Greystar aims to land £1bn UK student housing assets

Greystar Real Estate Partners, the largest operator of apartments in the US, aims to own £1bn of student housing  in the UK by the end of 2014, according to Brett Lashley, the group’s UK managing director.

Lashley told Real Estate Capital that he expected Greystar to top £1bn of UK assets in the coming year following its acquisition of a £310m former Opal Property Group portfolio in September.

“We’re pursuing several portfolios that are out there  for sale and it’s absolutely our intention to own and operate a portfolio that is substantially larger than the portfolio we have today,” he said.

Greystar’s planned expansion would extend the investment activity in an already buoyant sector in 2013. The latest CBRE figures reveal that £1.6bn was invested in the market up to mid November. “We’re very fortunate that capital is not an issue for us,” said Lashley.

The Opal acquisition allowed Greystar and its partner Goldman Sachs to enter the  UK market with immediate scale – 21 assets totalling 7,200 beds, mainly in Manchester, London, Leeds and Liverpool.

Opal fell into administration this year and its assets were split into four portfolios. After Greystar, US private equity firm Avenue Capital bought one portfolio and Australian operator Campus Living Villages has just acquired a third.

Lashley confirmed that Greystar would bid for the final portfolio of 19 assets, which is expected to go up for sale early next year. “We’re absolutely interested in it,” he said.

However, he declined to comment on speculation that Greystar is frontrunner for  three assets in London with a total book value of £175m that UNITE and Oasis Capital Bank have put up for sale.

A UNITE spokesperson said: “The disposal is proceeding in line with the plan and we expect to conclude a sale in the first few months of 2014.”
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