Law Sector and the Office Market Update

Knight Frank, the property consultant, has just published an update on trends in the law sector over 2017-18 which impact on the UK office market. Some of the main points include:

Consolidator firms such as Gordon Dadds, Redkite Solicitors, Knights and Metamorph Law are acquiring smaller rivals to gain market share. Consolidation activity is driving occupier demand in certain markets as merged firms looked to consolidate into single offices;

Some mid-tier law firms are aggressively expanding, in particular those that have focussed on niche services. One such firm that is forging ahead is Weightmans which has invested £1.3million on new technology over the last year. Another leading mid-tier firm is Fieldfisher who recorded a second consecutive year of double-digit growth that included moving into a single site in London;

New market players are expanding in regional markets. These included Leeds-based Alpaca, who launched in 2017, and Rradar, who relocated to larger office space at the Bruntwood Platform building in Leeds having undergone rapid growth;

Meanwhile, Norton Rose Fulbright revealed plans to create 100 new jobs in its legal process hub in Newcastle, Simmons & Simmons taking larger offices in Bristol, Walker Morris will relocate to 33 Wellington Street, Leeds, Reed Smith opening in Leeds, Graysons moved into larger, more modern premises in Sheffield, Pinsent Masons consolidated their two offices into 141 Bothwell Street in Glasgow, while Hogan Lovells tripled its space in Birmingham;

Manchester recorded the highest legal services sector takeup by square footage across all the UK regional cities at 155,328 sq ft or 13% of total take-up last year. This was followed by Bristol where legal services accounted for 9.4% of total take-up

Knight Frank conclude that changing business structures will demand a resetting of the corporate footprint with most relocating to higher quality office space in core CBD locations.

Metropolis is tracking over 100 law firms with either identified requirements or potential requirements for relocation from October 2018 onwards.

 

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Technology Companies and Offices

CBRE has recently published its ‘Tech Cities’ report looking at  office leasing patterns in the technology sector across Europe.

Conclusions include:

Technology companies still dominate tech activity across Europe in real estate terms – 65% of all deals tracked fall under software, IT services, telecom or hardware;

The e-commerce sub-sector accounts for the largest average deal size of leasing transactions, which reflects the aggressive growth of the sector across industries. Berlin for instance has attracted larger
e-commerce floorplates than anywhere else in Europe along with London, Dublin and Amsterdam;

While new tech companies make up a smaller proportion of total deals than traditional sub-sectors, they are just as space-hungry as the more traditional companies in terms of average deal size. This reflects differences in growth speeds of companies within each of these two categories in the global marketplace, with the new tech sector seeing particularly rapid growth;

Depending on the tech sub-sector and business strategy, occupiers will be able to agglomerate with peers within the same sub-sector, or identify a different sub-sector that offer benefits of a close location, with London, Reading, Bristol and Cambridge as examples;

London is CBRE’s top-ranking technology cluster. The city is a magnet for young technology talent, and employment in the tech sector has grown by 20% since 2008. Major employers in the IT services sub-sector include Capgemini & Cognizant; the largest employers in the software sub-sector include Microsoft and Oracle and in telecoms the city is home to major operations for BT & Vodafone. Other top employers of tech talent in London include Accenture, IBM, and Thomson Reuters;

The Thames Valley region is one of the most established technology clusters in Europe. The Thames Valley is dominated by very large organisations which make up more than 62% of employment. Telecoms, IT services and software are the dominant sub-sectors in the cluster with major employers being largely global tech companies including Vodafone, Huawei, Telefonica, Microsoft, Oracle and Hewlett Packard. Oracle, Cisco and Microsoft are major employers of development talent in the Thames Valley region with Visa and Sky also having large operations in the cluster;

Bristol is one of the major regional centres for tech outside of London and the Thames Valley with employment in the sector growing by 25% since 2008. Bristol is a major centre for the telecoms industry with EE, BT, Nokia, Orange and Vodafone all having a presence in the city. Other major employers of tech talent include Lloyds Banking, IBM and Hewlett Packard. Bristol is also home to IT service companies Softcat plc and Civica.

CBRE say that understanding underlying demand conditions using this framework helps inform potential future office transaction strategies.

Metropolis is currently tracking around 150 IT, technology and telecom companies searching for offices across the UK.

 

Central London office lettings in July 2018

Central London office lettings in July 2018 reached just over 1.4m sq ft from 41 mid-large size office transactions (5,000 sq ft+) during the month. The July 2018 figure is comfortably above the current monthly London average of 1m sq ft.

July was characterised by 15 office deals over 20,000 sq ft, which were led by the Facebooks’s 600,000 sq ft deal to pre-let 11/21 Canal Reach and Building P2 Handyside Street, N1; WeWork’s 131,000 sq ft deal at Aviation House, WC2 and Houlihan Lokey’s 41,000 sq ft move to 1 Curzon Street, W1.

IT and technology services topped the table of lettings by sector, compiled by Metropolis, underpinned by the huge Facebook deal, plus a deal to Benevolent AI. This was followed by business services led by a number of lettings to WeWork and The Office Group. Financial services, professional and media were also well represented. Office deals ‘under offer’ in central London increased to 3.8m 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 7pc of the office floorspace let in July 2018 at 100,000 sq ft. The West End saw 276,000 sq ft of take-up. Midtown contributed a record breaking 950,000 sq ft of lettings. Current London office demand is calculated to be around 3.6m 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 800,000 sq ft sq ft (57% of the monthly total), as transactions for new space resumed their recent strong showing. Availability is dominated by secondhand space in all London markets.

Metropolis research is currently monitoring 650 ‘live’ London requirements, with deals for space of up to 1.7m sq ft due to sign in the next few months.

