On Friday (15 May), Goldman Sachs and the Wellcome Trust completed the sale of IQ to Blackstone, in the UK’s largest ever private real estate transaction (£4.66bn). IQ is a large provider of purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) in the UK, with 67 premises in the UK. Surely this is a massive vote of confidence in PBSA as a sector?  

It is interesting to note that this is a pre-lockdown deal, struck at the end of February. On the face of it, there has been no shenanigans from the buyer, no second thoughts. You can easily contrast Orion’s decision to forego a £21m deposit on its pre-lockdown contract to acquire Hammerson’s retail parks for £400m. It is impossible to compare like-for-like, but perhaps this is indicative of how the sectors are set to emerge from lockdown? Renewed confidence in PBSA, scepticism for retail? 

For PBSA, there is inevitable disruption. Income shortfalls are already taking effect, as providers forego rents. The uncertainty around the start of the 2020/2021 academic year will no doubt also prove disruptive. However are there structural changes that the PBSA sector has to fear? More online courses, fewer overseas students, universities struggling themselves to survive. Has Blackstone spent big in a sector that is set to emerge as fundamentally different to before?