The Triggers for Relocation

Recent research by Metropolis Property Research on its 6,400 office occupier relocation leads in 2018, suggested that nearly 50% of moves were triggered in some part by lease events, either expiries or break options. Some 3,112 office leads made some reference to a lease expiry in 2018. Of the remainder, the majority were mostly either expansions, start-ups or mergers.

The research chimes with a recent report on office occupiers the Thames Valley by property consultant Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH).  It says that triggers for 2018 corporate relocation remain more or less on trend with the previous 5 years. LSH say that moves predicated on a lease event are slightly less prevalent at 40% than they were when the research was started in 2012 (43%), but still make up a large part of the market. For example see Riverbed Technology (Metropolis lead id 120785), JDA International (id 122285) and Midwich (id 121691) moves in Bracknell alone in 2018 . In 2015-16, the percentage of relocations triggered by a lease event was down to 36%, however LSH point to a high proportion of merger and acquisition activity (20%) that same year which forced some occupiers to relocate to accommodate such activity ahead of a lease expiry or break clause.

In 2012-13, expansion accounted for 34% of relocation triggers, however this has since grown to 38% in 2018 while merger and acquisition activity has reduced to 9%. LSH use the example of significant corporate expansion is provided by Oxford Nanopore Technologies (Metropolis lead id 121255) which freehold purchased the Danby Building on Oxford Science Park. The 55,000 sq ft deal came alongside their pre-let of a 35,000 sq ft manufacturing/R&D base at Harwell. This type of occupier is synonymous with the current Oxfordshire market; huge expansion as funding is being increased both from the University and globally.

Location, location, location remains the predominant criteria when relocating and some 37% to 50% of occupiers specify moves to particular districts over the last 6 years, but it is always the majority influencer. Alongside location is betterment, as occupiers desire to improve the quality of their working environment. The number of companies looking for better quality workspace has increased from 22% in 2012 to 34% in 2018. At the same time cost has reduced in importance over the period of the research from 22% down to 11%, albeit up from 6% in 2016.

Occupiers are more and more seeking better working environments in order to attract and retain the best staff and maximise productivity. LSH point to corporate occupiers coming to the market seeking more cost effective space only to change their minds and commit to better space having reviewed and evaluated the options. Mobile Broadband Networks (Metropolis id 121223) were seeking sub £30 per sq ft space in Reading only to move to Thames Tower at £35 per sq ft despite there being cheaper space available nearby. Occupiers often lean towards better space both in terms of quality and amenity once options are shortlisted

Looking into the future, Some 3,000 occupiers are looking for space in 2019 in advance of lease events with more at an early stage in advance of 2020 lease events. The number of occupiers asking for more fitted and furnished office space has risen considerably. This may be as a result of flexibility and Brexit concerns and is related with the demand for shorter leases.

Paul Ives Metropolis Head of Research. paul@metroinfo.co.uk

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Metropolis Movers January 2019

Metropolis ran 653 business leads on ‘office movers’ in January 2019. If all reported moves were added together, the total would exceed 16 million sq ft of office searches and transactions, researched by Metropolis’ unique market-led intelligence research team, last month.

London was the largest region with 336 business leads during month, but there were also strong showings from the North West (56), South East (50) and Yorkshire (44). Financial services, IT and business services were the largest business sectors planning relocations or agreeing moves during the month.

The relocation leads geographically covered the whole UK and provided details of the size of the office occupier,  likely move dates, a description of the reasons or trigger for the move, its business sector and full contact details including an address for written inquiries, at least one telephone number and in most cases an email address. Some of the largest planned moves and top picks amongst the 653 January leads, included those on occupiers Nomura Bank, BNY Mellon, Virtus Data, Brewin Dolphin and Merck & Co .

The January 2019 leads included 201 ‘identified requirements’ across the UK, including 120 in London. Which means that the company confirmed to researchers that it has current or future plans to search for alternative office space. Of these 201 searches, 117 were newly posted office searches, not previously notified to clients.

The most recent research also included 202 ‘potential movers,’ which were mainly longer-term leads on occupiers, considering a future relocation, however the occupier has yet to make a final decision on whether to search for offices.

Most of the remaining stories covered companies that have just signed for new office space and have set a move date, including some large pre-lets and companies inviting tenders for fit-out contracts. The shortest planned move date is just over a month away, whilst the longest was late 2021.

Recent research by Metropolis concluded that a conservative estimate of ‘live’ business tender opportunities on the database in recent months, exceeded £1bn of business.

 

Rise of the pre-let

Recent research by Metropolis revealed that a total of 133 occupiers were involved in pre-let searches or deals during 2018. These included a wide variety of moves across the whole of the UK. In London, a record breaking 39 pre-let deals were signed during 2018 totalling 3.8m sq ft, ahead of the previously record-breaking 2.74 million sq ft of pre-lets agreed in 2013.