Cityoffices is working on its autumn ‘Skyline Survey’ in London. Further details of office scheme planning applications and consents, with scheme by scheme detail are listed on the Cityoffices.net website. Details on Metropolis and the Cityoffices database from Andy King at andy@metroinfo.co.uk

Central London Office Lettings in June 2018

Central London office lettings in June 2018 reached just over 1m sq ft from 58 mid-large size office transactions (5,000 sq ft+) during the month. The June 2018 figure is in line the current monthly London average of 1m sq ft.

June was characterised by 16 office deals over 20,000 sq ft, which were led by the Sony Picture’s 77,000 sq ft deal to take Brunel Building in Paddington; Trade Desk’s 54,000 sq ft pre-letting at Barts Square, EC1 and WeWork’s 49,000 sq ft at 70 Wilson Street, EC2.

Business Services topped the table of lettings by sector, underpinned by WeWork, Office Group and Foraspace deals. This was followed by professional services led by a number of lettings by sdeals to Herbert Smith and Kaplan. Financial services, technology and media were also well represented. Office deals ‘under offer’ in central London increased to 3.6m sq ft, and pending deal volumes are healthy in nearly all sub-markets, with a large number of deals pending.

By area, the City accounted for 40pc of the office floorspace let in June 2018 at 400,,000 sq ft. The West End saw 349,000 sq ft of take-up. Midtown contributed 126,000 sq ft of lettings, plus 50,000 sq ft of Docklands deals. Current London office demand is calculated to be around 3.3m sq ft in the City and 2.7m sq ft in the West End.

The volume of grade A (newly built or refurbished office space) let during the month reached 366,000 sq ft sq ft (37% of the monthly total), as transactions for new space resumed their recent strong showing. Availability is dominated by secondhand space in all London markets.

Metropolis research is currently monitoring 645 ‘live’ London requirements, with deals for space of up to 1.9m sq ft due to sign in the next few months.

Cityoffices is working on its current ‘Skyline Survey’ in London. Further details of office scheme planning applications and consents, with scheme by scheme detail are listed on the Cityoffices.net website. Details on Metropolis and the Cityoffices database from Andy King at andy@metroinfo.co.uk

Metropolis Office Mover Leads in June 2018

Metropolis ran 562 business leads on ‘office movers’ in June 2018. If all reported moves were added together the total would exceed 14 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 240 business leads during month, but there were also strong showings from the South East (60),  Scotland (51) North West (43) and Yorkshire (35) . Business services and financials services were the largest business sectors planning relocations or agreeing moves during the month.

The relocation leads 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 562 June leads, included those on occupiers Amazon, British Airways, Barclays, Scottish Office and WeWork.

The June 2018 leads included 171 ‘identified requirements’, including 84 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 171 searches, 100 were newly posted office searches, not previously notified to clients.

The most recent research also included 160 ‘potential movers’ which were mainly longer-term leads on occupiers, considering a 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 2020.

Recent research by Metropolis 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 at andy@metroinfo.co.uk, mentioning ‘Metropolis Blog’

Metropolis Law Sector Report 2018

Initial findings from the 2018 Metropolis report on office relocation in the UK Law sector revealed that 360 legal sector firms were involved in office property decisions in the year to end 2018.

The survey also found that over 7m sq ft of office space was transacted or required by occupiers searching for alternative space over the last year by law sector firms.

The report found over 120 firms searching for space that were interviewed by Metropolis researchers. Over a half of requirements were prompted by upcoming lease expiries, backed by expansions, mergers and restructuring.

The biggest law sector office deals in London involved leases signed for HQ relocations by Freshfields, DLA Piper, Sidley Austin and Minster Law.

Outside of London, Clyde & Co had the biggest office transaction, with a deal to occupy 69,000 sq ft in the Royal Exchange, Manchester. Simmons & Simmons signed a 12-year lease to occupy the top two floors (27,000 sq ft) of the Aurora building in Finzels Reach, Bristol, from January. Hogan Lovells will take over the eighth floor (23,388 sq ft) of The Colmore Building in Birmingham’s business district, where it currently occupies 7,620 sq ft on the tenth floor.

Leeds will house a relocation by Walker Morris, which announced that its 500 staff, who are currently split across two buildings in King Street, will relocate to a flagship office in 33 Wellington Street next summer. The building, in the city’s business district, is currently undergoing a comprehensive £10m refurbishment.

In a sign of things to come, Knight Frank points out that magic circle firm Allen & Overy has developed its Fuse incubator in its London headquarters while Mishcon De Reya has created MDR Lab – its programme for tech start-ups in the legal sphere – in its London office.

Leeds Office Market Q1 2018

Take up of Leeds city centre office space has grown by 83 per cent in the opening months of 2018, according to the Leeds Office Agents’ Forum (LOAF).

Office leasing figures released by LOAF have revealed that 191,861 sq ft of office space was taken up by occupiers in the city centre in first quarter of 2018 as part of 28 office deals. This represents an 83 per cent increase on the same period last year and the strongest first quarter recorded for five years.

Of the 28 city centre transactions to complete, the largest was the 76,000 sq ft acquisition at 33 Wellington Street by Walker Morris and the letting to the Dart Group (Jets2) of the remaining 48,272 sq ft at The Mint was the only other city centre transaction above 10,000 sq ft. Both deals came after long searches. Out of town the largest deals were Balfour Beatty and Call Credit.

Leeds remains an attractive city for ‘northshoring’ attracting a number of companies looking to set up back office operations, whilst serviced office providers are becoming increasingly interested in opening new centres in Leeds.

There remain a healthy number of live requirements within the market. Metropolis is tracking up to 40 companies searching and a further 100 occupiers approaching decisions on upcoming lease expiries over the next two years