- Student accommodation developer Unite Group booked a 12% fall in first-half profit owing to lower property valuation gains, though its underlying earnings rose and it boosted its dividend.

Pre-tax profit for the six months through June fell to £125.5m, down from £142.5m on-year.

EPRA earnings -- an underlying measure of profitability preferred by the company -- rose 16% to £61.2m.

Unite declared an interim dividend of 10.25p per share, up 8% on-year.

Its EPRA net asset value per share rose 4% over the period.

'The first half of 2019 has been a transformative period for Unite,' chief executive Richard Smith said.

'Our proposed £1.4bn acquisition of Liberty Living will create a portfolio with a gross asset value of £7bn, comprising approximately 75,000 beds across the UK, with some 1.5m students requiring accommodation each year.'

Smith said the company's growth remained underpinned by its 'high-quality portfolio in the best locations, deep and long-standing relationships with universities, our operating platform and positive market dynamics'.

He said the company's outlook was positive, with a record 92% of beds already reserved for the 2019/20 academic year.

'As such, we remain confident in a rental growth outlook of 3.0-3.5% for 2019/20 and 2020/21,' he added.

'Our development and university partnerships pipeline of 6,600 beds to be delivered over the next four years will further improve operating efficiency and generate significant earnings growth.'

Story provided by