Strategy

The Group’s proven strategy has evolved over the last year with the creation of our joint venture1 with Carlyle and our acquisition of OMB2 in Barcelona, but otherwise remains largely unchanged. We believe that the Group has a well-located asset base, management expertise, infrastructure, scale and balance sheet strength and, as we look forward, we consider that the Group has the potential to further increase its earnings per share and dividends by:

  • Optimising the trading performance of the existing portfolio;
  • Maintaining a strong and flexible capital structure; and
  • Taking advantage of selective portfolio management and expansion opportunities in our existing markets and, if appropriate, in attractive new geographies either through our joint venture1 with Carlyle or in our own right.
1 – The joint venture with Carlyle, which represents a 20% investment, has been accounted for as an associate using the equity method of accounting, as described in the “Investment in associates” note to the financial statements.
2 – The consideration paid for OMB on 30 December 2019 was £14.3 million net of cash acquired plus costs of approximately £0.3 million and for Fort Box Self Storage on 5 November 2019 was £13.6 million plus costs of approximately £0.7 million, both net of cash acquired and both are subject to customary working capital adjustment.

Optimisation of Existing Portfolio

With the opening of fifteen new stores since August 2016, and the acquisitions of 31 stores through the purchases of Space Maker in July 2016, Alligator in November 2017, our Heathrow store, Fort Box in London and OMB in Barcelona in 2019, we have established and strengthened our market-leading portfolio in the UK and Paris and have entered the Spanish market. We have a high quality, fully invested estate in all geographies and, of our 159 stores as at 31 October 2020, 99 are in London and the South East of England or in Paris with 56 in the other major UK cities and four in Barcelona. We now operate 48 stores within the M25 which represents a higher number of stores than any other competitor.

Our MLA1 has increased to 6.86 million sq ft at 31 October 2020 (FY2019: 6.47 million sq ft) and has grown by 35% since 2013. At the current occupancy level of 79.5% we have 1.4 million sq ft of unoccupied space, of which 1.1 million sq ft is in our UK stores and 0.3 million sq ft is in Paris and Spain. In total this unlet space is the equivalent of c.35 empty stores located across the estate and provides the Company with significant opportunity to grow further. This available space is fully invested and the related operating costs are essentially fixed and already included in the Group cost base. Our continued focus will be on ensuring that we drive occupancy to utilise this capacity at carefully managed rates. Between the full financial years 2013 and 2020, like-for-like2 occupancy has increased from 63.1% to 82.6%, i.e. an average of 2.8ppts per year.
 
There are three elements that are critical to the optimisation of our existing portfolio.

  • Enquiry generation through an effective and efficient marketing operation;
  • Strong conversion of enquiries into new lets; and
  • Disciplined central revenue management and cost control.

Digital marketing expertise
 
Awareness of self storage remains relatively low with 52% (FY2019: 52%) of the UK population either knowing very little or nothing about self storage (source: 2020 SSA Annual Report). In the UK many of our new customers are using self storage for the first time. It is largely a brand blind purchase. Typically, customers requiring storage start their journey by conducting online research using generic keywords in their locality (e.g. “storage in Borehamwood”, “self storage near me”) which means that geographic coverage and search engine prominence remain key competitive advantages.

We believe there is a clear benefit of scale in the generation of customer enquiries. The Group has continued to invest in its consumer website as well as in-house expertise which has resulted in the development of a leading digital marketing platform that has generated over 35% enquiry growth for the Group over the last five years. Our increasing in-house expertise and significant annual budget have enabled us to deliver strong results.

The Group’s online strength came to the fore during the Covid-19 lockdowns. Online enquiries rose to 88% of our enquiries in the UK (FY2019: 83%) and 79% in France (FY2019: 75%).  Approximately 60% of our online enquiries in the UK now originate from a mobile device (excluding tablets), compared to c.55% last year, highlighting the need for continual investment in our responsive web platform for a “mobile-first” world. We continue to invest in activities that promote a strong search engine presence to grow enquiry volume whilst managing efficiency in terms of overall cost per enquiry.

