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.

 

London Docklands Review

Recent research by Cushman & Wakefield on London Docklands office markets revealed that in the second quarter of 2019 826,000 sq ft of office moves were agreed. This is the highest quarterly leasing volume for the area since Q2 2015. The total of 949,000 sq ft for the first half of 2019 is 46% above the five-year first half of the year average of 648,000 sq ft and significantly ahead of the same period in 2018.

The biggest transactions included the 358,000 sq ft pre-let by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) at 5 Bank Street, which was the largest transaction in Q2. In addition, WeWork’s acquisition of 287,000 sq ft at 30 Churchill Place on a sublease from the European Medicines Agency, also made a large contribution. Consequently, Q2 take-up was dominated by the banking & finance and flexible workspace sectors, which accounted for 40% and 38% of quarterly take-up respectively. The public & government sector (18%) continued to feature, especially in nearby Stratford. There were also moves in Docklands for PKF Littlejohn, London, Borough of Tower Hamlets and Revolut.

Space under offer fell during the quarter, due to the leases signed by EBRD and WeWork. Overall office requirements in Docklands fell to 3.9m sq ft. This total is still 25% above the long term average of 3.1m sq ft, although this total also reflects companies that are also looking at other areas such as the City of London and West End. Business services and banking are the most active sectors in terms of office demand. Metropolis is monitoring office demand from tenants such as Clifford Chance, Citigroup and China Telecom.

Metropolis is monitoring the plans of over 130 office tenants that have lease expiries approaching in the London Docklands area over the next two years.

There is currently 2.9 million sq ft of space under construction in Docklands, of which 1.4 million sq ft (47%) is pre-let or under offer. The total volume of speculative space under construction increased for the second consecutive quarter to 1.5 million sq ft, up from the 1.2 million sq ft at the end of Q1. This was driven by two new starts at the Wood Wharf development: The Market Building (213,000 sq ft) and Frameworks Building, (250,000 sq ft), both due to complete in late 2022.

What Do Office Tenants Want?

Savills’ fourth edition of ‘What Workers Want’ survey reviews and analyses the results from the UK respondents to identify key trends for landlords and office-based occupiers across all business sectors.

Savills say: Office trends are increasingly driven by the employee rather than the occupier. It is important that occupiers understand their employees’ needs when they relocate or open a new office. This is particularly important during the fit-out process when moving into a new office.

The main conclusions of the Savills survey are:

Location – office workers place a high importance on public transport connectivity and proximity to amenities.

Layout – Open-plan offices are the dominant layout preference for occupiers with 80% working in this type of layout, but 45% of respondents believe hot-desking decreases their productivity.

Comfort – 60% of office workers preferred to have their own dedicated desk. Only 34% of respondents have been asked for their views on the office environment by their employer.

Flexibility – Occupiers are encouraging their staff to work flexibly whether that be remote working or promoting hot-desking. However, a third of respondents believe the company they work for does not possess the relevant technology.

Technology – Landlords and tenants may be able to increase staff productivity by use of smartphone apps.

Deliveries – Occupiers and landlords need to consider how they can improve the provision of parcel lockers by potentially using redundant ground floor/basement space.

Break-Out – Landlords and tenants need to ensure there are appropriate break-out areas or purpose-built cafés for their staff.

The most important factor in an office worker’s ideal workplace was the comfort of work area with 92% of the respondents considering this as highly important.

The quality of Wi-Fi technology has become a key factor in the workplace. This was evident from the survey, as 80% of respondents believed this was an important component in their ideal workplace. Tenants are increasingly using smart technologies, which are also becoming incorporated into office buildings.

Further research by Metropolis has highlighted the importance of ‘smart buildings’ to potential incoming tenants.

Edinburgh Office Market Update

Metropolis ran nearly 50 business leads on Edinburgh occupiers relocating in the early months of 2019. There are nearly 200 office occupiers approaching lease events in the city in the next two years. Recent expansions are showing a rise in the number of financial services and technology companies taking space.

In Q1 2019, total office letting in Edinburgh reached 185,000 sq ft, of which nearly 60,000 sq ft was Grade A new office space. Figures from Savills show that 90% of Grade A deals came from Tech industries. The largest deals included Amazon signing for 30,000 sq ft at Exchange Crescent and Epic Games taking 10,000 sq ft at Quartermile 2. Over the past five years, Edinburgh has seen employment growth of 7% in the professional scientific and tech industries and is forecast to see a further 11% over the next five years.

Avison Young spotlight the wider Edinburgh office market, which also saw large deals. Two of the largest deals freehold purchases out-of-town with 49,000 sq ft to the Church of Scientology at Westfield House and 12,000 sq ft to Sime Hospitality at South Gyle Business Park. There were other mid-sized deals to CGI and Upward Mobility. Lloyds Bank is expanding into a 75,000 sq ft technology hub at its Scottish Widows’ headquarters.

