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UK's Assura sees significant post-pandemic demand for its buildings (May 18)

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(Corrects attribution to CEO Jonathan Murphy, not CFO Jayne Cottam, in paragraph 3, 5)

By Aby Jose Koilparambil

(Reuters) -Primary care property developer Assura Plc said on Tuesday it expects demand for services in its buildings to rise significantly once the pandemic is over, as people take up consultation and testing related to non-COVID-19 treatments.

Many hospitals globally had halted non-essential treatments as patients delayed elective surgeries, such as hip replacements and dental care, due to the coronavirus crisis and as the fear of getting infected prompted people to cut down visits to healthcare facilities.

“There is a massive backlog of treatments and care that have been put off by the pandemic. In the short term, the demand for services in our buildings is likely to increase significantly,” Assura’s Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Murphy told Reuters, adding that it would take many years to clear the backlog.

The Warrington, northern England-based company owns a property portfolio worth 2.45 billion pounds across the UK, with 85% of its rental income backed by the National Health Service (NHS).

Murphy also noted that “the demand (for general treatments) might be too great and that might be the biggest concern the NHS has in mind”.

With the pandemic in mind, Assura has implemented design changes for its planned new buildings, including the creation of separate entry and exit points instead of the traditional single entry-exit system, wider corridors as well as facilities supporting online consultations.

The FTSE Mid Cap firm’s annual profit jumped 37% to 108.3 million pounds and passing rent roll rose 12% to 121.7 million pounds.

Shares of Assura are up about 0.4% as of 1322 GMT in London, where the company has a market valuation of around 1.9 billion pounds ($2.7 billion).

($1 = 0.7044 pounds)

(Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru;Editing by Keith Weir and Amy Caren Daniel)

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