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.

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Scottish Offices 2018

Lambert Smith Hampton, the property adviser, has just published its review of the Scottish office market in 2017 and makes its predictions for 2018.

LSH say that for half of office movers in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen (57% of occupiers), relocation was more likely to be prompted by a lease expiry or break option, a pattern that underlines the importance of market churn over inward moves from companies based outside Scotland.

Notable transactions triggered by lease events included State Street Bank and Trust Company (65,628 sq ft at Lauriston Place, Edinburgh), the Scottish Prison Service (51,009 sq ft at
Redheughs Rigg, Edinburgh) and Balfour Beatty (43,568 sq ft at Maxim 7, Glasgow).

Expansion was the trigger for 26% of relocations, indicating ongoing confidence among occupiers. Expansion also played a part in a number of deals in Aberdeen despite the dip in oil prices, albeit none of these involved occupiers in the energy sector. Key deals spurred by expansion included the University of West Scotland (225,000 sq ft), Computershare (41,395 sq ft) and the Student Loans Company (40,853 sq ft). Common among these occupiers was a desire for better quality office space or a more effective working environment.

In Edinburgh, location was behind the vast majority of relocation choices. In Glasgow, location accounted for less than half of deals. In some instances, occupiers were able to expand at the current base. For
example, Wescot Credit Services acquired an additional 10,567 sq ft at 38 Cadogan Street, Glasgow while Actavo acquired a further 10,685 sq ft at Alexandra Parade, Citypark, Glasgow.

Better quality office space was cited as the key driver of choice in 14% of deals, a notable example being Mott MacDonald’s acquisition of 34,515 sq ft of grade A space at St Vincent Plaza in Glasgow. Improved efficiency was the key driver of choice for 12% of deals, the largest being ST Microelectronics acquisition of 21,530 sq ft of grade A space at Tanfield, Edinburgh.

Looking ahead, to the end of 2020, Scotland’s five largest town’s and cities possess almost 450 known lease events in excess of 5,000 sq ft. 2018 will see 145 lease expiries and breaks above 5,000 sq ft across the
key markets, amounting to just over 2.1m sq ft of potential demand.

Metropolis is currently monitoring over 50 Scottish companies with plans to move in 2018 and over 100 occupiers coming up to decisions on leases in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

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.

Edinburgh prospering

A recent report on the Edinburgh office market by property adviser Knight Frank, concluded that around 120,000 sq ft of offices were let in Q3 2016. The July-September 2016 total was slightly down on the first two quarters of the year, but broadly in line with the same period in 2015 (148,000 sq ft).

Technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT) sector companies were the mainstay in the market, accounting for 49,000 sq ft of the Edinburgh-wide take-up – 41% of the total.

Agreed deals included moves by People’s Postcode Lottery, State Street Bank, Intergen, Cirrus Logic and Zonal Retail Data.

The agents said that appetite for Grade A space (newly completed or refurbished) also “remained voracious in the city centre, with 176,000 sq ft  let in the year to date”. Knight Frank say that Edinburgh could outperform the 220,000 sq ft 10-year average for annual city centre, Grade A office take-up, by the end of 2016.

Metropolis is currently tracking some 35 searches for Edinburgh office space 2016-18.  Current large requirements include Ernst and Young (under offer at Atria), Brodies (60,000 sq ft) and Aberdeen Asset Management (80,000 sq ft).

Agents say: “There is a good level of requirements in the market, particularly for sub-5,000 sq ft accommodation. The level of demand should give developers the confidence to start building. Many will be holding out for pre-let opportunities and, although there have been few in the last decade, we’d expect to see more announced towards the end of 2016.”

Speculative schemes include work nearly completed at Quartermile 3, some delay at the Haymarket scheme, construction planned at One Lochrin Square and a start on Chris Stewart Group’s ‘the Mint’ building, where space is under offer. KF also said that landlords are looking to refurbish their existing stock.

 

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

Metropolis Office Requirements – H1

Over 450 companies vie for London space

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Metropolis research identified over 17m sq ft of UK office demand in the first half of 2015. Just over 9.2m sq ft of this demand was for office space in Greater London, with over 450 companies searching for London space. In the rest of the UK Metropolis uncovered 400 requirements for new space representing 8.1m sq ft of office demand.

Central London office demand reached 8m sq ft, 3.8m sq ft (47.5%) of which was focused on the City of London. EC2 was the most popular postcode for companies planning a move,  with 1.4m sq ft of demand emerging in H1.

A significant proportion of total City of London demand (11%) came from two new law firm requirements, each firm looking for 200,000 sq ft. A new 150,000 sq ft requirement from an insurance group was also worthy of note. Demand from the banking and finance sector reached 1m sq ft, 26% of total City of London demand.

