Assura's portfolio was valued at £994m at the end of August and includes many newly developed surgeries such as this one in Harlech

Assura rethinks gearing strategy

Shares in Warrington-based GP landlord Assura fell 14% to 54p in early trading after it said it would undergo another share issue to pay off debt and fund future acquisitions.

An additional 618m share will be issued at 5p each to raise £300m. The company said in a statement to the stockamrket it has identified £96m of acquisition opportunities, expected to be under contract by March 2016 . In addition, Assura anticipates approximately £27m of developments will have commenced or be expected to be underway over the next 12 months and the group currently has one scheme for development on site with a completed value of approximately £5m.

Assura raised £175m through another share issue a year ago. Shareholders face further dilution of their holdings through the latest offer.

Of the new issue, £175m of the proceeds would be used to repay group borrowings.

The company said: “After the impact of estimated early repayment costs this will reduce the Group’s total debt by approximately £135m and result in an overall loan to value ratio of approximately 35%, including the investment in property acquisitions and development spend of the remaining £125m proceeds.

“At the time of its equity issuance in October 2014, the board outlined that its medium term target for gearing was between 45% and 55%. The board has since undertaken a detailed review of this policy and has concluded that a lower level of gearing would be beneficial in certain circumstances. Accordingly, the directors believe that a new gearing policy of between 40% and 50% should be adopted. The board considers that the reduced volatility to investors, the greater operational flexibility and the potential for a wider refinancing and significant reduction in weighted average cost of debt resulting from a lower loan to value ratio would be beneficial.”

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