Despite pre-tax profit falling from £95.2m to £71.8m, the primary care developer has reported a healthy set of results for the year to 31 March 2018, with a 22.3% increase in rent roll to £91m and an investment portfolio now valued at £1.7bn.
Warrington-headquartered Assura attributed the decline in profit to the £56.4m early repayment costs incurred when it paid back £211m of long-term debt to Aviva Commercial Finance in January, a move it made following the raising of £400m in 2017.
Jonathan Murphy, chief executive, said: “We have delivered against our key objectives for the past year of growing the portfolio through acquisitions, strengthening the balance sheet to allow us to capitalise on the opportunities in our market and delivering sustainable returns to investors.
“Primary care remains key to the future requirements of the NHS. Our model, which delivers significant value to the NHS, and diversified funding structure, positions us well to deliver the improvements needed for a primary care estate that is fit for the future.”
Assura reported that its current loan to value ratio is 26%, down from 37% in 2017, giving it “significant headroom for investment”.
The group believes that in a field typified by under-investment and fragmented ownership of the country’s 9,000 surgery buildings, its portfolio of 518 medical centres makes it well placed. Recent years have seen more acquisitions than new development, and the NHS approval system remains a more significant constraint than the construction market.
Murphy told Place North West: “It does take a long time, and there has been a reduced level of new build, but it is improving. We have our strongest pipeline in many years, with £71m in the short term pipeline.
“In the North West, there has been something of a hiatus, as the Devo Manc agreement settles in, but we’re having the conversations now there will definitely be healthcare infrastructure investment within five years, something we’re keen to be a part of.
“Last year was tricky for many in the capital markets, so we were especially pleased to raise funds to further our growth potential.”
Ten acquisitions were made in the region last year. Murphy said the business is keen to deliver more projects like the West Gorton practice completed in summer 2017, “projects that make a really positive impact – sustainable buildings, that massively improve facilities for communities”.
Simon Laffin, who is stepping down from a seven-year run as chairman to be replaced by Ed Smith, said: “Although the policy consensus across all mainstream parties to increase emphasis and investment in primary care is more positive now than ever before, we remain frustrated by the slow progress in transforming policy into meaningful investment.
“Everyone seems to agree that better healthcare hinges on more care being provided in the primary sector. We stand ready to support this essential investment in NHS infrastructure by offering a powerful combination of the right skills, relationships and capital to make such plans a reality on the ground.”