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Primary Health Properties - new CEO announced

Primary Health Properties (PHP) has announced that Mark Davies will begin as CEO following the conclusion of the group's AGM on 24 April 2024.

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Primary Health Properties (PHP) has announced that Mark Davies will begin as CEO following the conclusion of the group's AGM on 24 April 2024. Current CEO and Founder, Harry Hyman, had previously indicated his intention to step down at that time and will work with Mark in the run-up to the April AGM.

The shares rose 2.4% in early trading.

First Half Results (26 July 2023)

PHP saw a 6.2% rise in net rental income over the first half, to £75.5m, with growth largely driven by rent reviews. Occupancy was 99.6% at the end of the period.

Underlying earnings rose £1.2m to £45.9m, driven by increased rental income which was somewhat offset by higher finance costs. The group's EPRA cost ratio (costs as a percentage of rental income) rose slightly from 9.9% to 10.1% but remains one of the lowest in the sector.

The portfolio's value as of 30 June was £2.8bn, broadly flat from the end of last year. A revaluation charge of £11.9m was taken, compared to a gain of £51.2m last year, reflecting a decline in the fair value of properties.

Loan to value for the portfolio rose from 45.1% to 45.6%, in the middle of the target range of 40-50%.

View the latest Primary Health Properties share price and how to deal

Our view

Primary Health Properties' purpose-built doctor's surgeries have a long track record of delivering results for shareholders and is now in its 27th consecutive year of dividend increases. As a REIT (real estate investment trust), PHP has to pay out the vast majority of profits as a dividend so that should ultimately feed through to investors' pockets, although of course there are no guarantees.

We believe that PHP's asset base is relatively defensive in the context of today's challenging macroeconomic environment. Rent collection rates were 99% in both 2021 and 2022, with 2023 rates trending in the same direction.

PHP has also successfully navigated the interest rate rises seen over the past year or so, with a stable average cost of debt of 3.2%. There is an impact on the investment market, largely relating to a lack of transactions as potential buyers try to wait out the higher-rate environment. That, plus the higher cost of capital, means PHP is relatively underweight in the development and investment arena for now. Instead, it's focused on the rental market, where it sees further upside.

We like the move. Those same elevated costs, and the lack of new supply, are giving landlords like PHP more bargaining power at the negotiating table. Plus, with 69% of rents up for review every three years and a further 25% index-linked, there's plenty of scope to benefit from the improving rental market.

Looking to the future, we think PHP has several features that underpin long-term dividend-paying potential. The backlog of procedures in the NHS and the needs of an ageing population means investment in primary care facilities isn't going anywhere.

And, with 89% of the group's rent roll funded by the NHS or its Irish equivalent, we view the group's tenants as lower risk. An average lease length of 11 years should mean rental income is secure for years to come.

There are some reasons for caution too though. Loan-to-value (LTV) is high by industry standards, and has risen over the past year. With an economic downturn looming, there's a slight chance governments could trim healthcare funding, which could become problematic in the short term.

The group's REIT structure also means investors are likely to be asked to fork out extra cash from time-to-time, especially as debt financing becomes more expensive. Because REITs have to pay out most of their profits it's difficult for them to fund growth organically.

PHP's valuation has come down a touch this year, broadly in line with its peer group, and the prospective dividend yield is attractive but remember nothing is guaranteed. Next year's CEO change shouldn't impact the strategy and we continue to like PHP as a play on a resilient segment of the UK property market. However, we caution that there remains a very real risk of falling property values in the near term across the sector.

PHP key facts

All ratios are sourced from Refinitiv. Please remember yields are variable and not a reliable indicator of future income. Keep in mind key figures shouldn't be looked at on their own - it's important to understand the big picture.

This article is original Hargreaves Lansdown content, published by Hargreaves Lansdown. It was correct as at the date of publication, and our views may have changed since then. Unless otherwise stated estimates, including prospective yields, are a consensus of analyst forecasts provided by Refinitiv. These estimates are not a reliable indicator of future performance. Yields are variable and not guaranteed. Investments rise and fall in value so investors could make a loss.

This article is not advice or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any investment. No view is given on the present or future value or price of any investment, and investors should form their own view on any proposed investment. This article has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and is considered a marketing communication. Non-independent research is not subject to FCA rules prohibiting dealing ahead of research, however HL has put controls in place (including dealing restrictions, physical and information barriers) to manage potential conflicts of interest presented by such dealing. Please see our full non-independent research disclosure for more information.

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Written by
Matt Britzman
Equity Analyst

Matt is an Equity Analyst on the share research team, providing up-to-date research and analysis on individual companies and wider sectors.

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Article history
Published: 5th September 2023