Student and NHS accommodation experts, the Unite Group, is booming on the back of a massive expansion in higher education over the last decade and a scarcity in the low-cost rental market. This Friday, the Bath-based company is set to place an open offer at 203p and raise #38.5m, with entry due to the London Stock Exchange on Tuesday. Last June the group was floated on AIM. Finance director David Ransome says: ‘This will allow us to capitalise on our position as market leader in this niche sector, and fund our national expansion plans.’ Ransome, a 32-year-old chartered accountant, believes the group’s success in its Bath, Bristol and London offices is underpinned by ‘a life approach’ to running properties. He explains: ‘Our ‘cradle to grave’ service offers planning, design, construction, investment and subsequent leasing and facilities management.’ Transforming vacant post-war city centre office blocks into modern student accommodation and pre-fabricated pod bedrooms are specialities, with a vast 400-bed development due to open later this month in Bristol city centre. Prison officer residences could be next for the nine-year old group, but, in the meantime, there are plans to expand in Portsmouth, Manchester and Exeter. Unite runs 19 accommodation schemes and 1,600 beds, with 17 properties and 1,000 beds in development. There are a further dozen sites and 2,500 plus beds currently under negotiation. A link-up with the Peabody Trust in London last October led to the opening of a 100-bed hall of residence for Barts Hospital and the London NHS Trust. Ransome says: ‘This is a very healthy market.’ Last month’s annual results reflected that fact with a 155% rise in net assets to #26.3m and annual turnover growing to #11.1m. Unite is set to benefit from the extra funding for the NHS pledged in last month’s budget, and is also awaiting the results of a Treasury consultation on tax benefits for building on brownfield sites.
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