- Student accommodation group Unite scrapped its interim dividend, having swung to a first-half loss as students stayed home amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the value of its properties fell.

Pre-tax losses for the six months through June amounted to £73.9m, compared to a profit of £125.5m.

EPRA earnings, an underlying measure preferred by the company, rose 22% to £74.8m.

Unite said it expected to reinstate dividend payments following the start of the 2020/21 academic year, assuming occupancy and income was in line with its expectations and a positive outlook for 2021/22.

'We were the first student accommodation provider to forgo summer term rents and one of the first to have Covid Secure status accredited by the British Safety Council,' chief executive Richard Smith said.

'I believe our decisive actions have enhanced our reputation with universities, students and parents.'

'We have growing visibility over our income for 2020/21 and our market-leading operating platform gives us the flexibility to rapidly adjust marketing strategies in response to changes in demand.'

Smith noted that 97% of universities were planning to provide in-person teaching this autumn and UCAS data revealed a record share of 18-year-olds applying to university.

'With the government providing strong financial support, we are confident in the prospects for the UK's world-class higher education sector and expect strong demand for the 2021/22 academic year.'

At 8:16am: [LON:UTG] Unite Group PLC share price was +1p at 941.5p

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