Student accommodation providers with Yorkshire presence get green light for acquisition

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has unconditionally approved student housing provider Unite’s acquisition of Liberty Living Group.

The University of Leeds Parkinson Building. Picture: Tony Johnson

Unite will acquire rival Liberty Living in a £1.4bn cash and shares deal. The acquisition is expected to be completed at the end of this month.

Richard Smith, chief executive of Unite Students, said: “We are delighted that our acquisition of Liberty Living has been approved by the CMA.

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“This is a transformative acquisition which brings together the best of two companies with a wealth of expertise and experience in delivering for students and university partners.

“The enlarged group will be well positioned to meet the growing need for affordable, high quality student accommodation in university towns and cities where demand is strong.

“This, combined with our best-in-class operating platform, will mean more choice for universities and an enhanced service and welfare offer for students.”

Unite provides accommodation for almost 50,000 students in about 130 properties across 22 university towns and cities in England and Scotland, including 17 buildings in Leeds and Sheffield.

It also has a strong development pipeline, which will deliver more than 6,000 beds in the next three years.

Liberty Living has over 24,000 beds under management across 51 residences, including two buildings in Leeds and one in Sheffield. It was independently valued at £2.2bn at the end of May.

On completion, the combined group will manage a total of over 73,000 beds across 173 properties in 27 UK towns and cities.

Last month Unite said it had agreed commercial terms with the University of Leeds on a 30-year nominations agreement for its White Rose View development in the city.

The agreement covers 559 of the 976 beds in the development, which will open in time for the 2020/21 academic year.

Unite has worked in partnership with the University of Leeds to support the scheme through planning and developing its design.