Magdalen College to sell stake in Oxford Science Park after value soars

Magdalen College is selling a stake in the Oxford Science Park after a surge of investor interest in the fast-growing life sciences sector increased the site’s value almost sevenfold in five years.

Oxford university’s Magdalen, which owns the entire estate, is looking for a partner to take on a 40 per cent share and develop the remainder of the park. 

Neither Magdalen nor Cushman & Wakefield, the property agent marketing the park, have put a price tag on the stake, but a person with knowledge of the deal said the seller hoped to attract bids in the region of £100m. 

A sale at that price, implying a £250m valuation for the park, would mark a remarkably rapid appreciation in value: Magdalen paid just £18.1m to buy a 50 per cent stake in the park from its partner M&G Real Estate in 2016. 

Since then, Magdalen has invested in new labs and research space on the site and gained planning consent for a new 165,000 square foot development. 

The sector has been given further impetus by the success of the UK’s Covid-19 vaccine programme. 

Vaccitech, the company that owns the technology behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, is one of more than 100 businesses based at the science park. The company raised $111m from an initial public offering on the Nasdaq in April.

The growth of life sciences has piqued the interest of big property investors, which have gravitated towards life sciences in the past year as they move funds away from riskier sectors. 

Among those on the lookout for life sciences real estate are private equity firms Blackstone and Brookfield, landlord British Land and a number of asset managers, according to people with knowledge of the market.

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“Investors are going bananas for life sciences because they are having to reallocate money away from retail and offices — sectors which have become really risky,” said Andrew Teacher, managing director of Blackstock Consulting and author of a recent study into life sciences. 

“Life sciences is the only commercial sector of scale, alongside logistics, where you can get a decent long lease. There are very few areas left where real estate investors can tap into long-term stable income,” he added.

Rory Maw, Magdalen’s bursar and director of the science park, said that bringing in a strategic partner would open the door to more investment and “further the discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship taking place” at the park.

This article has been amended since publication to correct the expected valuation


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