During the year, the Group further developed and successfully executed its ability to integrate newly developed and acquired stores into its marketing platform. The Group acquired two stores in London during the financial year (Chelsea and St John’s Wood in November 2019) and the stores were successfully integrated onto Safestore systems within weeks of completion. Newly developed stores at Peterborough, Birmingham-Merry Hill, London-Carshalton, Sheffield and Gateshead in the UK have made strong starts in terms of enquiry generation. The Group has also commenced the integration of OMB (Spain, acquired January 2020) onto the Safestore platform with uplifts seen in both enquiry generation and marketing efficiency despite the impact of the pandemic. Safestore was also appointed to provide management services to the joint venture3 created to acquire M3 Self Storage in the Netherlands and Lokabox in Belgium. These services include the implementation of the full Safestore marketing platform (including use of the brand).  Both businesses are now fully operational on the Safestore platform and physical rebranding of the properties is underway.

In 2020, Safestore UK won the Feefo Platinum Trusted Service award given to businesses who have achieved Gold standard for three consecutive years. It is an independent mark of excellence that recognises businesses for delivering exceptional experiences, as rated by real customers. In addition to using Feefo, Safestore invites customers to leave a review on a number of review platforms, including Google and Trustpilot. This way, wherever customers look for trust and reputational signals about Safestore, they will see an impartial view of our excellent customer satisfaction. In France, Une Pièce en Plus uses Trustpilot to obtain independent customer reviews. In 2020, 93% of customers rated their service experience as “Excellent” or “Great” resulting in a TrustScore of 4.6 out of 5. In Spain, OMB collects customer feedback via Google reviews and has maintained a score of at least 4.8 out of 5.
 
Motivated and effective store teams benefiting from improved training and development
 
In In what is still a relatively immature and poorly understood product, customer service and selling skills at the point of sale remain essential in earning the trust of the customer and in driving the appropriate balance of volumes and unit price in order to optimise revenue growth in each store.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been fast moving and uncertain but our teams created and implemented our plans quickly. The health, safety and wellbeing of our colleagues and customers is of paramount importance and all sites were operated in accordance with UK government guidelines in providing a Covid-secure workplace. We consulted our colleagues about managing risks associated with Covid-19, which included collaborating with them about key decisions we made during this time. The decision was taken not to access the UK government’s Covid-19 related support schemes including the job retention scheme.  Our colleagues received their full salary entitlement, irrespective of whether they were working reduced hours or were unable to work because they were self-isolating.

Our enthusiastic, well-trained and customer-centric sales team remains a key differentiator and a strength of our business. Understanding the needs of our customers and using this knowledge to develop in-store trusted advisers is a fundamental part of driving revenue growth and market share.

Safestore has been an Investors in People (“IIP”) organisation since 2003 and our aim is to be an employer of choice in our sector as we passionately believe that our continued success is dependent on our highly motivated and well-trained colleagues. In April 2018, Safestore was awarded the Gold accreditation under the IIP programme, a significant improvement from the Bronze accreditation awarded in 2015. This puts Safestore as one of the top employers of 14,000 IIP accredited companies. In addition, Safestore was subsequently shortlisted as a finalist for the IIP Gold Employer of the Year in the 250+ employees category, putting us in the top ten of all companies that have achieved Gold accreditation. IIP is the international standard for people management, defining what it takes to lead, support and manage people effectively to achieve sustainable results. Underpinning the standard is the Investors in People framework, reflecting the latest workplace trends, essential skills and effective structures required to outperform in any industry. Investors in People enables organisations to benchmark against the best in the business on an international scale. We are proud to have our colleagues recognised to such a high standard not only in our industry but across 14,000 organisations in 75 countries.

We are committed to growing and rewarding our people and tailor our development, reward and recognition programmes to this end. Our IIP recognised coaching programme, launched in 2018, was upgraded in 2019 to reflect the increase in the calibre and performance of our teams and was well received by our colleagues on its launch in January 2019. Our internal sales training framework also received its 2019 enhancements to reflect the elevated performance of 2018 and target our high expectations of 2019. The programme was rolled out in May 2019 in preparation for the third and fourth quarters’ selling seasons.

The training and development of our store and customer-facing colleagues is an essential part of our daily routines. Due to the restrictions created by the Covid-19 pandemic, our learning and development portfolio was predominantly delivered online via our Learning Management System and use of digital platforms. This allowed us the flexibility to continue with high-quality delivery of our core sales and development modules without the need to meet face to face. This Learning Management System also provides the opportunity for team members to receive rigorously enforced health and safety, fire and compliance training, ensuring that our colleagues are up to date in relation to their technical knowledge and continue to operate a safe environment for both our colleagues and customers. These tools, systems and resources have allowed us to effectively communicate changes quickly and manage compliance robustly. The onset of a national lockdown in March 2020 did not stop the continued development and training of our colleagues. Our training, developmental, welfare and compliance training modules can all be remotely accessed. Along with our online-learning portal and the adaptation of our face-to-face training programmes into a video-linked Microsoft Teams format, we delivered a continuous seamless learning experience for all of our colleagues. Whilst overall training hours were reduced compared to 2019, in excess of 20,000 hours were still delivered.

