- Student accommodation group Unite swung to a first-half profit after it collected more management and performance fees and enjoyed gains in the underlying value of its properties.

Pre-tax profit for the six months through June amounted to £130.4 million, compared to a year-on-year loss of £73.9 million.

Unite declared an interim dividend of 6.5p per share, compared to no interim dividend a year earlier.

'The business has once again shown its resilience in the first half and is now positioned for growth,' chief executive Richard Smith said.

Smith, while noting that the company had provided over £100 million of financial support during the pandemic, was confident that record university applications for 2021/22 would translate into strong demand for accommodation.

'Our recent sales performance has been strong, supported by the removal of restrictions on in-person teaching,' he said.

'While there remains some uncertainty over travel restrictions for international students, we have minimal exposure to students due to arrive from red list countries and have offered students arriving from amber list countries, including China, the opportunity to arrive at their accommodation up to three weeks early to self-isolate at no extra cost.'

'Assuming no fundamental change to travel restrictions, we are well positioned and anticipate 95-98% occupancy and 2-3% rental growth in 2021/22.'

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