Audley Group
The bar at Audley’s Sunningdale Park retirement village in Berkshire

Retirement villages provider Audley Group and BlackRock Real Assets have formed a joint venture in a deal that marks the investment group’s entry into the UK retirement living sector.

The joint venture will fund the development of retirement communities including at least three mid-market villages within the Audley Group’s Mayfield portfolio.

The first village in the joint venture, Audley Group’s Mayfield site at Watford, will create 255 mid-market retirement living properties with health, wellbeing, care and leisure facilities. Audley stated that the project is well-advanced with strong pre-sales and will be ready for occupation in the summer next year.

Audley will manage the development and the operational running of the village, including the sales and marketing of all the properties.

Audley and Mayfield villages enable owners to live independently in their own homes with flexible care, wellbeing services and support when needed. These services are accessible to property owners as well as neighbouring communities. Facilities at the villages include a swimming pool, health and wellbeing studio, restaurant, bars and bistro as well as care services. Care is provided by Audley Group’s CQC registered provider.

Audley Group chief executive Nick Sanderson said: “Today’s announcement truly is a landmark event, not just for Audley Group but for the whole retirement living sector in the UK. Partnering with a leading global investment team is a major endorsement of our model and the potential for value creation in social and financial terms that exists within the sector. An ageing population coupled with a pandemic has made people question their living choices and means they are rightly demanding access to active communities, greater security and a place where they can thrive in rude health within their own homes for as long as possible. And as this demand continues, we look forward to continuing in partnership with BlackRock Real Assets to fund appropriate retirement living accommodation solutions for the UK market. Our shared focus on the long-term health of our customers, social impact and sustainability, will be central to our ongoing activity. “

Thomas Mueller, BlackRock portfolio manager added: “This joint venture with Audley Group is another milestone for the BlackRock Real Assets platform. Retirement living is a sector that we had identified early on as offering strong long-term fundamentals in which attractive risk-adjusted returns are achievable. We believe Audley Group has the management experience and scale to deliver.

“We believe this is an important strategy that provides retirement housing in a structurally undersupplied market. Our goal is to enable the senior population to retire in dignity by transitioning to more comfortable and innovative living, whilst also freeing housing to new occupants, such as families.”

Tom Scaife, head of the seniors housing team at property consultancy Knight Frank, said: “This joint venture is yet another hugely important milestone in the trajectory of the UK’s seniors housing sector on its journey towards maturity as an established investment asset class. According to Knight Frank’s research, the UK’s seniors housing provision is greatly undersupplied, and already cannot keep pace with the growing and ageing population. This landmark announcement will not only help increase housing delivery, but also serves to once again highlight the importance of the UK’s seniors housing sector.”

Rothschild and Co advised Audley, and JLL advised BlackRock Real Assets on the transaction.

Date published: May 25, 2021

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