All new recruits to the business benefit from enhanced induction and training tools that have been developed in-house and enable us to quickly identify high potential individuals and increase their speed to competency. They receive individual performance targets within four weeks of joining the business and are placed on the “pay-for-skills” programme that allows accelerated basic pay increases dependent on success in demonstrating specific and defined skills. The key target of our programme remains that close to 100% of our Store Manager appointments are from within the business via our Store Manager Development programme, and we are pleased with our progress to date.
November 2016 saw the launch of our internal Store Manager Development programme designed to provide the business with its future Store Managers. The first group of trainees graduated in November 2017 and the second intake of sales consultants at the end of October 2018. We are proud to announce that our third intake of programme delegates has the opportunity to gain a nationally recognised qualification from ILM (Institute of Leadership & Management) at Level 3 and a further ten new colleagues recently started the 2020 programme.

Our Store Manager Development programme demonstrates the effectiveness of our learning tools. In a spirit of constant improvement our content and delivery process is dynamically enhanced through our 360-degree feedback process utilising the learnings from not only the candidates but also from our training Store Managers and senior business leaders. This allows our people to be trained with the knowledge and skills to sell effectively in today’s market place. December 2019 also saw the inaugural launch of our Senior Manager Development programme (“LEAD”) which focuses on developing our high performing middle managers aimed at preparing them for more senior roles within the business. This programme is built on the foundations of our Store Manager Development programme and includes Level 5 accreditation from the Institute of Leadership & Management upon successful completion.

Our performance dashboard allows our store and field teams to focus on the key operating metrics of the business providing an appropriate level of management information to enable swift decision making. Reporting performance down to individual employee level enhances our competitive approach to team and individual performance. We continue to reward our people for their performances with bonuses of up to 50% of basic salary based on their achievements against individual new lets, occupancy, ancillary sales and pricing targets. In addition, a Values and Behaviours framework is overlaid on individuals’ performance in order to assess team members’ performance and development needs on a quarterly basis.

February 2019 saw the launch of our “Make The Difference” forum” when 14 of our colleagues were voted to be the “People Champions” and attend our people’s forum.
 
This new initiative allows our champions to be the representative voice for each of the twelve Regions and Head Office in order to influence change and drive improvement for “Our Business, Our Customers and Our Colleagues”.

People Champions:

  • Consult and collect the views and suggestions of all colleagues that they represent;
  • Engage in the bi-annual “Make the Difference Forum”, raising and representing the views of their colleagues; and
  • Consult with and discuss feedback with management and the leadership team at Safestore.

Our Values and Behaviours framework concentrates our culture on our customers. Customers continue to be at the heart of everything we do, whether it be in store, online or in their communities. Our Gold standard Feefo customer service score along, with our “Excellent” Trustpilot and strong Google ratings, reflects our ongoing commitment to their
satisfaction.
 
Central Revenue Management and Cost Control
 
We continue to pursue a balanced approach to revenue management. We aim to optimise revenue by improving the utilisation of the available space in our portfolio at carefully managed rates. Our central pricing team is responsible for the management of our dynamic pricing policy, the implementation of promotional offers and the identification of additional ancillary revenue opportunities. Whilst price lists are managed centrally and can be adjusted on a real-time basis when needed, the store sales teams have the ability, in selected stores, to offer a Lowest Price Guarantee, as well as a selective range of specific discounts by store or by unit size, in the event that a local competitor is offering a lower price.

 Average rates are predominantly influenced by:

  • The store location and catchment area;
  • The volume of enquiries generated online;
  • The store team's skills at converting these enquiries into new lets at the expected price; and
  • The pricing policy and the confidence provided by analytical capabilities that smaller players may lack.

 We believe that Safestore has a very strong proposition in each of these four areas.

Costs are managed centrally with a lean structure maintained at the Head Office. Enhancements to cost control are continually considered and the cost base is challenged on an ongoing basis.



