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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Cambridge Office Market

Savills has just published its September 2018 report on the Cambridge office market.

Savills say that the majority of take-up in Cambridge, whether for offices and/or laboratories, has occurred in the city centre (Zone 1) around the central station and Hills Road. This area has accounted for 38% of take-up by square footage up to summer 2018.

Available offices total 100,000 sq. ft. of existing stock in this area currently. At current levels of demand Cambridge has less than one years’ supply. The city centre market has around 156,000 sq. ft. under construction, of which 30,372 sq. ft. is pre-let. Developer confidence is growing outside of the city centre. St Johns College and Turnstone recently completed the 65,000 sq ft Maurice Wilkes Building at St John’s Innovation Park which was let to seven occupiers prior to practical completion. Biomed Realty is speculatively developing 108,000 sq. ft. of laboratory space at Babraham Research Park across two new buildings and Churchmanor Estates are speculatively developing 40,000 sq ft. In addition the Howard Group are to speculatively construct over 60,000 sq ft of office/R&D space at Pampisford. Savills expect record rents to be achieved in the city centre at 50 & 60 Station Road.

Astra Zeneca is soon to complete its new campus of 850,000 sq ft. Samsung has recently committed to opening a new AI research hub in Cambridge. Microsoft also have a research base covering AI at 21 Station Road.  Darktrace is moving to The Maurice Wilkes’ Building at St John’s Innovation Park. Amazon took 72,289 sq ft at One Station Square, CB1, while Astex Pharmaceuticals took 42,688 sq ft at Cambridge Science Park. Also at Cambridge Science Park, in Q1, Huawei acquired 11,500 sq ft at Building 101 for £29.50 psf. Savills is also aware of 100,000 sq. ft. of requirements from serviced office operators and envisage stronger demand from this sector in the future.

Metropolis is tracking around 40 Cambridge office moves and requirements.

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.

 

Future of M25 Offices

Knight Frank have recently published a report on the future of the office market around the M25 motorway.

Key conclusions include:

The South East office market is a major attraction to occupational demand from the technology sector. The tech sector has accounted for, on average, 23% of annual office take-up in the region over the
last five years and has absorbed some 3.8 million sq ft of office transactions. Examples include Farnborough Business Park or the Aerospace Centre, which are driving technology sector take-up levels.

Also, occupiers drawn from other sectors have been transformed by the application of new technology to business processes, often fuelling new property requirements;  Gartner, Future Electronics, VMWare and
Service Now are major players in this field.

Co-working and flexi providers – not yet prominent within the M25 market – place tremendous emphasis on providing real estate and associated services that support the creation of a highly connected,
collaborative community housed within a modern, curated and highly serviced environment and could be a major sector in the future. The serviced and co-working offering is becoming increasingly sophisticated to take advantage of the major corporate occupier presence around Heathrow. This occupational drive toward greater flexibility and amenity is filtering into the business park model where Stockley Park and Bedfont Lakes become more service orientated.

Occupiers want to attract and retain talented staff. They will locate in buildings and locations that support them in this task. They are seeking what ‘talent magnets’; locations that have a buzz, vibrancy and cohesion. New growth areas are appearing in West London with White City, Imperial College and the redevelopment of Television Centre, propelling West London to become a recognised and established London hub;

The knowledge economy is the trump card for the South East of England over other regions and indeed other European location.

Metropolis is tracking around 50 major office requirements in the M25 region.

Metropolis Leads in July 2018

Metropolis ran 592 business leads on ‘office movers’ in July 2018. 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 270 business leads during month, but there were also strong showings from the South East (71),  Scotland (69) North West (38) and Yorkshire (36). Financial services 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, 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 592 July leads, included those on occupiers Facebook, Linklaters, Barclays, EBRD and Diageo.

The July 2018 leads included 172 ‘identified requirements’, including 90 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 172 searches, 105 were newly posted office searches, not previously notified to clients.

The most recent research also included 142 ‘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 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.

If you would like some information on flexible Metropolis subscription packages, then please email Andy at andy@metroinfo.co.uk, mentioning ‘Metropolis Blog’

London Office Lettings in May 2018

Central London office lettings in May 2018 reached over 1.3m sq ft from 45 mid-large size office transactions (5,000 sq ft+) during the month. The May 2018 figure is 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 the Chinesse Embassy’s deal to take Royal Mint in EC3; The Office Group’s 83,000 sq ft letting at One Canada Square, E14 and Epiris Advisers’ 59,000 sq ft at The Forum in Gutter Lane, EC2.

Public Services topped the table of lettings by sector, underpinned by Chinese Embassy deal. This was followed by business services led by a number of lettings by serviced office operators. Financial services, technology and media were also well represented. Office deals ‘under offer’ in central London increased to 3.4m 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 70pc of the office floorspace let in April 2018 at 912,,000 sq ft. The West End saw 209,000 sq ft of take-up. Midtown contributed 57,000 sq ft of lettings, plus 83,000 sq ft of Docklands deals. Current London office demand is calculated to be around 3.2m sq ft in the City and 2.6m sq ft in the West End.

The volume of grade A (newly built or refurbished office space) let during the month reached 1m sq ft sq ft (77% 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 640 ‘live’ London requirements, with deals for space of up to 1.8m 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 the report and the Cityoffices database from Andy King at andy@metroinfo.co.uk

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.