Central London Office Market September 2019

Central London office lettings in September 2019 reached 1.2m sq ft sq ft, from 57 mid-large size office transactions (5,000 sq ft+) during the month. The September 2019 deals volume figure is above the current monthly London average of 1m sq ft.

September was characterised by 14 office deals over 20,000 sq ft, which were led by WeWork’s long awaited 287,000 sq ft deal at 30 Churchill Place, London, E14; Li Fung’s 51,000 sq ft deal at West Works, W12; Intermediate Capital’s 50,000 sq ft pre-let at Procession House, EC4 and Hana’s 45,000 sq ft deal at 70 St Mary Axe, EC3.

Business services topped the table of lettings by sector, compiled by Metropolis, underpinned by lettings to WeWork, Knotel and Hana. This was followed by financial services, led by deals to Ion Trading, Nasdaq and Triton. The IT services sector was also prominent.

Office deals ‘under offer’ in central London rose slightly to 3.7m sq ft, with pending deal volumes are healthy in nearly all sub-markets, with a number of impending deals in solicitor’s hands.

By area, the City accounted for 36% of the office floorspace let in September 2019 at 442,000 sq ft. The West End saw 280,000 sq ft of take-up. Midtown contributed 181,000 sq ft of lettings. Current London office demand is calculated to be around 4m sq ft in the City and 3.2m sq ft in the West End.

The volume of grade A (newly built or refurbished office space) let during the month, reached 416,000 sq ft sq ft (35% of the monthly total). Slightly down on recent months. Availability is dominated by secondhand space in all London markets.

The large number of upcoming lease events in the core has been a key driver to mover activity. Metropolis research is currently monitoring 640 ‘live’ London office requirements, including a large volume of requirements from the banking and finance sectors, with pending deals for space of up to 2.5m sq ft due to sign in the next few months.

Thames Valley Rising

The recent JLL research on the M4 western corridor office market reveals that office lettings in the first half of 2019 topped 1m sq ft – the third successive year that take-up volume has increased.

A large proportion of the moves agreed to summer 2019, came in west London, which accounted for 433,000 sq ft of deals. The rest of the Thames Valley accounted for 567,000 sq ft of office transactions. Reading was the most active market with 225,000 sq ft of take-up, followed by Basingstoke (130,000 sq ft) and Hammersmith. Virgin Media, Sanofi and Ericsson all moved to Reading in 2018. There were 70 medium/large office moves in the wider Thames corridor in the first 9 months of 2019.

Large deals signed included Sovereign Housing Association taking 65,000 sq ft in Basingstoke for a new HQ, Bottomline Technologies taking 58,000 sq ft in Reading and Li Fung agreeing a deal for a 50,000 sq ft move to White City, London, W12. There were smaller moves involving Gartner in Staines, GTT Communications, Eteach, MyWorkSpot and Orega. The technology, media and telecom (TMT) sector was the most active with 25% of space taken, while the serviced office sector was relatively subdued.

JLL also draw attention to the growing life sciences sector. The White City area has recently attracted office deals from Novartis, Autolus, GammaDelta and Synthace. Metropolis is tracking up to 20 confirmed and potential requirements in this sector.

Across the Thames Valley, Metropolis is speaking to nearly 900 office occupiers that have lease expiries approaching in west London, Surrey, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire in the next two years.

Just over 800,000 sq ft of speculative office space has been completed so far during 2019, but this compares to over 1.7m sq ft in previous years. In the first half of 2019, some 700,000 sq ft of office space went under construction, although much of this was in refurbishments. Mapletree is speculatively developing 400 and 450 Longwater Avenue, Green Park, Reading, both buildings will each comprise 114,000 sq ft. In addition, there are major refurbishments taking place at Arlington Business Park and Thames Valley Park.

Agents say that the shortage of ready-to-occupy new office space is restricting the number of large office moves in the Thames Valley and is leading to a rising number of pre-lets.

 

The Squeeze on Space

A recent report by property consultant DeVono Cressa has revealed that office occupiers taking the best or better space on the market is leading to a dearth in choice for some occupiers. At a macro level the volume of available office space across central London continues to be high at 15.2 million sq ft. The figures are masking the difficulty in matching requirements with the available office buildings.

DeVono say that in the West End there is 3.5 million sq ft available, with just 22% of this is Grade A space. Victoria and Soho are particularly tight for available space. Even in the City where many new buildings are being built, Grade A space in this market is reducing, largely as a result of early-letting and pre-letting of new developments ahead of completion. Occupier searches are increasingly getting earlier in order to secure space, as well as more occupiers being open to fringe locations and taking more space for future expansion.

