a newly created role to further support the business and its operational platform. Joanne joins with over ten years’ experience in student housing and the wider living sector. Most recently she worked for Prime Student Living, where she worked as Managing Director for three years.

Also joining in October 2023 as Wellbeing Manager was Frances Abbott. Frances has held a number of operational and wellbeing-focused positions over the last decade, and brings expertise as an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Sexual Violence Liaison Officer. Frances joined from Unite Students where she worked as Regional Student Support Manager.

Joanne and Frances’s appointments further support the Group’s service proposition and our ability to provide an outstanding level of service to students, ensuring residents are safe, happy and healthy throughout their stay with us.

Financial year 2024

For the academic year 2024/25 we expect revenue occupancy to remain strong. We will target like-for-like weekly rental growth of at least 5 per cent, offsetting the impact of ongoing inflationary pressure and we expect to deliver a gross margin above 70 per cent. 

Further guidance will be provided alongside our annual results in March 2024.

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