Demand for space in the West End, where rents can reach £125 psf, hit 1.8m sq ft. The largest West End requirement (150,000 sq ft) came from a social media group looking for offices in SW1. Just over 400,000 sq ft of office space (26% of total demand) was required by the banking & finance sector, 79% of which (315,000 sq ft) came from hedge funds and private investment firms.

Mid Town office demand reached 0.9m sq ft, pretty evenly split between WC1 and WC2. About 100,000 sq ft of Mid Town demand came from the technology sector and 90,000 sq ft from the media sector. Demand from law firms was just over 120,000 sq ft and demand from the banking and finance sector totalled 110,000 sq ft.

The largest office requirement in the South Bank (SE1) was a 140,000 sq ft search by an engineering and construction firm. Other requirements of note include a US insurance firm switching a 60,000 sq ft search from Maidenhead to London SE1, and a TV Broadcaster looking for 30,000 sq ft to house its news department.

Two big requirements dominated demand for office space in the Docklands: a German investment bank back office requirement for 350,000 sq ft and an information company requirement for 300,000 sq ft, with a sub-let mooted.

 

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The Top 5 Regional Cities

Manchester – The largest requirement, 400,000 sq ft, was a search by a government department considering space near Piccadilly Station in Manchester. Just over 250,000 sq ft of Manchester office demand came from the legal sector and 300,000 sq ft of demand was attributed to the insurance sector.

Edinburgh – Similar to the picture in Manchester, Edinburgh demand was dominated by a large government requirement for office space (300,000 sq ft), although this requirement could move to Glasgow. In terms of private sector demand, notable requirements included a 100,000 sq ft search by a US Bank and two significant searches from law firms seeking a move in central Edinburgh, one for 50,000 sq ft and the other 30,000 sq ft. There was also significant demand from the accountancy sector, with four firms searching for just over 130,000 sq ft.

Birmingham – A retail bank was linked with the largest office requirement in Birmingham: 170,000 sq ft,  a search now satisfied by space at Miller Developments Arena Central scheme.  Other significant requirements include a potential 100,000 sq ft search from a law firm and a 50,000 sq ft search from a business education group.

Reading – The largest requirement for Reading offices came from a network broadcaster looking for 150,000 sq ft, closely followed by a utility company searching for 140,000 sq ft. Both requirements also consider other Thames valley locations such as Bracknell, Farnborough and Slough.

Bristol – Bristol office demand was dominated by insurance company requirements, with the sector accounting for 56% of total demand (280,000 sq ft). Other notable requirements include an 80,000 sq ft search from a Bristol based law firm planning to combine two of its offices (which may now be a refurbishment and extension of the existing building) and an engineering group searching for 25,000 sq ft.

 

Top Ten Cities (Excluding London) by H1 Office Demand

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Copyright Metropolis Property Research Ltd 2015

 

 

Scotland enjoys growth

CBRE’s H1 2015 report on Scottish office market trends concludes that take-up is above average in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

In Glasgow, CBRE point to active requirements in excess of 800,000 sq ft, with local agents calculating that demand remains at an all-time high, despite a slightly subdued first half of 2015, with just under 225,000 sq ft of office deals, about 75% of the long term half year average.

The latest large transaction was the 27,522 sq ft let to Teleperformance at Cuprum, along with 10,000 sq ft let to Arup at 1 West Regent Street.

Interest in new schemes at 1 West Regent Street (where Metropolis has reported on the activities of Real Radio) and 110 Queen Street (where there is activity by Deloitte, amongst other) is growing, while St. Vincent Plaza, following its completion, is expected to follow suit with a number of interested potential occupiers. Metropolis is monitoring demand from companies such as Kier, AXA and Jacobs.

In Edinburgh, nearly 404,000 sq ft was transacted in the first half of 2015, which CBRE point out is just above the recent five year H1 average. Capita took the entire building (26,900 sq ft) at 145 Morrison Street and the Law Society of Scotland signed for 19,100 sq ft at Atria One.

Demand remains strong in Edinburgh, with requirements from companies such as KPMG, Amazon, Edinburgh University and Brodies. Metropolis is speaking to over 50 Edinburgh companies about current move plans.

Moorfield is speculatively developing Quartermile 4 and has secured a pre-let to FanDuel. FanDuel concluded the deal six weeks after agreeing terms.

The next large office scheme completion in Edinburgh is The Haymarket due for late 2017.

In Aberdeen, three large pre-let deals were struck during the first half of 2015: Anderson Anderson & Brown and LR Senergy committed to 45,000 sq ft and 100,000 sq ft respectively at Prime Four Business Park while KCA Deutag acquired 70,000 sq ft at City South. Take up in the first half of 2015 was 290,000 sq ft, which was a fall from the 800,000 in the second half of 2014.

Agents report that he majority of letting activity and requirements are in the sub 10,000 sq ft size bracket. Metropolis is tracking demand from companies such as Raggnar Power and Burnett & Reid.