Central London Office Market May 2019

Central London office lettings in May 2019 reached 1.3 million sq ft, from 40 mid-large size office transactions (5,000 sq ft+) during the month. The May 2019 deals volume figure is well above the current monthly London average of 1m sq ft.

May was characterised by 14 office deals over 20,000 sq ft, which were led by EBRD’s 365,000 pre-let at 1-5 Bank Street, E14; along with the letting of the refurbished 25 Cannon Street to Brewin Dolphin; WeWork at Film House, Soho, W1; Parliamentary Estates taking space at 64 Victoria Street, SW1, plus Quilter at Senator House in EC4 .

Financial Services topped the table of lettings by sector, compiled by Metropolis, underpinned by the EBRD pre-let and Brewin Dolphin’s new City of London HQ. This was followed by business services led by WeWork and Signature (Regus) deals. Public services, led by Parliamentary Estates and professional services with Cadwalader and Comply were also well represented.

Office deals ‘under offer’ in central London stood at 3m 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 34% of the office floorspace let in May 2019 at 437,000 sq ft. The West End saw 350,000 sq ft of take-up. Docklands 365,000 sq ft, Midtown contributed 109,000 sq ft of lettings and Southbank 21,000 sq ft. Current London office demand is calculated to be around 3.7m sq ft in the City and 3m sq ft in the West End.

The volume of grade A (newly built or refurbished office space) let during the month, reached a healthy 960,000 sq ft sq ft (74% 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 625 ‘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.

Advertisements

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

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.

The Triggers for Relocation

Recent research by Metropolis Property Research on its 6,400 office occupier relocation leads in 2018, suggested that nearly 50% of moves were triggered in some part by lease events, either expiries or break options. Some 3,112 office leads made some reference to a lease expiry in 2018. Of the remainder, the majority were mostly either expansions, start-ups or mergers.

The research chimes with a recent report on office occupiers the Thames Valley by property consultant Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH).  It says that triggers for 2018 corporate relocation remain more or less on trend with the previous 5 years. LSH say that moves predicated on a lease event are slightly less prevalent at 40% than they were when the research was started in 2012 (43%), but still make up a large part of the market. For example see Riverbed Technology (Metropolis lead id 120785), JDA International (id 122285) and Midwich (id 121691) moves in Bracknell alone in 2018 . In 2015-16, the percentage of relocations triggered by a lease event was down to 36%, however LSH point to a high proportion of merger and acquisition activity (20%) that same year which forced some occupiers to relocate to accommodate such activity ahead of a lease expiry or break clause.

In 2012-13, expansion accounted for 34% of relocation triggers, however this has since grown to 38% in 2018 while merger and acquisition activity has reduced to 9%. LSH use the example of significant corporate expansion is provided by Oxford Nanopore Technologies (Metropolis lead id 121255) which freehold purchased the Danby Building on Oxford Science Park. The 55,000 sq ft deal came alongside their pre-let of a 35,000 sq ft manufacturing/R&D base at Harwell. This type of occupier is synonymous with the current Oxfordshire market; huge expansion as funding is being increased both from the University and globally.

Location, location, location remains the predominant criteria when relocating and some 37% to 50% of occupiers specify moves to particular districts over the last 6 years, but it is always the majority influencer. Alongside location is betterment, as occupiers desire to improve the quality of their working environment. The number of companies looking for better quality workspace has increased from 22% in 2012 to 34% in 2018. At the same time cost has reduced in importance over the period of the research from 22% down to 11%, albeit up from 6% in 2016.

Occupiers are more and more seeking better working environments in order to attract and retain the best staff and maximise productivity. LSH point to corporate occupiers coming to the market seeking more cost effective space only to change their minds and commit to better space having reviewed and evaluated the options. Mobile Broadband Networks (Metropolis id 121223) were seeking sub £30 per sq ft space in Reading only to move to Thames Tower at £35 per sq ft despite there being cheaper space available nearby. Occupiers often lean towards better space both in terms of quality and amenity once options are shortlisted

Looking into the future, Some 3,000 occupiers are looking for space in 2019 in advance of lease events with more at an early stage in advance of 2020 lease events. The number of occupiers asking for more fitted and furnished office space has risen considerably. This may be as a result of flexibility and Brexit concerns and is related with the demand for shorter leases.

Paul Ives Metropolis Head of Research. paul@metroinfo.co.uk

Metropolis Movers January 2019

Metropolis ran 653 business leads on ‘office movers’ in January 2019. If all reported moves were added together, the total would exceed 16 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 336 business leads during month, but there were also strong showings from the North West (56), South East (50) and Yorkshire (44). Financial services, IT and business services were the largest business sectors planning relocations or agreeing moves during the month.

The relocation leads geographically covered the whole UK and provided details of the size of the office occupier,  likely move dates, a description of the reasons or trigger 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 653 January leads, included those on occupiers Nomura Bank, BNY Mellon, Virtus Data, Brewin Dolphin and Merck & Co .

The January 2019 leads included 201 ‘identified requirements’ across the UK, including 120 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 201 searches, 117 were newly posted office searches, not previously notified to clients.

The most recent research also included 202 ‘potential movers,’ which were mainly longer-term leads on occupiers, considering a future relocation, however the occupier has yet to make a final decision on whether to search for offices.

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 2021.

Recent research by Metropolis concluded that a conservative estimate of ‘live’ business tender opportunities on the database in recent months, exceeded £1bn of business.

 

Edinburgh Boost

Recent figures on the Edinburgh office market in 2018 revealed that take-up totalled 855,000 sq ft (79,461 sq m) in 2018. This level of office lettings exceeds the ten year average for the fourth year running according to Cushman & Wakefield and just fails to beat the record 1.05m sq ft of office moves registered in 2017.

Some of the larger deals in Edinburgh last year include Baillie Gifford acquiring 60,000 sq ft at Chris Stewart Group’s 20 West Register Street, Royal London taking 47,000 sq ft from Aviva at 22 Haymarket Yards, Artemis taking 13,710 sq ft at Exchange Plaza and law firms Brodies securing 43,000 sq ft and Pinsent Mason taking 25,000 sq ft at BAM/Hermes’ new development at Capital Square. Diageo’s pre-let 11-12 Lochside Place and Charles River expanded at Clearwater House, Heriot-Watt Research Park and now occupy the full building

Metropolis ran 200 leads on Edinburgh occupier’s move intentions including 50 companies searching for alternative space and a further 60 which have yet to decide whether to view space.

The insurance and financial services sectors have been particularly active within Edinburgh, accounting for 45% of Edinburgh’s total take-up – while they typically form an active part of the market this is a 54% increase on the five-year average. Major occupiers are signing deals to pre-let the best new space under construction, leaving limited choice for occupiers coming to lease breaks who want to upgrade.

Vacancy rates have come down even further from 3.55 per cent in Q2 to 3.35 per cent in Q4.

Looking ahead, only future schemes at 2 Semple Street and 80 George Street are capable of providing supply of Grade A office space. However, over the longer term, Edinburgh now has its development hopes pinned on the future of the planned scheme at The Haymarket, following the sale to M&G.

Metropolis is currently tracking 40 Edinburgh based occupiers with future move plans and a further 60 office occupiers which are expected to come to a decision in 2019.

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