Reasons given by occupiers for the risingof pre-lets are varied, but include upcoming lease events, continued limited new developments coming on the market and faith in London. It is clear that tech and media firms are making significant long-term commitments to new buildings, alongside traditional City occupiers, including those in the insurance and financial sectors. 2018 was the year that global brands made big commitments, including the likes of real estate-savvy Facebook and Sony both committing to new European headquarters in the West End and King’s Cross.

Metropolis has identified up to 50 named occupiers, which have on-going London searches, which could sign pre-lets on under construction, new or newly refurbished office space in 2019.

Recent research by Cushman & Wakefield indicated that over the last ten years there has been a total of 24.4 million sq ft of office space let pre-let transactions completed. On average, there were 27
pre-lets each year over this period, with the peak being 2013 and 2014. Pre-letting is more common in the City, Docklands and City fringe, than in the West End.

Large pre-lets from TMT (tech, media and telecom) companies in recent years including Apple’s acquisition at Battersea Power Station (475,000 sq ft), Dentsu Aegis Network’s 312,000 sq ft deal at 1 Triton Square, Linkedin in Farringdon and Facebook’s recent commitment at King’s Cross (600,000 sq ft). Banking & financial occupiers were the next most active sector, accounting for 31% of total pre-let volumes over the last ten years, including Deutsche Bank’s future relocation into 21 Moorfields (469,000 sq ft), SMBC’s acquisition at 100 Liverpool Street (161,000 sq ft), Wells Fargo and TP ICAP’s pre-let of part of 135 Bishopsgate (122,000 sq ft).

Public sector and government occupiers have also driven pre-let volumes, including large-scale consolidations from HMRC, FCA and TfL, as well as the Chinese Embassy’s transaction at Royal Mint Court.

King’s Cross is one of the most popular desinations for new office stock secure pre-let in recent years, including deals in 2018 to Nike (63,000 sq ft), Facebook, Google, Spaces and WeWork. West End submarkets such as White City, Battersea and Nine Elms have have also attracted significant pre-lets including in 2018, Penguin Random House (83,000 sq ft).

It is clear that occupiers are looking beyond the traditional core office markets. Banking & financial occupiers took the largest share of tower pre-lets over the last 10 years with 32% of total volumes, matched by insurance companies (32%). Some 17% of lettings were prelet prior to construction and 29% let during the construction process, compared to 54% let post completion.

Outside of London, Barclays pre-let 470,000 sq ft at Buchanan Wharf in Glasgow. The new campus complex will house existing Glasgow staff along with new positions created in technology and operations functions. in Manchester, Booking.com has pre-let 222,000 sq ft at St John’s Building, as the new global headquarters for its ground transportation division, consolidating four offices around the city.

Research has revealed that larger occupiers are considering their options 3-4 years ahead of a move, especially if the target is a move in the core districts. Trends also include some smaller pre-lets with shorter leases, particularly whilst schemes are under construction. Competition for core space is making fringe locations more desirable, especially with the possibility of rental savings.

Metropolis is currently tracking over 100 occupiers looking for over 20,000 sq ft of offices in 2019-20, more than half of which could consider a pre-let.

Paul Ives Metropolis Head of Research – paul@metroinfo.co.uk

Birmingham Offices Looking Ahead

Birmingham office market during 2018 saw 754,000 sq ft of office space transacted in 113 letting deals. This was a little down on the 1m sq ft of take-up in 2017 which included a 240,000 sq ft Government letting at Arena Central, but up on the 693,000 sq ft of office moves agreed in 2016.

Major lettings during 2018 included: WSP taking 46,000 sq ft at The Mailbox, BE Group taking 38,000 sq ft at Somerset House, Zurich Insurance taking 23,000 sq ft at Colmore Square and General Dental Council agreeing to move to 22,000 sq ft at 1 Colmore Square.

Metropolis ran 80 leads on Birmingham office moves during 2018, with 25 searches for office space ongoing.

A recent report by Knight Frank highlights notable expansions such as Hogan Lovells have quadrupling the size of its Birmingham office, taking 23,000 sq ft at The Colmore Building. The law firm is taking advantage of the cost benefits such as lower wages and property costs in the city.

Over the last 18 months Birmingham has witnessed an upsurge in flexible office provision. More than 20% of Birmingham transactions (approx 313,000 sq. ft.) have been divided between various flexible models such as co-working, traditional managed centres, and operators who are providing a fixed term, fully serviced office, to identified occupiers. Instant Offices (3 buildings), Spaces (2 buildings) and MSO have been notably active, acquiring a number of locations.

Knight Frank say take-up of Grade A accommodation repeatedly accounts for over 50% of total activity within central Birmingham. High quality space deals are driven in part by the occupiers’ seeking to raise the profile of their business and enhance their staff recruitment potential. The wellbeing of staff and the workplace is shaping occupier decision-making. Access green walls, health and leisure facilities and high quality on-site catering is becoming as important.

