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MIDAS UPDATE: Student digs tip Watkin Jones has really made the grade 


Student digs used to be associated with grotty rooms, rising damp and unreliable heating.

Today’s purpose-built accommodation can be very different, with ensuite bathrooms, attractive fixtures and fittings and wi-fi throughout.

is one of the leading providers of this new brand of digs, building and managing sites across the UK, with a focus on the Russell Group of universities. 

The group has moved into the build-to-rent sector too, providing attractive, well-located flats with plenty of communal space for meeting up and socialising.

Plush: Watkins Jones provides a smarter kind of student accommodation

Plush: Watkins Jones provides a smarter kind of student accommodation

This is a fast-growing field, as people of all ages actively choose to rent rather than buy their own homes.

Watkin Jones was a family business for generations so, when chief executive Richard Simpson was appointed a year ago, some investors were worried.

So far, however, Simpson has proved them wrong.

With a strong track record in the rental sector, Simpson knows his stuff and is ambitious for the future, intending to step up growth in both the student and build-to-rent divisions.

Watkin Jones has an unusual business model, in that it finds sites, secures planning and builds properties but sells the assets to big institutions before construction starts so it does not need to tie up lots of capital.

Once the blocks are built, Watkin Jones will often manage them too, so it interacts directly with tenants and can tweak its services if demand dictates. 

The group uses mattresses that are hard on one side and soft on the other, for instance, to accommodate different bedtime tastes.

It has even installed Chinese vending machines in some blocks to help Chinese students feel at home.

Midas verdict: Watkin Jones was recommended by Midas at £1.09 in 2016, just a few weeks after it floated.

Today, the shares are £2.48. Sales, profits and dividends are growing steadily and the stock yields just over 3.5 per cent. The stock has had a great ride over the past four years but it should continue to deliver for both existing and new investors.

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