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SPH speeds up integration of student housing business, rebranding assets for UK varsity reopening

Singapore

SINGAPORE Press Holdings (SPH) on Thursday said it is speeding up the process of integrating its purpose-built student accommodation operations and rebranding certain "high-quality" assets, in preparation for the reopening of universities in the UK.

Straits Capitol, the SPH subsidiary managing the student accommodation assets, also hinted at hiring to boost on-ground operations. David Mathewson, the director, said: "We are undertaking this integration to boost our operational efficiencies as we position ourselves for (academic year) AY20/21.

"Apart from infrastructure integration to give our students a seamless experience, we are also investing in quality management talent to enhance our on-ground operational capabilities and offerings."

SPH, which publishes The Business Times, has 25 assets under the Student Castle and Capitol Students brands, across 15 UK cities.

As part of the integration, all existing booking systems are being integrated under a proprietary platform managed by the Student Castle team.

SPH is also rebranding certain "high-quality" assets in the Student Castle portfolio to "enhance its distinct brand identity and bolster returns on yield".

Separately, UOB Kay Hian on Thursday raised its target price on SPH to S$1.52 from S$1.50 previously, saying the group looks set to "unlock value" from non-core assets, including its Genting Lane property. The brokerage maintained its "hold" rating on SPH.

"We observe that the group had incorporated a new subsidiary Times Genting, and owns a sizeable industrial property in Genting Lane, notably with the same namesake. In our view, a consolidation of operations could provide the potential to further unlock value from its assets," wrote UOB Kay Hian analysts Lucas Teng and John Cheong in a research note.

They noted that SPH made gains divesting its stake in AXA Tower, and will be selling wholly-owned subsidiary Buzz Shop for an undisclosed sum. "We note that the group is continuing to review its non-core businesses and investments, as part of its disciplined capital allocation approach," the analysts said.

In addition, SPH's student accomodation business is receiving "healthy bookings" and its retail properties in Australia are seeing a recovery in footfall, UOB Kay Hian said.

SPH shares closed up 4 per cent at S$1.56 on Thursday.

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