The student accommodation trade sector has been dominated by one story recently and that is the recent news that Opal Group, the largest non-listed UK firm providing purpose built student accommodation, has gone into administration.
Over the last few weeks a number of administrators have been appointed to the numerous companies in the Opal Group following the Group's failure to refinance. The business owes 14 lenders more than £880m. The Group continues to trade and its administrators have stressed that the management of the student accommodation will continue and that letting standards will be maintained.
Over the last 25 years Opal has grown substantially, becoming one of the major players in the student accommodation sector alongside Unite, UPP, and Liberty Living. The crux of the problem appears to be that its loans are now higher than the value of its properties and the banks won't support the company any longer. This is despite the fact that its operational business still generates a substantial annual income.
Ernst & Young has been appointed administrator of 13 companies in the Opal property group. The news follows the appointment of Mazars as administrator of Opal's subsidiary Ocon Construction. The companies provide student accommodation in Wolverhampton, Leicester, Bradford, Dundee, Huddersfield, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and London.
Readers do need to understand that the losers in the Opal Group's administration are the banks and company shareholders, and not direct property investors.