138 Student Living expansion plans on pause

Plans for expanding the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona campus with additional rooms by 138 Student Living (138 SL) have hit a snag, as disclosed by company chairman Ian Parsard to Loop News.

The expansion, aimed at accommodating more students, has been paused due to an unsuccessful additional public offering (APO) last September. The offering, intended to raise $2.15 billion for expansion and debt reduction, fell short of its target.

“We were hoping to raise the additional capital to do a build-out of an additional tower for which the foundation is already in place. That would have resulted in increasing the room stock by 144 rooms”, Parsard said yesterday March 5.

“Those plans have not been put on the back burner, but we have put them on pause for right now until we are in a position to implement them”.

Speaking at the company’s annual general meeting at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, CEO Cranston Ewan said the APO raised just over $500 million.

“We went to the market, but it was not as successful as we expected it to be…That will go towards reducing our debt…We realise that at this time equities are not the best area of interest for investors, but we expect that they will rebound”, Ewan said.

The company’s annual report for 2023 revealed that it made a net profit of $343 million, up from $318 million for 2022. Total revenue for 2023 was $1.39 billion, which is up from $1.2 billion the previous year.

The property management company noted that its occupancy levels returned to their pre-pandemic levels, with its highest occupancy level being 94 per cent in September last year.

138 SL, which has a 65-year agreement with the UWI to provide housing on the campus, currently operates more than 1,400 rooms at the institution.

Parsard expressed confidence in the business going forward.

“We have a very strong business and the product that we offer is very much in demand, and that demand is expected to increase”, he said.

Meanwhile, Ewan noted that 138 SL was currently accommodating students from the neighbouring University of Technology (UTech).

“We do have resounding demand from University of Technology students. In the last academic year over 200 UTech students sought accommodations with us. Currently, we have been able to host just over 70 of them”, Ewan revealed.

The CEO noted that the UWI had been paying down its outstanding receivables “albeit not at the rate we would have expected them to”.

He said, however, that the company was working with the new leadership of UWI to have the matter fully resolved.

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