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Goldman Sachs And Wellcome Trust Eye Windfall From £3.5B Student Sale Or IPO

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Goldman Sachs And Wellcome Trust Eye Windfall From £3.5B Student Sale Or IPO
An IQ facility in Bristol

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: There is a major real estate initial public offering in the works led by Goldman Sachs. Only this one seems to have more of a chance of happening.

A joint venture between the investment division of Goldman Sachs and the Wellcome Trust has appointed Morgan Stanley, Eastdil Secured and of course Goldman’s investment banking division to explore a sale or IPO of IQ Student Accommodation, the partnership's £3.5B student accommodation business, according to Sky News.

As has become common in recent years with the sale of large operational real estate businesses, Goldman and Wellcome are running a twin track process and will either sell, list or refinance the business depending on which option gets them the best price.

IQ is the largest private student accommodation platform in the UK, with 66 sites comprising 28,000 beds in 27 UK cities. Any transaction will be the largest student accommodation deal in UK history and one of the largest anywhere in the world.

IQ was formed when Goldman Sachs and the Wellcome Trust’s investment division combined their student accommodation holdings in 2016 to form a company with 54 assets which at that point were valued at £2B. Goldman owns about 70% of the joint venture, Wellcome 28% and Greystar, which worked with Goldman on a UK student buying spree, 2%.

It has since added more sites, and values in the student accommodation sector have continued to rise, taking the value to £3.5B as of September 2018. Sky News said the market capitalisation, the gross assets minus the debt, would be about £2B if the company was listed.

In its most recent publicly available annual report, for the year to September 2017, IQ made earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of £130M from revenue of £200M. It had an adjusted net operating income margin of 76% and occupancy of 98%.

The student accommodation sector is seeing a flurry of large corporate activity. Unite, the UK’s largest student accommodation owner, is in the process of buying Liberty Living from CPPIB for £1.4B. The deal needs to be approved by the Competition and Markets Authority.

The Wellcome Trust is the UK’s largest medical charity, and its £26B investment portfolio funds the research the charity supports. Its investment division is led by Peter Pereira Gray, a former property man who led Prudential’s real estate investments for several years.

He led Wellcome’s move out of commercial property, where it sold almost all of its holdings into residential sectors like student accommodation.

A medical charity like Wellcome and an investment bank like Goldman have often been described as uneasy bedfellows, such as when the duo looked at a joint bid for Network Rail’s commercial property portfolio, a deal Wellcome ultimately pulled back from because of its highly political nature.

But before Pereira Gray its investment division was led by former Goldman banker Danny Truell, and it was an early investor in companies like Facebook, Twitter and Alibaba when they were smaller private companies.