Requirements on the Rise?

Over the first two months Metropolis Property Research has noticed a small rise in the numbers of office occupiers launching new searches for office accommodation.

Some examples researched and published over the past week include:

  • An IT support firm, has told Metropolis that it is currently searching for around 200 sq m (2,200 sq ft) of office space within the South Bank area of London. The firm is planning to move from its current base in the Autumn of 2018;
  • A City of London-based energy consultancy, has told Metropolis that it has appointed an un-named property agent to advise on relocation or lease options in central London, ahead of a late 2018 lease break option. The company currently occupies 465 sq m (5,010 sq ft) of offices with about 35 staff;
  • A computer consultancy firm, has told Metropolis that it is currently searching for around 475 sq m (5,100 sq ft) of office space in the Maidenhead area. Staff advise that a move date has not been set, but that it will likely take place around Autumn 2018.;
  • An energy exploration company, has strongly hinted that it is considering launching a search for alternative London West End offices in 2018;
  • An IT consultancy firm, has told Metropolis that it is currently searching for around 220 sq m (2,400 sq ft) of office space in Bristol. A senior contact has stated that an ideal move date would be around October or November 2018;
  • A Leeds headquartered print management company, is planning to open an office in London by 2020;

Metropolis researches around 140 new office requirements each month in the UK, plus hundred of other companies pondering move decisions and agreeing lettings.


The Magnificent Seven

A recent report from Savills reveals that for a fourth consecutive year, UK regional city office take-up has surpassed the long term average of 9.1m sq ft. Total take-up in 2016 reached an impressive
9.6m sq ft, despite a year of political uncertainty.

The final quarter of regional office take-up in 2017 reached 2.4m sq ft, the strongest quarter since Q2 2015. Roughly the same level of occupational demand was recorded during the first half and second half
of the 2016, with no post referendum slowdown evident.

The most active of the seven major UK cities in 2016 were Bristol and Cardiff, which recorded take-up improvements of 42% and 10% on 2015’s levels respectively, with Cardiff achieving its highest level of take-up in 15 years. A key driver of occupational demand in these cities was the Government Property Unit (GPU) requirements for consolidating public sector bases into regional hubs. Savills expect the GPU to be the key contributor to acquisitions over 100,000 sq ft in 2017 in cities including Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh and Belfast, during 2017.

The most active business sectors during 2016 were the insurance and financial services sector, accounting for 1.2 million sq ft (15%) of space taken, which marked a record year. Key deals include: Swinton
Insurance taking 165,000 sq ft at 101 Embankment, Manchester, whilst MotoNovo Finance took 72,000 sq ft at One Central Square, Cardiff.
The tech sector remained an important contributor to take-up during 2016 and accounted for 20% of the number of transactions. This sector has traditionally contributed to the smaller end of the market, but also included Co-op Digital acquiring 45,000 sq ft of accommodation in Manchester, while Micro-chip designer, Cirrus Logic’s 70,000 sq ft letting at Quartermile, Edinburgh marked the largest regional tech deal last year. Edinburgh witnessed the highest proportion of tech take-up of all the UK cities.

Metropolis ran 53 medium and large office requirements for Birmingham in 2016, totalling 1.4m sq ft; the totals for other cities were Bristol 66 requirements and 1.6m sq ft; Cardiff 35 requirements and 1.1m sq ft; Edinburgh 65 requirements and 1.5m sq ft; Glasgow 51 requirements and 1.4m sq ft; Leeds 74 requirements and 2m sq ft; Manchester 90 requirements and 2.5m sq ft.
A shortage of Grade A floorspace in city centres,  prompted occupiers to look out of town as total fringe/out of town take-up reaching 2.8 million sq ft, eclipsing the record level set during 2014. Occupiers were also attracted out of town offices due to availability of larger floorplate stock and cheaper rents, particularly in the Manchester and Glasgow markets. Glasgow was boosted by the University of the West of Scotland’s 225,000 sq ft pre-let of the Eco Campus.

Overall, 44% of the 3.6m sq ft of regional office space currently under construction across the UK regions has been pre-let. Examples include PwC’s part pre-let of One Chamberlain Square in Birmingham
There are 8 million sq ft of known lease expiries over the next five years, there also remains underlying demand for new space, with the likely strongest performers for 2017 predicted to be Leeds, Cardiff and Bristol. There is a shortage of Grade A space, particularly in Bristol and Manchester. Top regional rents remain low relative to Central London.

