PLC () noted that the government is targeting an 80,000 increase in international student numbers by 2030, aided by the introduction of a new two-year post-study visa.
The student accommodation owner noted the UK is the second most popular destination for international students, although Brexit will have a negative impact on EU arrivals from the next academic year onwards as university fees will be higher.
It expects a 30-40% reduction in demand from EU students, equating to 3-4% of its customer base by 2023/2024.
However, the property manager reckons it can balance the negative impact by recruiting non-EU students, which should reach 600,000 by 2030 across the whole country.
The FTSE 250 firm has collected 95% of rent for the 2020/21 academic year while reservations for the next are at 66%, compared to 77% in March 2020, with later booking cycle expected due to the pandemic.
Occupancy for 2021/22 is expected to be 95-98% with 2-3% rental growth.
“We think these are strong predictions particularly given the continued risk to international student numbers and their impact on earnings,” analysts at Liberum commented.
“Whilst we believe the longer-term outlook remains positive we think a number of near term challenges remain with at least another year of depressed earnings.”
In the year to December 31, EPRA earnings shed 12% to £97mln, reflecting the acquisition of Liberty Living, rent forgone for the summer term of 2019/20 and reduced occupancy because of COVID-19.
Loss before tax swelled 16% to £120mln driven by a valuation loss of £178mln, however the full-year dividend was hiked by 24% to 12.75p per share.
Contracted occupancy was 88% with 1.1% growth in weekly rents, compared to 98% and 3.5% reported last year respectively.
Shares rose 2% to 1,019p on Tuesday morning.