In the centre of Edinburgh there has been a high concentration of sub 5,000 sq ft deals, with tech firms have particularly active in this size bracket, accounting for 33% of all take-up.

Analysts expect a boost in take-up for the business services sector over summer 2019, with a number of buildings under offer to providers of co-working serviced office space.

Avison Young reveal that overall availability in the city centre amounts to 448,000 sq ft, which is less than a year’s supply based on the recent past demand. Although future supply was boosted when M&G Real Estate has instructed Qmile Group to build its mixed-use Haymarket scheme, which includes 350,000 sq ft of office space. There is currently around 55,000 sq ft remaining at Capital Square ahead of completion in May 2020, 2 Semple Street has 35,000 sq ft available, and 30,000 sq ft of sub-let space is on offer at 20 West Register Street.

Looking ahead, with a vacancy level of 3%, more pre-letting looks likely. Metropolis is tracking around 30 confirmed and potential medium/large office searches in Edinburgh.

Central London Office Market in April 2019

Central London office lettings in April 2019 reached just over 1 million sq ft, from 35 mid-large size office transactions (5,000 sq ft+) during the month. The April 2019 figure is in line with the current monthly London average of 1m sq ft.

April was characterised by 16 office deals over 20,000 sq ft, which were led by Facebook’s 175,000 deal at expansion at Regents Place, NW1 along with a large pre-let to G-Research at the under construction Soho Place in London, W1; Spaces at Cabot Square, E14; Trade Desk expanding at One Bartholomew Square, EC1; plus Mastercard at 1 Angel Lane, EC1 and Splunk in Paddington, W2.

IT Services topped the table of lettings by sector, compiled by Metropolis, underpinned by the Facebook deal and G-research’s expansion pre-let. This was followed by business services led by a number of serviced office sector deals. Financial services, led by Mastercard, plus media led by Trade Desk were also well represented.

Office deals ‘under offer’ in central London rose to 3.6m 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 28% of the office floorspace let in April 2019 at 280,000 sq ft. The West End saw 500,000 sq ft of take-up. Midtown contributed 139,000 sq ft of lettings and Southbank 25,000 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 417,000 sq ft sq ft (42% 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 630 ‘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

Banking and the Office Market

CBRE has just published its report: “Why We Can Bank on London 2018” which looks at subsectors within London’s financial services ‘ecosystem’: investment and retail banks, fintech firms, traditional asset managers and private equity firms and hedge funds. The intentions of occupiers in these sectors make up a large part of the Metropolis weekly office leads output.

The financial sector accounted for 27% of active space requirements by sq ft in autumn 2018

CBRE say Since the EU referendum, banks have continued to commit to London with Deutsche Bank taking 550,000 sq ft and SMBC taking 161,000 sq ft, while Wells Fargo took 220,000 sq ft for its new European
headquarters. However, banks have also been ‘nearshoring’ (moving staff to regional hubs in the UK) with Bank of America, JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank all announcing plans in late 2012 to move 3,000 jobs away from London.

The UK has been ranked first globally for the strongest fintech sector since 2016. It’s largest companies include Funding Circle, a peer-to-peer financing platform for companies and mobile banking service Revolut is achieving ‘unicorn’ status in April 2018 on reaching a valuation of $1.7bn (both companies’ intentions recently featured on Metropolis).  Fast growing Nutmeg is the first firm to offer an online discretionary investment management service in the UK. Fintech firms are dispersed but have tended to cluster in areas such as Canary Wharf and the City, where initiatives such as Level39 provide provide space. The typical lifecycle of a fintech firm begins in low-cost flexible space, usually in fringe locations. Typically, the firm then moves to a larger and more corporate space as it matures. Metropolis has run nearly 40 leads on fintech companies recently.

Private equity and hedge funds. London is the second largest centre globally for hedge fund managers  Over the past 10 years, firms other than banks or traditional asset managers have accounted for 61% of the sector’s total take-up of 27m sq ft in Central London. There are currently over 200,000 sq ft of office requirements live in this sector in central London. Metropolis has brought subscribers over 30 stories about hedge fund companies office move intentions in recent months.

CBRE conclude by forecasting the rise of agile working becoming more widely adopted in the banking sector, increasingly shifting towards more open plan offices and policies such as working from home. Firms are also increasingly considering an area’s wealth of amenities and transport links. For private equity firms in particular this could become a growing trend as they move away from prestige locations such as Knightsbridge and Mayfair to better connected locations.

Metropolis has run over 500 leads on London-based financial sector occupiers relocation intentions in 2018.

Merry Christmas to all Metropolis blog readers.

Paul Ives, Metropolis Head of Research. December 2018

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.