The Metropolis view is that demand is holding up well in regional cities with 130 new requirements added to the database for the seven largest cities outside London in Q1 2017.

Regional Office Market Outlook

In a recent 2016 reporty by Savills, the consultant points to a trend for demand for prime office space in regional cities to increase dramatically during 2016.

Savills say that demand is driven by local businesses, start-ups, and the rise in ‘northshoring’, where London costs are driving relocations to regional markets.

Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Edinburgh saw increases of 39%,105% 41% and 44% respectively, above their ten year average annual office take-up, with Birmingham and Cardiff having record years. Bristol is tipped to see the best lettings growth in 2016.

Metropolis has seen a 20% rise in the number of regional city office requirements between 2014 and 2015.

Deutsche Bank’s move to Birmingham and HSBC pre-let of 210,000 sq ft at Birmingham’s new 2 Arena Central scheme are examples of ‘northshoring’ with companies moving staff away from London to cheaper office space in regional cities. In addition, the number of local pre-lets in regional cities is growing, such as Squire Patton Boggs’ pre-let on 27,500 sq ft at No.1 Spinningfields in Manchester and Cirrus Logic’s 70,000 sq ft pre-let at Quartermile 4 in Edinburgh.

Tenant demand has re-ignited speculative office development in regional cities, with construction up 130% on a year ago.

Savills concludes that UK wide activity points to increasing demand from sectors such as TMT which is estimated to see a c.700,000 of jobs created in the regions over the next 10 years. More office requirements from public sector agencies and Central Government are also expected

The 2016 UK Office Market Outlook

A report out this week from consultant CBRE on the outlook for the UK office market in 2016, suggests that despite some slight economic slowing, that most office sectors will see further growth over the next 12 months.

The report forecasts that although central London will continue to be the major engine of UK office market growth, the pace of that growth will ease slightly in 2016, due to a softening of UK growth. The report suggests that a dip in new office completions in London in 2016 will push up rental growth, however an increased pipeline of completions in 2017 will give office tenants more choice in the medium term.

Outside London, the report suggests that the South East will see more activity in 2016, after a sluggish 2015. Recent, mainly pre-let driven, quarterly take-up records set in Bristol, Manchester, Leeds, Aberdeen and Birmingham are unlikely to be repeated and the churn of secondhand office space is likely to become the mainstay of regional office take-up again, albeit alongside a lower level of pre-let deals.

The report spotlights that the areas where office demand is currently highest include West London and Thames Valley. Central London demand remains around 10m sq ft. It also forecasts an increase in speculative office development in regional centres. Schemes are tracked on the Cityoffices website.

Current Metropolis statistics show close to 1,000 unsatisfied office requirements across the UK of 2,000 sq ft+. In addition, there are over 500 lease expiries approaching in London alone, where companies have yet to make up their minds on whether to stay or go.

Based on similar audits of office requirements in recent years, office demand looks stronger than for a number of years.

Office Rents Return to Pre-Recession Levels

Recent research by Jones Lang LaSalle indicates that as a result of the new office relocation demand and lack of new grade A office space, office rents in most major UK cities are close to their pre-recession levels.

Office rents in Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester Central and the Thames Valley from June 2014 have all passed those of late 2007, considered to be the previous peak of the market, prior to the UK recession. Office rents in Bristol and Leeds have previously matched those of the fourth quarter of 2007. Birmingham is the only city where office rents are still lagging behind the 2007 peak.

In central London, the City and the West End office rents for Q2 2014 were just below their 2007 peak. Rents for the City are £6 psf below and rents for West End are £10 psf. below their previous high point.

The two London markets were hit the worst by the financial crash, with rents in the West End falling 34.7% to £75, and rents in the City dropping 31.8% drop from late 2007.

Monthly letting analyses by and Metropolis suggest that in some cases individual deals are already surpassing previous peaks with KPMG rumoured to be paying £125 psf for a move to 18 Grosvenor Street, W1 and Golden Tree Asset Management paying £115 psf for a move to 33 Davies Street, W1.  In addition, rents at 20 Fenchurch Street (Walkie Talkie Building) in the City are rumoured to be topping £70 psf.

Bristol refurbishment

Science Research Foundation, the educational group, has gained consent to convert Brunels Old Station in Clock Tower Yard, Temple Meads, Bristol, BS1 into 2,931 sq m (31,500 sq ft) of offices and R&D space for its own occupation. The designer is Childs & Sulzmann Architects.