1 – MLA is Maximum Lettable Area. At 31 October 2020, Group MLA was 6.86 million sq ft (FY2019: 6.47 million sq ft).
2 – Like-for-like adjustments have been made to remove the impact of the acquisition of Valencia, Calabria, Glories and Marina in Barcelona, the acquisition of Chelsea and St John’s Wood in London, the 2020 openings of Carshalton, Sheffield and Gateshead, the 2019 acquisition of Heathrow, and the 2019 openings of Peterborough, Birmingham-Merry Hill and Pontoise.
3 – The joint venture with Carlyle, which represents a 20% investment, has been accounted for as an associate using the equity method of accounting, as described in the “Investment in associates” note to the financial statements.

Strong and Flexible Capital Structure

Since 2014 we have refinanced the business on four occasions, each time optimising our debt structure and improving terms, and believe we have maintained a capital structure that is appropriate for our business and which provides us with the flexibility to take advantage of carefully evaluated development and acquisition opportunities.

At 31 October 2020, based on the current level of borrowings and interest swap rates, the Group’s weighted average cost of debt was 2.13% and 82% of our debt facilities are at fixed rate or hedged. The weighted average maturity of the Group’s drawn debt is 5.1 years at the current period end and the Group’s LTV ratio is 29% as at 31 October 2020.

This LTV and interest cover ratio of 9.0x for the rolling twelve-month period ended 31 October 2020 provide us with significant headroom compared to our banking covenants. We had £148 million of undrawn bank facilities at 31 October 2020.

During the first half of the year, the Group took out average rate FX forward contracts to hedge the majority of the Group’s exposure to the translation of Euro-denominated earnings for the next three years. The value of the contracts were €6.5 million for the second half of the 2020 financial year, €14.5 million and €16 million for the 2021 and 2022 financial years respectively and €8.5 million for the first half of the 2023 financial year. This has the effect of fixing the rate at which Euro earnings are translated to the rate of €1.0751 to £1, up to the value of the contract. Taking into account the improvements we have made in the performance of the business and the reduction in underlying finance charges of c.£9.3 million over the last seven years, the Group is capable of generating free cash after dividends sufficient to fund the building of two to three new stores per annum depending on location and availability of land.

The Group evaluates development and acquisition opportunities in a careful and disciplined manner against rigorous investment criteria. Our investment policy requires certain Board-approved hurdle rates to be considered achievable prior to progressing an investment opportunity. In addition, the Group aims to maintain a Group LTV1 ratio of between 30% and 40% which the Board considers to be appropriate for the Group.



1 – LTV ratio is Loan-to-Value ratio, which is defined as gross debt (excluding lease liabilities) as a proportion of the valuation of investment properties and investment properties under construction (excluding lease liabilities).

Portfolio Management

Our approach to store development and acquisitions in the UK and Paris continues to be pragmatic, flexible and focused on the return on capital.

Our property teams in both the UK and Paris continue to seek investment opportunities in new sites to add to the store pipeline. However, investments will only be made if they comply with our disciplined and strict investment criteria. Our preference is to acquire sites that are capable of being fully operational within 18-24 months from completion.

Since 2016, the Group has opened 15 new stores: Chiswick, Wandsworth, Mitcham, Paddington Marble Arch, Carshalton (all in London), Birmingham-Central, Birmingham-Merry Hill, Altrincham, Peterborough, Gateshead and Sheffield in the UK, and Emerainville, Combs-la-Ville, Poissy and Pontoise in Paris, adding 762,000 sq ft. of MLA.

We have also completed the extensions and refurbishments of our Acton, Barking, Bedford, Chingford and Longpont (Paris) stores adding a net 65,000 sq ft of fully invested space to the estate. All of these stores are performing in line with or ahead of their business plans.

New Stores

In In the second half of 2018, we obtained planning for and completed the acquisition of a site in Carshalton in South London. This 40,000 sq ft freehold store opened in the first quarter of 2020.

In August 2019, we acquired a long leasehold 1.6-acre site with an existing building in Gateshead, North East England. The lease has 130 years remaining. Planning permission was obtained to convert the building into a 42,000 sq ft store and the store opened ahead of schedule in March 2020.

In September 2019, we acquired a freehold 1.5-acre site with an existing warehouse in Sheffield. The site is located in an accessible and prominent position on the northern side of the inner ring road (A61) which is close to the city centre in a densely populated catchment area. The Group was close to finalising the conversion of the existing building into a 47,000 sq ft store when the UK Covid-19 lockdown commenced. As a result, construction was paused but subsequently recommenced and the store opened in June 2020, a delay of two months.

