Assura ‘well placed for primary care boost’

Assura, the listed property investor-developer for the primary healthcare market, said its pipeline of new assets stands at £33m, as it gave a solid trading update for the period from 1 October to 3 February 2015.

Last autumn the Warrington-based business, headed by former British Land finance director Graham Roberts, raised £175m through a new share issue to strengthen its balance sheet.

Since then Assura has acquired 20 properties for £97.5m. Assura's portfolio now generates rent of £55.2m a year. The weighted average annual rent increase was 1.59% on the basis of 98 reviews settled in the financial year to date.

On the outlook for the sector, the company said in the statement to the stockmarket: "The under investment in primary care infrastructure is widely recognised, and there are clear indications that the NHS is looking to address this. From a policy perspective this is backed by statements by Simon Stevens, chief executive NHS England, in which he places a significant emphasis on the key imperative of investing more in primary care and primary care infrastructure. Furthermore, Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, announced an additional £1bn of funding specifically linked to primary care infrastructure, while significant pronouncements to date from all major parties appear supportive of the 'five year forward view' published by Simon Stevens in November 2014."

In November, a £57.4m loan with Santander was repaid in full by Assura and its associated swap cancelled. The swap break cost of £1.8m was £0.3 million higher than the provision at 30 September 2014.

The business restructured £177.5m of Aviva loans during the period on improved interest rates. The weighted average cost of debt on these loans has reduced from 5.54% to 5.12%. At 31 December, Assura's loans stood at £518.5m. Assura's net loan to value ratio was 48% (September 2014: 64%).

Graham Roberts, chief executive, said: "There has been a renewed emphasis from the NHS and politicians recently on addressing the chronic shortage of primary care space in the UK, and as Assura grows it is well placed to provide the infrastructure that is so necessary."

Shares in Assura opened on Wednesday unchanged at 54p.

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