* Expects banks to accelerate sales of bad property loans
* Will eye acquisitions with financial partners
* FY adjusted, diluted NAV/shr up 8 pct to 318p
* Closure of UMS unit will make over 100 employees redundant
* Shares up 4.3 pct
LONDON, March 1 (Reuters) - Britain’s largest student landlord Unite Group Plc said it expects Europe’s banks to sell 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) worth of student housing assets in the next 12 to 18 months, as such banks come under growing pressure to offload bad property debt.
Unite, which manages 40,000 student beds across Britain, said it would look at buying some of these distressed assets with partners, as most of its cash was tied up in its development pipeline.
“Banks will become more proactive in forcing borrowers’ hands and forcing more sales ... by the middle of next year I’d expect a lot of that to have already moved on,” Chief Executive Mark Allan said.
“It’s certainly something we will look at actively with other financial partners,” he said, adding that distressed assets make up a tenth of the UK’s 11 billion pound student accommodation market, most being outside London.
Only a small number of such distressed student housing properties were sold in the past two years. However, Europe’s banks are facing mounting pressure to shrink their balance sheets to meet capital adequacy rules.
In its full-year results, Unite said its adjusted, diluted net asset value (NAV) per share rose 8 percent to 318 pence in 2011, driven by rental growth and redevelopment activity. It expects to maintain rental growth of 3 to 4 percent in 2012, it said.
The company also said it incurred a 21 million pound loss from closing its loss-making manufacturing unit, Unite Modular Solutions, which had about 110 employees. Over 100 will be made redundant, Allan said.
Unite also reinstated its dividend of 1.75 pence per share for the full year.
At 0842 GMT, shares in Unite were up 4.3 percent to 193 pence, outperforming a 0.3 percent rise in the broader index of UK property stocks ($1 = 0.6260 British pounds) (Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by David Holmes)