First Half Of The Year: How Bad?

All below information is supplied by Co Star market research

The first half of 2008 has been characterised by falling values, tighter lending restrictions, company downsizing and tumbling listed and unlisted markets, further fuelled by the media feeding frenzy that is terrifying consumers. But to what extent has this impacted the Central London office market, and has what we have experienced in the first half of this year lived up to the hype?

• 50% fall in take up ( H1 2008 vs. H1 2007)
• 74% fall in take up in the Midtown office market
• 54% fall in take up in the City office market

These headline figures certainly make for less than sanguine reading and will be borne out by what commercial agencies are experiencing is happening to their businesses. Whilst the markets are seeing a decline in activity, the levels CoStar is reporting indicate that there is still sufficient activity in the occupier markets for London to retain its status as the premier global office location.

How Low Will It Go?
Watch EC Postcodes

The City office market has seen a significant fall in take up since the peaks of 2006, and whilst we all know that market downturns and booms are largely ephemeral, have we seen the bottom of this cycle? With almost 6 million sq.ft of take up recorded in Central London in the first half of 2008, and the West End market continuing to secure prime rents of £100+ psf, some areas of London are comfortably holding their own. On closer inspection, the City office market will be a leading market indicator: with a vast amount of new space coming onto the EC market in the next 12 months and with a continuing downturn in the financial sector, this will provide a vital barometer for the wider market as the impact ripples through sub markets.

Twice As Much Available Space
In The City Than A Year Ago

The supply of available space, refurbished and under construction remains low in most London markets; The example is in the City market, where supply has more than doubled in 12 months, to 14.8 million sq.ft.

• 30 million sq.ft available across Central London (End of H1 2008). This is an increase of 16% on H1 2007
• 14.8 million sq.ft of space available in the City
• The West End continues to hover around the 4 million sq ft of available space and under 1 million sq.ft of space under construction

Central London Office Market Report H1 2008 Central London Availability H1 2008 London Continues To Build... But Is The Demand There? At end of Q2 2008, the levels of office space under construction was close to equalling that of current available space! Over 12 million sq.ft. of building projects are underway in Central London and with the majority scheduled for completion in the next 12 -18 months, attention will undoubtedly focus on the widening supply/demand gap. The City market is seeing a number of high profile office properties nearing completion and in a cautious and slowing occupier market competition to secure strong covenants on favourable lease terms will become ever more intense. Basic economic principles dictate that the result will be increased pressure on rents as the market struggles to reconcile the diverging supply and demand curves. One such development is the new building 107 Cheapside purchased back in 2007 for £150 million and currently marketed by CBRE. Due to come online this summer with its 9 floors and 155,000 sq.ft. of Grade A office space, it will be competing with St Martins Property Corporations' 150 Cheapside. At a quoting rent of £65.00 per sq.ft. it comes in lower than the current headline market rents of £68.00 per sq.ft.

West End:Limited Supply Keeps Rents High

The West End is on a different point of the curve to The City, with just 1 million sq.ft. of new office space currently under construction and available space continuing to hover just over 4 million sq.ft. Supply is currently back to levels seen in 2006 after restricted supply during the latter half of 2007. The West End continues to demand headline rents in excess of £100 per sq.ft. and is well placed to weather the current financial storm. Take-up during the first half of 2008 has fallen back from previous levels but not to the same extent as its neighbouring Midtown market.

• Docklands & E1 sees similar patterns to that of The City. 1.7 million sq.ft under construction and 2.1 million sq.ft. available space
• Southbank continues to offer just over 1.1 million sq.ft of space with very little new space coming online since 2008
• Midtown has over 1.4 million sq.ft of available office space and under 1 million sq.ft under construction Drapers Gardens, EC2N.

Central London Office Market Report H1 2008
Central London Office Market:
Westend V's Midtown Take Up
Central London Office Market:
City V's Docklands Take Up
Similar Take-up Trends In
Neighbouring Markets

The West End and Midtown markets are both experiencing a slowdown in take-up. Midtown is proving relatively resilient despite a sharp decline in take up, however the West End saw a decline of 9% in take up between Q1 and Q2 of 2008 whereas Midtown saw an increase of 9%. This is not sufficient evidence to indicate that occupiers whose requirements cannot currently be met in the West End are moving east to Midtown, however, in the current climate with restricted supply, occupiers may have to look elsewhere to satisfy their requirements. In terms of pricing, Midtown continues to be a cost effective alternative to the West End with average rents in Q2 coming in at a record £33.83 and top rents of £70.00 per sq.ft. in comparison to the West End average rents of £53.00 per sq.ft. The majority of Midtown's new Grade A space will come online during the latter half of 2009 and 2010. This may allow the market to ride out the worst of the current economic cycle.

Mass Exodus From Financial Districts?

Other neighbouring markets include The City and Docklands, two very related markets in terms of occupier sectors which also share similar take up trends. In Q2 2008 both markets experienced a dramatic fall off in take up following increases in Q1! Media reports of banks and investment houses cutting staff and rationalising occupancy is contributing to a continued contraction in demand for space in these two markets that rely heavily on the financial services sector. In terms of availability, this time last year there was almost half as much space being marketed in both markets. 2009 will see more high quality space hitting the market as current developments come on line. Despite how long the market takes to readjust, what is certain is that the timing of the Empty Property Rates will put further pressure on investor cashflow.

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