Bahrain's GFH acquires US student housing portfolio for $100m

The investment bank has assets and funds worth $12bn under management

DYXA1B Harvard Yard, old heart of Harvard University campus, on a beautiful Fall day in Cambridge, MA, USA on November 2, 2013.
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GFH Financial Group, a Manama-based investment bank, has signed an agreement to acquire a $100 million student housing portfolio affiliated with several top universities in the US.

The Bahraini company acquired the portfolio in partnership with Atlanta-based asset manager Student Quarters.

The US company is the sixth-largest buyer of student housing assets in the country and has completed transactions with a total value of more than $1.4 billion.

"This is another step in further building a diversified portfolio of well-positioned, stabilised real estate assets," said Awais Majeed, executive director, real estate investments at GFH.

"With scarce comparable supply in flagship universities and growing student enrolment numbers, we see strong prospects for the sector, which we will work to leverage with our partner, Student Quarters, who brings deep-rooted knowledge of the US student housing market and an exceptional track record to support income and value generation for GFH and our shareholders," he said.

The latest acquisition follows the strong performance of the student housing sector, which has approximately 90 per cent average occupancy levels and nearly 100 per cent rental collections, backed by parental or guardian guarantees, the company said. However, uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced many students off campuses to study remotely, meant investment into the sector weakened last year to $4.5bn, compared to $5.8bn in 2019, according to CBRE.

GFH's student housing portfolio in the US includes buildings and facilities near the University of Arkansas, Florida State University and the University of Tennessee.

The acquisition of student housing assets is part of its expansion into specialised US real estate. Last month, the bank acquired a US warehousing and distribution logistics centre in Ohio for $100m, as it looked to add industrial assets to its portfolio.

GFH has also been investing in "mission-critical" logistics assets across Europe, including supermarket retailer Tesco's Avonmouth distribution unit in the UK, which it acquired for $102m.

It also picked up the GP Logistics Centre in Spain for $96m, Amazon's fulfilment centre in the Czech Republic for $165m and Amazon's three last-mile assets in Spain for $100m.

GFH has assets and funds worth $12 billion under management.

Updated: July 10, 2021, 1:16 PM