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Primary Health Properties – rent reviews drive growth

Primary Health Properties continues to benefit from higher rents as contracts come up for renewal.

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Full-year net rental income rose 5.5% to £149.3mn. Rent reviews contributed to £4.0mn in additional rent over the year, with a smaller contribution coming from extensions and refurbishments. Underlying profit rose 2.3% to £90.7mn.

The value of the investment portfolio fell 1.9% to £2.8bn, due to rising yields. With only one development underway, exposure to higher build costs is limited. Occupancy was at 99.3% at the end of the year.

Net debt was broadly flat at £1.3bn, with a loan-to-value of 47.0% (target 40-50%). On 23 February, the first quarterly interim dividend of 1.725p was paid, up 3%.

In the near future, growth is set to be focused on developing the existing portfolio. Ireland is the preferred area for future investment, with ambitions to grow the portfolio to 15% of total assets (currently 9%).

The shares were flat in early trading.

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 28th 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.

PHP has successfully navigated the interest rate rises seen over the past year or so. But there has been an impact on the portfolio value as well as 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 arena for now. Instead, it's focused on squeezing more from existing locations, where it sees further upside.

We like the move. Performance over the past couple of years has been diven by rent hikes. Those same elevated costs, and the lack of new supply, are giving landlords like PHP more bargaining power at the negotiating table.

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 10 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 as property values have fallen. Plus, 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 remains expensive for now. Because REITs have to pay out most of their profits it's difficult for them to fund growth organically.

PHP's valuation isn’t overly demanding and the prospective dividend yield is attractive, though nothing is guaranteed. Mark Davies will take over as CEO in April, but shouldn't impact the overall 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 risk of falling property values if rates stay higher for longer.

Primary Health Properties key facts

All ratios are sourced from Refinitiv, based on previous day’s closing values. 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: 28th February 2024