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.

 

Thames Valley Office Market Update

JLL’s just published Western Corridor office market report concludes that the Thames Valley enjoyed a solid start to 2018. Take-up across the region totalled approximately 516,000 sq ft, representing an increase of 31% on the corresponding quarter of 2017.

The first quarter of 2018 was characterised by smaller deals, according to JLL. The the majority of activity (80%) taking place in the 10,000 sq ft to 50,000 sq ft size band. Deal numbers increased by 50% from 24 deals in Q1 2017 to 36 deals in Q1 2018.

Metropolis reported on over 30 planned relocations in the M4 corridor in Q1 2018, such as FM Global taking 57,000 sq ft at Voyager Place in Maidenhead; Black+Decker taking 49,000 sq ft at 270 Bath Road, Slough; Panasonic taking 41,000 sq ft at Maxis office scheme in Bracknell; Fora Space taking 28,000 sq ft at Thames Tower, Reading; JDA Software taking 23,000 sq ft and Riverbed Technology 16,000 sq ft at Maxis office scheme in Bracknell; GiffGaff taking 23,000 sq ft in Uxbridge; Quest Software taking 13,000 sq ft at Arlington Square, Bracknell and MBNL at Thames Tower, Reading.

JLL say that supply of office space is flattening, falling below 10m sq ft and this is expected to moderate further over 2018.  JLL also think that availability will decline in 2019 and 2020 as the number of active speculative development schemes reduce.

James Finnis, head of south east office agency at JLL, said: “The Q1 take-up figures represent a solid start to 2018. The 50% increase in the number of deals in Q1 illustrates growing occupier confidence. Occupiers are focused on the best space and there is widespread evidence of tenants trading up but taking less overall sq ft. Flexibility remains important with occupiers wanting to build in options to either grow or downsize. The addition of serviced or co-working space into multi let buildings is a natural extension of this, providing on site swing space.

Metropolis is currently tracking around 50 office searches of various sizes along the Thames Valley and talking to over 100 occupiers with approaching lease expiries in the area.

 

South Coast steady

JLL has just published its Q3 2016 report on the ‘South Coast Metropole’, covering Portsmouth, Southampton and Bournemouth. The headlines are that prime building office rents reached £21.50 per sq ft; there has been a 6% increase in take up from this time last year and there is a shortage of new office schemes coming through the pipeline. The market has generally stabilised after the initial shock of the Brexit vote.

In Q1 – Q3 2016 there has been a 16% increase in take-up compared to the same period last year. Take-up has risen from from 337,366 sq ft in 2013 to 419,160 sq ft in 2014 and to over 500,000 sq ft in 2015. The largest letting over the last year was Utilita Energy which took circa 52,000 sq ft at Hutwood Court, Chandler’s Ford. More recently Just Develop IT  took 25,000 sq ft at Segensworth; Peach Telecom took 14,000 sq ft at Fareham and One Insurance took 12,500 sq ft at Chandlers Ford.

The south coast remains a popular location for businesses in the defence, technology and financial sectors. JLL point to a trend for larger occupiers moving to out-of-town locations due to lack of suitable new schemes in city centres.

Metropolis is tracking over a dozen companies looking for over 10,000 sq ft of offices in Portsmouth, Southampton and Bournemouth.

The occupational market in the region is being been driven by lease events with companies consolidating into single buildings or relocating to take advantage of newly refurbished, better quality accommodation, often from cellular offices into more modern open plan space.

Speculative office development has been quiet with the exception of one building at Southampton Science Park and in Bournemouth, One Vision is currently under construction as part of a mixed use scheme where offices will be provided up to 83,300 sq ft by 2018. Development sites at Royal Pier Waterfront in Southampton, Lakeside Northarbour in Portsmouth and Chilcomb Centre in Winchester may as a result, see new offices built, as supply continues its steady decline.

Lawyers racing for space

The annual London law sector report from Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) calculates 33 London law firms are looking for office space. This headline figure reinforces research this month by Metropolis which has reported 31 new London law firm requirements so far in 2014.

JLL report that although the cost of prime office space is rising to £60 per square foot, the increasing costs and squeeze on available space that the total amount of space from all current London law sector requirements is 871,000 sq ft, of which 372,500 is under offer.

In the first three quarters of 2014 have been 14 transactions involving law firms, equating to 400,000 sq ft which is a slight drop on the same time last year. Firms agreeing deals recently have included Macfarlanes, Mishcon de Reya, Howard Kennedy, Davis Polk and Ropes & Gray.

JLL have identified a trend for companies to look further ahead. Traditionally law firms would start planning 2-3 years before the end of a lease, but because of an impending development squeeze in London, this could rise to as much as five years. The longer time periods also enable firms to influence fit-out.

Looking ahead, Metropolis is discussing future lease expiries with firms such as Dechert (60,000 sq ft), Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton (60,000 sq ft), Plexus Law (30,000 sq ft) and Mills & Reeve (10,000 sq ft) which could prompt further searches.