A noticeable trend in 2019 has been the rise in demand from the legal sector. A high number of active requirements have been launched recently. Whilst only 201,000 sq ft has been let so far this year, more moves are expected as legal firms scour London for space.

Metropolis is currently tracking nearly 50 law firms looking at options for alternative London office space.

The largest deal up to the end of Q2 2019 was 68,275 sq ft taken by Milbank at 100 Liverpool Street, London, EC2. Followed by Cadwalader, Wickerhsam & Taft pre-letting 21,700 sq ft in the soon to be completed 100 Bishopsgate tower. Some 62% of space leased by law firms this year is of Grade A quality.

DeVono Cressa say that in recent months 23 firms have begun a search or will soon start their search. If all firms decide to move, close to 1.9 million sq ft of office space could be let. Some of these requirements could take 2-3 years, as breaks or expiries are approached searches are showing signs of being started early to secure the right space.

The third quarter has seen US law firm Cooley pre-let 75,000 sq ft of tower space at 22 Bishopsgate, expanding from the 26,000 sq ft they currently occupy. Also in the City Kingsley Napley are doubling their space to 51,344 sq ft at the soon-to-be completed 20 Bonhill Street. Legal occupiers are becoming more footloose in their choice of location. More moving to the City and even the Southbank. Moving to newer buildings, newer locations and introducing new ways of working and/or new technologies is expected to facilitate a change. In an industry that is rife with competition for business and talent, all tools need to be deployed to stay ahead.

Metropolis is talking to nearly 100 law firms which have lease expiries or lease break options in the next three years.

London Office Market August 2019

Central London office lettings in August 2019 reached 925,000 sq ft, from 35 mid-large size office transactions (5,000 sq ft+) during the month. The August 2019 deals volume figure is just below the current monthly London average of 1m sq ft.

August was characterised by 12 office deals over 20,000 sq ft, which were led by Convene’s 99,300 sq ft now confirmed pre-let at 22 Bishopsgate, EC3; Nationwide’s 88,000 sq ft deal at The Post Building, WC1 and Spaces’s 78,000 sq ft pre-refurbishment deal at 68 King William Street, EC4

Financial services topped the table of lettings by sector, compiled by Metropolis, underpinned by lettings to Nationwide, Bank of Montreal and Intermediate Capital. This was followed by professional services led by deals to law firms Cooley, Kingsley Napley and Kirkland & Ellis. The business services sector was also prominent with more deals to Spaces and WeWork.

Office deals ‘under offer’ in central London fell slightly to 3.5m sq ft, but pending deal volumes are healthy in nearly all sub-markets, with a number of impending deals in solicitor’s hands.

By area, the City accounted for 71% of the office floorspace let in August 2019 at 653,000 sq ft. The West End saw 75,000 sq ft of take-up. Midtown contributed 151,000 sq ft of lettings and Southbank 30,000 sq ft. Current London office demand is calculated to be around 3.8m sq ft in the City and 3.3m sq ft in the West End.

The volume of grade A (newly built or refurbished office space) let during the month, reached 613,000 sq ft sq ft (66% of the monthly total), as transactions for new space maintained the recent strong showing. Availability is dominated by secondhand space in all London markets.

The large number of upcoming lease events in the core has been a key driver to mover activity. Metropolis research is currently monitoring 620 ‘live’ London office requirements, including a large volume of requirements from the banking and finance sectors, with pending deals for space of up to 1.5m sq ft due to sign in the next few months.

Boost for Newcastle Office Market

Recent research from Lambert Smith Hampton reveals a spike in activity in the Newcastle office market.

While Newcastle city centre saw 21 lettings completed within the three months to June totalling 46,010 sq ft. In contrast, it was a record breaking quarter for the out-of-town market, with 322,827 sq ft of office space let, across 32 transactions.

Recent lettings bring the total space let or sold across the city centre and out-of-town markets combined during the first half of 2019 to an exceptional 583,924 sq ft.

The largest confirmed office movers, recently announced, include software giant Sage’s letting of two buildings at Cobalt Business Park totalling 203,728 sq ft, marking it the largest out-of-town office letting in the North East region. In addition, Repairify UK took 15,600 sq ft at Traynor House in Newcastle and Eldon Consulting took 6,000 sq ft at Pandon Bankside, NE1. Elsewhere a 10,000 sq ft deal was agreed by a
confidential occupier at Berrymoor Court, Cramlington and there was a handful of circa 5,000 sq ft deals.

Metropolis is monitoring a number of occupiers interested in moves in Newcastle, including Performance Horizon and Barclays Bank. Starling Bank, the digital lender, has a requirement for around 930 sq m (10,000 sq ft) of regional offices and Newcastle is one of three locations on the shortlist. Metropolis is talking to 100 office occupiers in Newcastle and Gateshead approaching lease expiries in the next two years.