In July 2020, the Group completed the acquisition of a freehold 2.17-acre site including an existing warehouse in Birmingham. The site is located on the southern side of the inner A4540 ring road. It is anticipated that the existing warehouse will be converted to a 58,500 sq ft storage facility. Planning permission has now been granted and we anticipate opening the new store in the second quarter of 2021 and intend to relocate our existing Digbeth store (MLA 44,500 sq ft) to the new site.

The Group has also acquired two additional sites in the UK in London at Morden and Bermondsey. Morden is a freehold 0.9-acre site in an established industrial location. Planning permission for a 52,000 sq ft self storage facility has now been granted and we are considering the appropriate time to commence construction on this site. Bermondsey is a 0.5-acre freehold site with income from existing tenants and is adjacent to our existing leasehold store. Our medium term aim, subject to planning permission, is to extend our existing Bermondsey operations with the addition of a new self storage facility to complement our existing store.

In November 2020, the Group acquired a long leasehold (84 years) site in London at Park West Place. The site is 150 metres from our Paddington Marble Arch store and is currently operating as a car park. The existing tenants will remain for 24 months after which the site will be converted into a 13,000 sq ft MLA self storage facility. The store will operate as a satellite to our Paddington Marble Arch store resulting in operating cost efficiencies.

In Paris, where regulatory barriers are likely to continue to restrict meaningful new development inside the city, we will continue our policy of segmenting our demand and encouraging the customers who wish to reduce their storage costs to utilise our second belt stores. We will also manage occupancy and rates upwards in the more central stores and ensure that pricing recognises the value customers place on the convenience of physical proximity. The strong selling organisation and store network established by Une Pièce en Plus in Paris uniquely enables it to implement this commercial policy to complement the strong second belt markets in which we operate.

In April 2018, we agreed a lease on a site at Magenta in central Paris. Planning permission has been granted for a 50,000 sq ft store and construction had commenced prior to the Covid-19 lockdown. During the lockdown construction was temporarily paused but has now recommenced and we anticipate the store opening in early 2021, a delay of around two months.

We believe there will be further opportunities to develop new stores in the outer suburbs of Paris and are actively reviewing the market for new opportunities.

Lease Extensions and Assignments

As part of our ongoing asset management programme, we have now extended the leases on 22 stores or 63% of our leased store portfolio in the UK since 2012 and our average lease length remaining now stands at 12.5 years as compared to 13.1 years at FY2019.

In the period, we signed a new 15-year lease on our Notting Hill store in London expiring in March 2035. A three-month rent-free period was granted as part of the new lease.

Existing Store Extensions and Refurbishments

During the period, three store extensions, at Bedford, Barking and Chingford, have been completed.

Bedford has an existing MLA of 35,300 sq ft and occupancy peaked at 94% in 2018. An additional storage building on land already in our ownership adjacent to the existing store was completed in June 2020 providing additional MLA of 26,000 sq ft.

Barking currently has an MLA of 47,900 sq ft and its occupancy also peaked at 94% in 2018. The extension, which was completed in August 2020, has added another 5,000 sq ft of MLA.

Chingford had an existing MLA of 42,500 sq ft freehold store which was at 85% in November 2020. We have now added an additional 5,800 sq ft of MLA to this store. The existing store remained open throughout construction.

In September 2020 the Group received planning permission to extend its Southend store by 8,600 sq ft. The existing store has an MLA of 49,400 sq ft and was 86% occupied at the end of September 2020. It is anticipated that the extension will be open in the second calendar quarter of 2021 and that there will be minimal impact on day-to-day operations of the store during construction.

We continue to look at opportunities to add additional MLA to existing stores as we seek opportunities to enhance our return on invested capital.

Freehold Acquisition - Basildon

In July 2020 the Group acquired the freehold interest in its Basildon store for £4.95 million. The store had just over six years remaining on its lease and a rent review was due in September 2021. The store has an MLA of 41,600 sq ft and is currently 73% occupied. The annual rent on the store was £210,000.

Acquisitions

Fort Box

On 5 November 2019, Safestore acquired 100% of the shares of companies owning Fort Box Self Storage, which comprises two stores in London, for £14.3 million including costs.

The stores, in the affluent areas of St John’s Wood and Chelsea, have a total of 35,000 sq ft of MLA and were 79% and 69% occupied respectively at acquisition.

St John’s Wood is a long leasehold store (999 years remaining) and Chelsea is a leasehold store with 20 years remaining on the lease.

