Media Sector and the London Office Market

The recent signing of a large pre-let of 124,000 sq ft of new London HQ offices by Sony at 4 Handyside Street, Kings Cross has brought renewed focus onto the contribution of the media sector to London’s office market. Metropolis looks at the importance of the media sector to office transactions and relocation moves in London.

In 2018, the technology and media sector once again dominated the London’s leasing profile, accounting for 27% of take-up across central London at around 3m sq ft and signing two of the year’s three largest deals. This is the third consecutive year that the sector has finished the year in the top spot. In many respects, the media and tech sector has been the standard bearer for London’s continued global magnetism

Kings Cross has become a popular destination for the creative and media sector with recent moves agreed with Universal and PRS for Music. In addition, Google and Facebook, which straddle the line between media and technology companies, also chose Kings Cross as their London HQ destinations.

Other large media sector moves announced recently, have included WPP agreeing to centralise HQ functions at 1 Southwark Bridge Road, SE1 and McCann Worldgroup pre-letting nearly 150,000 sq ft at the under construction 135 Bishopsgate, EC2.

Metropolis has also recently run large London moves planned by Publicis, Datamonitor, Ree, Macmillan Publishers and Trade Desk.

Media occupiers have been active across all sub-markets, but they have been particularly dominant in the West End, accounting for over 30% of all activity in 2018. In Midtown, Herbal House, EC1 and The Farmiloe, EC1 attracted a variety of media and creative tenants. Research by Colliers shows that media sector tenants negotiate the shortest lease lengths and therefore the sector is the most likely to be looking for its next move.

Looking ahead, there are 220 London based media companies approaching lease expiries in the next two years. Metropolis is tracking over 130 which have expressed an interest in a move. Future large identified requirements include: 20th Century Fox (80,000 – 100,000 sq ft) and The Telegraph Media Group (70,000 – 80,000 sq ft).

For further analysis and details contact Paul Ives at Metropolis

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Central London Office Market in March 2019

Central London office lettings in March 2019 reached nearly 850,000 sq ft from 48 mid-large size office transactions (5,000 sq ft+) during the month. The March 2019 figure is just below the current monthly London average of 1m sq ft.

March was characterised by 14 office deals over 20,000 sq ft, which were led by Sony Music’s 120,000 deal at Kings Cross Central, N1 along with large deals to Milbank Tweed at 100 Liverpool Street, EC2; Glencore at Hanover Square, W1; WeWork at Dixon House in EC3; plus Peel Hunt at 100 Liverpool Street, EC2 and Merian Global also in EC2.

Media topped the table of lettings by sector, compiled by Metropolis, underpinned by the Sony Music. This was followed by professional services led by law firm Milbank Tweedy. Business services, especially Spaces and WeWork, finance and mining sectors were also well represented.

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

By area, the City accounted for 46% of the office floorspace let in March 2019 at 390,000 sq ft. The West End saw 218,000 sq ft of take-up. Midtown contributed 160,000 sq ft of lettings and Southbank 72,000 sq ft. Current London office demand is calculated to be around 3.9m 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 a healthy 400,000 sq ft sq ft (47% of the monthly total), as transactions for new space maintained the recent strong showing. Availability is dominated by secondhand space in all London markets.

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.

Paul Ives Metropolis, paul@metroinfo.co.uk

Central London Office Market in February 2019

Central London office lettings in February 2019 reached just over 950,000 sq ft from 50 mid-large size office transactions (5,000 sq ft+) during the month. The February 2019 figure is in line with the current monthly London average of 1m sq ft.

February was characterised by 11 office deals over 20,000 sq ft, which were led by Bank of Canada’s 250,000 sq ft pre-let at 100 Bishopsgate, EC2, along with large deals to House of Commons at Dartmouth House, SW1; Rothesay Life’s expansion at the Post Building, WC1; plus Challenge Partners at Elizabeth House, York Road in SE1 and TechHub at Fitzroy House, London, EC2.

Finance services topped the table of lettings by sector, compiled by Metropolis, underpinned by the Bank of Canada deal. This was followed by business services led by serviced office lettings. Insurance, professional and media were also well represented.

Office deals ‘under offer’ in central London rose to 3.4m sq ft, and pending deal volumes are healthy in nearly all sub-markets, with a number of deals in solicitor’s hands.

By area, the City accounted for 60% of the office floorspace let in February 2019 at 566,000 sq ft. The West End saw 171,000 sq ft of take-up. Midtown contributed 125,000 sq ft of lettings and Docklands 19,000 sq ft. Current London office demand is calculated to be around 3.8m sq ft in the City and 3.1m sq ft in the West End.

The volume of grade A (newly built or refurbished office space) let during the month, reached a healthy 569,000 sq ft sq ft (59% of the monthly total), as transactions for new space maintained the recent strong showing. Availability is dominated by secondhand space in all London markets.

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.

Paul Ives Metropolis paul@metroinfo.co.uk

Rise of the Serviced Office Sector

As part of Metropolis’ detailed monitoring of the London office market, it has emerged that the serviced or ‘co-working’ office sector is now the third largest business type taking office space in the capital. Some 2m sq ft was let to serviced office operators in 2017 and over 2.4m sq ft was let to the sector in 2018. There are now over a dozen serviced operators looking for additional sites in London, with more requirements being launched each month. The sector has expanded across Central London and the UK regions with business models from both operators and landlords adapting to changing customer demands.