Looking ahead, Knight Frank confirm a number of potential lettings are currently in advance talks at city centre office buildings including The Lewis Building, One Colmore Square, The Colmore Building and Baskerville House as well as some pre-let discussions. Metropolis lists a number of the occupiers interested in these schemes.

At developments under construction, including 103 Colmore Row, 3 Snowhill and 2 Chamberlain Square at Paradise, there is a significant level of advanced pre-let discussions with occupiers

London Office Market in 2018

Central London office lettings in 2018 reached just over 12.3m sq ft from 554 mid-large size office transactions (5,000 sq ft+) during the year. The 2018 figure matched the 2017 London take-up total, but with slightly fewer deals.

2018 was characterised by 167 office deals over 20,000 sq ft, which were led by two large deals Facebook in Kings Cross and The Chinese Embassy at the Royal Mint; followed by a clutch of smaller, mainly pre-let deals to Sumitomo, WPP, Sidley Austin and WeWork.

IT and business services topped the table of lettings by sector, compiled by Metropolis, underpinned by the Facebook deal and the large number of lettings to serviced office operators. This was followed by financial services led by lettings to Sumitomo, BGC and TP Icap. Insurance, professional and media were also well represented. Office deals ‘under offer’ in central London remained at 3.1m sq ft, and pending deal volumes are healthy in nearly all sub-markets, with a number of deals pending.

By area, the City accounted for 43pc of the office floorspace let in 2018 at 5.3m sq ft. The West End saw 2.5m sq ft of take-up. Midtown contributed 2.4m sq ft of lettings and Docklands 900,000 sq ft. Current London office demand is calculated to be around 3.7m 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 year, reached a healthy 6.5m sq ft sq ft (53% of the yearly total), as transactions for new space continued their recent strong showing. Availability is dominated by secondhand space in all London markets.

Metropolis research is currently monitoring 645 ‘live’ London office requirements, with pending deals for space of up to 1.4m sq ft due to sign in the next few months.

Details on Metropolis database from Paul Ives at paul@metroinfo.co.uk

Metropolis Movers – A 2018 Review

Metropolis ran over 6,500 business leads on ‘office movers’ in 2018. If all reported moves were added together the total would exceed 100 million sq ft of office searches and transactions, researched by Metropolis’ unique market-led intelligence research team, during the year.

London was the largest region with 2,850 business leads during the year, but there were also strong showings from the South East (710), North West (650), Yorkshire (525), Scotland (441). Financial services, IT and business services were the largest business sectors planning relocations or agreeing moves during the year.

The relocation leads geographically covered the whole UK and provided details of the size of the office occupier, company likely move dates, a description of the reasons for the move, its business sector and full contact details including an address for written inquiries, at least one telephone number and in most cases an email address. Some of the largest planned moves and top picks amongst the 2018 leads, included those on occupiers Facebook (new London HQ), AstraZeneca (Cambridge base), Chinese Embassy (new London HQ), Barclays Bank (Manchester and Glasgow campuses), WPP (new London base), Jane Street Capital, McCann Worldgroup and many, many more.

The 2018 leads included nearly 1,800 ‘identified requirements’, including 1,100 in London. Which means that the company confirmed to researchers that it has current or future plans to search for alternative office space. Of these 1,800 searches, nearly 1,200 were newly posted office searches, not previously notified to clients.

The research over the year also included 1,900 ‘potential movers.’ These were mainly longer-term leads on occupiers, considering a future relocation, but the occupier has yet to make a final decision on whether to search.

Most of the remaining stories covered companies that have just signed for new office space and have set a move date, including some large pre-lets and companies inviting tenders for fit-out contracts. The shortest planned move date is just over a month away, whilst the longest was late 2022.

Research by Metropolis during the year, concluded that a conservative estimate of ‘live’ business tender opportunities on the database in recent months, exceeded £1bn of business.

If you would like some information on flexible Metropolis subscription packages, then please email Andy or Paul at andy@metroinfo.co.uk or paul@metroinfo.co.uk, mentioning ‘Metropolis Blog’

Office Market Defies Gravity

Office market reviews for 2018 suggest that he UK office market continued to defy gravity as the third and fourth quarters recorded one of the highest levels of office letting activity in the last five years.

The Central London market is seeing quarterly take-up of up to 3.5 million sq ft, the highest since 2015. The increase was boosted by a number of large transactions in new or recently refurbished space, which is accounting for two-thirds of all deals. The number of pre-lets announced in the year has broken records. Space under offer in central London currently totals nearly 3 million sq ft, suggesting year-end take-up could exceed 12 million sq ft and be the highest seen in the capital since 2015.

Regional cities are also seeing high office mover activity with almost 2 million sq ft of space acquired per quarter, the second-highest on record. Letting activity in Glasgow reached a record level, and Newcastle recently reached a 14-year quarterly high. All but one of the eight regions witnessed a quarter-on-quarter increase in take-up.

Metropolis Research reported on over 5,000 individual office moves over the course of the year, with many more occupiers poised to make decisions in 2019