The acquisition was immediately earnings accretive with the first-year initial yield anticipated at 4.4% rising to c.9% at stabilised occupancy levels.

The Group has rebranded the stores and, since acquiring the business, the stores have been trading in line with expectations.

OhMyBox!

On 30 December 2019 the Group completed the acquisition of OMB Self Storage SL (“OMB”), trading as OhMyBox!, for total consideration of €17.25 million on a debt-free and cash-free basis, funded from the Group’s existing debt facilities.

OMB operated four very well located leasehold properties in the centre of Barcelona with an average unexpired lease term of 16 years and one option to purchase the freehold interest. The company was 30% owned by the current management, which remains with the business, and 70% by a Spanish family office. The portfolio consists of four locations (Valencia, Calabria, Glories and Marina) with an MLA totalling 104,000 sq ft. The occupancy of the business, at the end of April 2020, was 89%.

The aforementioned option was exercised in September 2020. In addition, a further 3,000 sq ft of MLA and a number of car parking spaces were acquired over and above the parameters of the original option. The total investment was €5.8 million.

Barcelona and Spain are attractive markets for self storage. Spain has a lower penetration of self storage operators than the majority of European countries and less than half of the penetration of the UK, and Barcelona is one of the most densely populated cities in Europe. Only 14% of facilities in the Spanish market are operated by large operators, which presents opportunities for consolidation and growth.

At acquisition, pro forma first-year EBITDA after rent was anticipated to be €0.9 million on turnover of €2.5 million. The business is trading in line with these expectations. At the consideration price, the OMB portfolio has an implied first year net operating income yield of c.5.2% and was immediately accretive to earnings.

Joint Venture1 with Carlyle and  Investment in Lokabox
 
In June 2020, the Group’s joint venture with Carlyle, established in August 2019, acquired the six-store portfolio of Lokabox. Safestore’s equity investment in the joint venture, relating to Lokabox, was c.€2.8 million funded from the Group’s existing resources. Safestore also earns a fee for providing management services to the joint venture. The Group expects to earn an initial return on investment of 12% before transaction related costs for the first full year reflecting its share of expected joint venture profits and fees for management services.

Lokabox has six prime locations in Brussels (2), Liege (2), Charleroi and Nivelles. All six stores are freehold, with the two Brussels stores having opened in the last nine months. The business had 20,600 sq metres (222,000 sq ft) of MLA and an occupancy of 63%. This acquisition complements the six stores in Amsterdam and Haarlem in the Netherlands acquired in August 2019.

The Belgian self storage market is the seventh largest in Europe with 90 stores and 2.2 million sq ft of MLA. This represents 0.19 sq ft per head of population, which compares to 0.73 sq ft per head in the UK, 0.20 sq ft per head in France and 9.44 sq ft per head in the USA.

The Group’s investment in the joint venture was immediately accretive to Group earnings per share from completion.

Whilst our investments in the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain represent interesting long-term growth opportunities, the investment in the three businesses currently represents less than 2% of Group assets. capacity.

Joint Venture1 with Carlyle - Investment in Opslag XL

On In June 2020, the Group’s joint venture with Carlyle, established in August 2019, acquired the six-store portfolio of Lokabox. Safestore’s equity investment in the joint venture, relating to Lokabox, was c.€2.8 million funded from the Group’s existing resources. Safestore also earns a fee for providing management services to the joint venture. The Group expects to earn an initial return on investment of 12% before transaction related costs for the first full year reflecting its share of expected joint venture profits and fees for management services.

Lokabox has six prime locations in Brussels (2), Liege (2), Charleroi and Nivelles. All six stores are freehold, with the two Brussels stores having opened in the last nine months. The business had 20,600 sq metres (222,000 sq ft) of MLA and an occupancy of 63%. This acquisition complements the six stores in Amsterdam and Haarlem in the Netherlands acquired in August 2019.

The Belgian self storage market is the seventh largest in Europe with 90 stores and 2.2 million sq ft of MLA. This represents 0.19 sq ft per head of population, which compares to 0.73 sq ft per head in the UK, 0.20 sq ft per head in France and 9.44 sq ft per head in the USA.

The Group’s investment in the joint venture was immediately accretive to Group earnings per share from completion.
Whilst our investments in the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain represent interesting long-term growth opportunities, the investment in the three businesses currently represents less than 2% of Group assets.


1 – The joint venture with Carlyle, which represents a 20% investment, has been accounted for as an associate using the equity method of accounting, as described in the “Investment in associates” note to the financial statements.

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