Blackstone Drops $13 Billion on Student Housing Developer

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Going to college is expensive, said every student in America. Why yes, yes it is, replied US investment giant Blackstone, which knows a good business opportunity when it sees one.

On Monday, the private equity giant agreed to acquire American Campus Communities, the country’s largest developer and owner of student housing, for $12.8 billion. It’s a big bet that there’s plenty of future money to be extracted from student loan-backed youngsters in need of a place to crash between nighttime keggers and the next morning’s ENGL 430: Literature of the Middle Ages class.

Dorm Wars

New York-based Blackstone, which also made multibillion dollar acquisitions in apartment and single-family home rentals within the last year, first dipped its toes into the student housing market in August, when it bought a majority stake in eight student-housing properties for $784 million.

Along with competing asset managers like Brookfield, it’s offering decked out student housing, with luxuries including gaming rooms, state-of-the-art gyms, swimming pools, and super fast Wi-Fi — all the things one needs to stay sane during finals week. Monday’s big purchase looks smart because, while college enrolment is falling, student landlords are doing just fine:

  • As of December, students at 200 post-secondary US institutions tracked by real estate data firm Yardi Matrix paid an average monthly rent of $791 per bedroom for housing, up 2% year-over year. And they’re signing up early to do so: 94% of rooms were pre-leased — up 5.2% year-over year. That’s despite a 6.6% decrease in undergraduate enrollment in the US.
  • American Campus Communities, which made roughly $35 million in net income on $940 million in revenue last year, gives Blackstone a whopping 166 properties in 71 university markets, including Arizona State and the University of Texas at Austin. Blackstone’s purchase price of $65.47 per share gives ACC shareholders a 14% premium over Monday’s closing price.

How They Do It: Blackstone uses subsidiaries Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust (BREIT) and Blackstone Property Partners to buy real estate, because, unlike the firm’s main private-equity funds, they can hold on to properties as long-term investments.