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Unite raises dividend as profits surge

Student accommodation group Unite Group more than doubled its dividend for 2012 after a strong financial performance which saw profits soar.

Student accommodation group Unite Group more than doubled its dividend for 2012 after a strong financial performance which saw profits soar.

New openings and rental growth helped push total income from the managed portfolio from £219.5m to £240.2m last year, lifting the net portfolio contribution from £11.0m to £19.1m. Adjusted net asset value per share rose 10% from 318p to 350p.

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Profit before tax rose to £126.2m, from just £4.7m the year before, helped by £58 in valuation gains and a £49.7m positive impact of transferring stock properties to investment assets. Meanwhile, the prior year was hit by £21m of trading and closure costs of its manufacturing facility, UMS.

Adjusted earnings per share soared from 2.6p to 9.9p in 2012.

The final dividend per share (DPS) was increased from 1.25p to 3.0p, bringing the full-year DPS to 4.0p, well ahead of the 1.75p payout in 2011.

"2012 was a year of continued momentum for UNITE, with the benefits of the work we have done to enhance our business model and strengthen our footprint in the sector reflected in our financial results," said Chief Executive Mark Allan.

"In light of the progress made during the year and our strong performance across all our key financial metrics, we are pleased to announce a substantial increase in the total dividend for the year, demonstrating our confidence in the strength of our business and the prospects it offers for attractive future returns."

The company said it has a positive outlook for the industry with student numbers expected to increase by 25,000-30,000 in the 2013/14 academic year. Reservations for the next academic year were at 62% at March 5th, compared with 59% in 2012.

Shares were up 1.36% at 297.9p in early trading on Wednesday.

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