Over recent years, we there has been a substantial growth in the flexible office market. Providers such as IWG (whose brands include Regus and Spaces) and new entrants from the US including WeWork, now dominate the market. Reports by analysts such as Cushman & Wakefield point to a greater willingness amongst major corporate occupiers to source quite significant amounts of office accommodation from the serviced sector and take advantage of their flexible terms.

Central London has one of the largest and most mature flexible workplace markets and over the last five years has cemented its global reputation for new office occupancy models . Cushman & Wakefield estimates that flexible workplace operators currently occupy around 10.7 million sq ft of space across Central London. This equates to around 4% of the Central London office stock.

In 2012, Clerkenwell, Southbank and Covent Garden were the areas that had the highest proportion of flexible workplace sector but Metropolis lettings data indicates that now Aldgate, City fringe, Shoreditch and Paddington have the highest concentration. The average serviced office centre is estimated at 22,300 sq ft up from 15,000 sq ft in 2016., with 30 centres in excess of 50,000 sq ft in Central London, many operated by WeWork.

Agents report that many larger companies are examining their business models in a bid to encourage creativity by providing a more unstructured and less centrally controlled environment than their traditional business. Recent market activity has included IWG focusing on expanding its Spaces brand while BE group has purchased Headspace to enable dramatic future growth. WeWork have said that it could offer an entire building to a single tenant and manage the custom build-out of the space.  BE Offices provide bespoke space via their BeSpoke division, which is aimed at corporate occupiers.

A BCA report revealed that increasing numbers of operators are seeking densities of 50 sq ft per desk across the UK. WeWork’s new centres are now being planned at 35-45 sq ft per desk Knotel, the newest entrant from the US is planning a similar density.

However some operators are finding difficulty in securing space, with some operators searching in the West End frustrated by a lack of stock. The larger operators will need to seek prelets or purchase buildings, but these are not options for smaller players. Most operators aim to achieve 85% occupancy within 12 months after fit out, which will generate a high level of sales activity, not least for removal companies.

To sum up, the new breed of flexible operator is challenging the traditional business model and the sector is going to remain an important segment of the real estate industry in the future. Take-up by the sector has increased year on year, with 2018 the most active year for the sector, with WeWork responsible for more than half of take up in 2017-18. WeWork and Spaces are also expanding into Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow and Edinburgh and plenty of evidence that other operators are following.

What Office Occupiers Want

Metropolis researchers often hear of some unusual requests from office occupiers looking for the next base, which can trigger some sales opportunities for suppliers, so this week’s blog looks at some of the latest trends in office design.

A recent report by Lambert Smith Hampton examined some of the features of occupier demand. Slides, swings, ball ponds or a spot of mini golf were once the height of coolness. Revered and ridiculed in equal measure, the trend towards putting the fun factor into the office on the wish-list of technology and media start-ups. As with all fads, attitudes change and many have realised that the workforce and management need something different. That difference is functionality. The expectations that the workforce has on the workplace have largely been a result of technology, demographic and employment changes. It is these factors that have and will continue to evolve the thinking and implementation of design. The emphasis is now more on productivity and sustainability, increasingly being cost effective.

Technology has increasingly dictated change over the past decade. New technologies have tended to dispense with data rooms, to fixed desk PCs, to landline phones. The fast pace of technological change has
made it difficult to future proof office design. Technology is making the tools we use more portable, more personal and increasingly smaller, space can be therefore be devoted to more productive, collaborative and engaging activities rather than static desk spaces.

Designing a space that is functional and productive for the entire workforce is a difficult task, when it is required to retain the company culture and enhance the future one. Functional and productive design includes areas for team-work, quiet spaces, meeting rooms and private offices are all elements that need to be given some thought. If specific features are wanted, they must hold meaning and have purpose.. A
games room or even a fully functioning kitchen can help to create a shared space for everyone to come together.

The recent locational flexibility of occupiers has been underlined by recent occupier decisions. Media groups such as McCann relocating to the City of London, WPP to the Southbank or pharmaceutical Novartis’ move to White City, illustrate that old certainties about search areas are breaking down. Traditional certainties of lawyers in Midtown, hedge funds in Mayfair and government departments in Victoria are breaking down. For decades business sectors have been wedded to certain postcodes, submarkets and even streets. Whilst this has been slowly changing over recent years, the current pace is expected to step up a notch, as tenants are now more open-minded about their next workplace than ever before.

The main driver of change is the growth of technology that creates a truly connected workforce. The ability for people to work anywhere, at any time, has caused a re-imagination of the office and the role it plays. This technology revolution has changed people’s expectations of working practices, meaning the workplace is having to adapt. As a result, tenants are becoming ever more open to the type of space that they will operate from. Secondly, the workforce itself has changed. A wide range of ages in the office means a more complex and thoughtful approach to providing the right kind
of working environment.

In addition, the boundaries of London’s office market have grown over the past 25 years as new development has rippled westwards to Paddington, eastwards to Canary Wharf, north and south with King’s Cross and Southbank respectively. 2019 will see those boundaries push further out as regeneration, and improving transport links crystallise. Stratford and the Olympic Park is gaining leasing momentum. So too is White City to the west.

Some analysts think that offices will evolve to become more like coworking, with occupier space becomes about much more than just a building or a physical space to go and work in, it’s also an international supportive community.

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