London Office Letting Forecast for 2019

Metropolis research suggests that despite the political uncertainty, the number of London office occupiers intending to move in 2019 remains in line with previous years. Confirmed office lettings in Q1 2019 are approaching around 2.5m sq ft, which is just below previous years. There are also a large number of companies awaiting a Brexit outcome before confirming move plans in the rest of the year.

Office market analysts report that Central London leasing activity continued to perform positively in 2018, however there remains fear of occupier inertia as a threat to leasing activity in early 2019 with leasing demand slowing in the early part of the year. JLL anticipate this is likely to be short lived as so much of today’s demand is structural – lease breaks and expiries – and a bounce back is expected in the latter part of the year. Tech employment is forecast to overtake banking and financial services in terms of total numbers employed. The tech sector is expected to take a larger part of London lettings during the next 12 months.

West End take-up is outperforming the 10-year average with the services sector was the most active. Some of the momentum was provided by Facebook’s acquisition of circa 600,000 sq ft in King’s Cross, followed by the business services sector with a share of 30% driven by flexible workspace providers. Flexible space is accounting for 22% of take-up volumes with several new entrants taking space including independent operators as well as British Land’s Storey and Brockton’s FORA.

Pre-letting remains a key driver of the leasing market and on an annual basis, pre-leasing accounted for 36% of take-up. Under offers in the West End are down slightly on the back of strong leasing volumes, but they remain well above the 10-year average, Active demand totalled 4.0 million sq ft and remains above the 10-year average Demand is being driven by business services followed by finance and media.

In the City, office take-up is surpassing the 10-year average with business service the most active, driven by the flexible workspace and insurance sectors. Flexible workspace providers continued
to expand rapidly, however the largest recent transaction to an insurance company was at Twentytwo Bishopsgate, EC2 where Beazley Group have pre-let 50,000 sq ft. WPP plc have pre-let 210,000 sq ft at 1 Southwark Bridge Road, SE1 and McCann have pre-leased 127,000 sq ft at 135 Bishopsgate, EC2.

In the City during 2018, pre-letting was at its highest level since 2000 in terms of volume and at peak levels in terms of proportion of activity (39%). Both space under offer and demand remain ahead of 10-year average levels. Space under offer is 1.4 million sq ft and active demand is 6.3 million sq ft.

In conclusion, trends in 2019 are likely to continue the patterns of 2018, albeit after a slow start in the first half of the year. However, the accumulated weight of demand and the impending pressure of upto a thousand lease expiries due over the next 12 months is likely to keep London lettings healthy.

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