Newcastle has seen substantial growth in the tech sector over the last five years, with digital tech start-ups increasing by 154% from 2011 to 2016. The long-awaited JEREMIE2 funding now live and new access to finance should also stimulate the city’s tech sector. The £120 million fund could support 600 businesses over future years.

The 106,000 sq ft Lumen building at the Newcastle Helix regeneration scheme in the city centre is expected to complete at the end of this year, with the next phase of the scheme, 107,000 sq ft Spark, due to commence soon. At the Stephenson Quarter, Newcastle Council are looking to appoint a development partner to complete the next mixed-use phase, to include offices.

London Docklands Review

Recent research by Cushman & Wakefield on London Docklands office markets revealed that in the second quarter of 2019 826,000 sq ft of office moves were agreed. This is the highest quarterly leasing volume for the area since Q2 2015. The total of 949,000 sq ft for the first half of 2019 is 46% above the five-year first half of the year average of 648,000 sq ft and significantly ahead of the same period in 2018.

The biggest transactions included the 358,000 sq ft pre-let by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) at 5 Bank Street, which was the largest transaction in Q2. In addition, WeWork’s acquisition of 287,000 sq ft at 30 Churchill Place on a sublease from the European Medicines Agency, also made a large contribution. Consequently, Q2 take-up was dominated by the banking & finance and flexible workspace sectors, which accounted for 40% and 38% of quarterly take-up respectively. The public & government sector (18%) continued to feature, especially in nearby Stratford. There were also moves in Docklands for PKF Littlejohn, London, Borough of Tower Hamlets and Revolut.

Space under offer fell during the quarter, due to the leases signed by EBRD and WeWork. Overall office requirements in Docklands fell to 3.9m sq ft. This total is still 25% above the long term average of 3.1m sq ft, although this total also reflects companies that are also looking at other areas such as the City of London and West End. Business services and banking are the most active sectors in terms of office demand. Metropolis is monitoring office demand from tenants such as Clifford Chance, Citigroup and China Telecom.

Metropolis is monitoring the plans of over 130 office tenants that have lease expiries approaching in the London Docklands area over the next two years.

There is currently 2.9 million sq ft of space under construction in Docklands, of which 1.4 million sq ft (47%) is pre-let or under offer. The total volume of speculative space under construction increased for the second consecutive quarter to 1.5 million sq ft, up from the 1.2 million sq ft at the end of Q1. This was driven by two new starts at the Wood Wharf development: The Market Building (213,000 sq ft) and Frameworks Building, (250,000 sq ft), both due to complete in late 2022.

Birmingham Review

Recent research from Colliers International saw office move activity in Q2 2019 in central Birmingham rise a substantial 65% on Q1 leasing levels, albeit driven by three large serviced office deals. The total number of agreed deals hit 320,595 sq ft in 30 deals according to the property consultant.

The quarter represents one of the strongest Q2 leasing levels in Birmingham since Q2 2015. The first half of 2019 overall saw 514,000 sq ft leased in 55 deals including Irwin Mitchell taking 46,750 sq ft at the Colmore Building and The Commonwealth Games who took 72,261 sq ft of Grade A space at One Brindleyplace. In Q2, the serviced office sector was responsible for 72% of total take-up. All three of the largest deals this quarter were attributed to WeWork, which leased a total of 229,042 sq ft in three separate deals: 92,670 sq ft over seven floors at 6 Brindleyplace, together with Louisa Ryland House (81,280 sq ft) and 55,092 sq ft at 55 Colmore Row simultaneously setting a new headline rent for Birmingham at £34 per sq ft. The 6 Brindleyplace deal was the largest in the city centre this year.

Without WeWork, the 2nd quarter would have seen take-up levels at their lowest (91,553 sq ft) since Q2 2012. Business services were the second-most active sector in Q2, accounting for 9% of total take-up.
The largest deal was for 8,097 sq ftat 52 Charlotte Street, let to Newhall Charlotte.

Total Grade A take-up totalled 262,587 sq ft, which was heavily skewed by the WeWork deals. Grade A take-up increased by 70% from Q1. Four out of 19 Grade A deals transacted this half was for space greater than 50,000 sq ft. The average Grade A deal size in H1 2019 was 21,935 sq ft.

Metropolis is talking to nearly 60 Birmingham occupiers of 5,000 sq ft or more approaching lease expiries in the next two years.

Agents say that the mover size bracket of 5,000-15,000 sq ft is unlikely to be affected by WeWork or the other serviced office providers, so agents expect to see continued healthy levels of take-up of this size. The 2,000-5,000 sq ft bracket will be watched with particular interest.