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Investing in commercial property: a tale of three markets

Britain’s commercial property sector has traditionally been divided into three subsectors: industrial, offices and retail. In the 1980s and 1990s, retail outperformed while industrial properties struggled as consumer spending rose inexorably but the country deindustrialised. In the last ten years retail has lagged as household spending migrated online; industrial property, however, has outperformed thanks to the growth in logistics warehouses, notably to service online shoppers. But in recent years some of the best growth has come from three smaller subsectors: student housing, healthcare and self-storage – or beds, meds and sheds. Investors can gain access to each of these subsectors through real-estate investment trusts. Are they still worth a look?

The university boom

Student numbers reached 2.3 million in 2018; 75% are undergraduates and 80% are British. Despite the introduction of full tuition fees in 2012, more than half of school leavers go on to higher education. The annual number of applicants through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has doubled to 533,0000 in 25 years. Students used to live in college-owned halls of residence or in the private rental market. But demand outstripped both the willingness of the former to provide the necessary capital and the capacity of the latter.

Unite Group (LSE: UTG) was founded in 1991, initially to provide purpose-built student accommodation in the Bristol area. It now provides 75,000 beds across the country. Unite forms partnerships with universities to ensure high occupation: 92% of beds are reserved for 2019/2020 and 60% are guaranteed by universities. Occupancy of 98%-99% has consistently been achieved and rental growth is in the range of 3%-4% per annum. At mid-year the group’s assets stood at £3.2bn, of which £1bn was financed by borrowings, although the £1.4bn recent acquisition of Liberty Living will have increased gearing to around 35%.

The shares, at 1,240p, trade at a 47% premium to net asset value (NAV), are valued at over 30 times earnings and yield just 2.6% but Unite says that the acquisition is “materially accretive to earnings”, while it is “confident of 3%-3.5% medium-term rental growth”. But even if the 12% growth in interim earnings and 8% growth in the dividend continues, it will take several years for the shares to look good value, despite the low-risk business model.

A turnaround story

Empiric Student Property (LSE: ESP) with 8,882 beds and £1bn of assets, seems much better value at 98p. It is on a 10% discount to NAV and yields 5%, but it is recovering from operational problems in 2017 that prompted a dividend cut. It focuses on smaller, higher-quality and more expensive buildings to appeal to graduates (46% of tenants) and overseas students (67%). GCP Student Living (LSE: DIGS), with £960m of assets, is of a similar size, but has less debt and an unblemished record. It trades on a 14% premium to NAV and yields 3.2%. It has 4,116 beds in 11 locations, but just 23% of its tenants are from the UK. As with Empiric, this may be an advantage as growth in international student numbers looks assured.

The rise of the health centre

The merger of Primary Health Properties (LSE: PHP) with MedicX leaves just two companies specialising in health centres: PHP, with £2.3bn of assets and Assura (LSE: AGR), with £2bn. Both trade on large premiums to NAV (38% and 50% respectively). But the attraction is dividend yields of 3.7% and 3.5% that are not only very safe, but also all but guaranteed to be at least inflation-indexed.

Both groups own purpose-built health centres, at least 90% of whose income comes directly or indirectly from the NHS on long-term leases, with the rest coming from pharmacies. Following the acquisition of MedicX, PHP now owns 488 of these, which are 99.5% occupied, while Assura has 560.

These health centres have replaced many of the old, small GP surgeries, but house many more doctors together with modern equipment, clinics, diagnostic testing, pharmacies and even day-surgery centres. Rental agreements provide for modest annual increases, but there is the potential for more if a property is modified or extended. Expansion comes from buying recently built premises or through funding a developer and then buying on completion, thereby avoiding risks connected with construction.

With only 20% of the PHP portfolio having a lease expiry of less than ten years, there is little opportunity or wish to trade the assets; the value of the shares lies in the rental stream. This makes them comparable to infrastructure funds, except that ownership of the assets is permanent. Strong performance in 2019 means that the shares of both are no longer great value, but they represent sound investments for those seeking secure, growing income.

The “meds” theme also covers two smaller companies that own residential care homes, Impact Healthcare (LSE: IHR) and Target Healthcare (LSE: THRL). Target, with £600m of property assets and £100m of net debt, operates 69 purpose-built care homes. Impact, with £311m of property assets and some £10m of net cash, owns 84 care homes and two healthcare facilities leased to the NHS. In both cases, the care homes are leased to high-quality operators for the long term, with built-in rental increases. Both shares seem attractive, with Target trading on a 7% premium to NAV and yielding 5.8%, while Impact trades on a 2% premium and yields 5.7%.

Note, however, that the number of care beds in the UK has fallen some 20% since its peak of around 550,000 in 1997. The NHS and local authorities have not been prepared to increase payments to operators by enough to cover escalating costs. In 2011 Southern Cross got into trouble amid an 8% drop in occupancy, the result of fewer referrals due to public-spending cuts. It could not pay its escalating rent bill and became insolvent. Well-run care homes are the most cost-effective way of caring for the elderly, but governments have repeatedly pursued the false economy of squeezing the private operators, who account for nearly all capacity. If this keeps happening, Target and Impact could find their rental income under pressure from struggling operators.

Businesses need more storage space

The self-storage market conjures up images of warehouses crammed with personal possessions. That, however, probably only accounts for a small part of the UK’s 20 million square feet of lettable area, with rates varying from £16 per square foot (sq ft)in Scotland to £28 in London. Personal storage is an important part of the market, but the business market is key. For small businesses, storing goods, records and stock at a self-storage unit or lock-up garage is likely to prove much cheaper than doing so at an office or in a shop, particularly with the increasing number of online entrepreneurs operating from home.

Hence the success of the two listed specialists, Safestore (LSE: SAFE) and Big Yellow (LSE: BYG), trading at premiums of 52% and 75% to NAV and yielding 2.2% and 2.8% respectively. Safestore, with 149 stores (including 22 in the Paris region) has 6.5 million sq ft of lettable area valued at £1.4bn and Big Yellow, with 75 stores, has 4.6 million sq ft valued at £1.5bn.

Big Yellow’s recent interim results revealed revenue and profit growth of 3.4% and 6% respectively, thanks to a small increase in like-for-like occupancy and a 1.9% increase in rent per sq ft. Lettable area increased only 0.7%, although there are 13 development sites, of which six have planning permission. Big Yellow also owns 20% of Armadillo, with 25 stores, which it presumably hopes to buy the rest of. That would give it 6.6 million sq ft in all.

Safestore’s recent final results showed a 5.6% increase in revenue and a rise in earnings per share of 6.3%, thanks to increases of 3.5% in average occupancy and a 1% in average rates. It plans four new stores in 2019/2020, but insists that its “top priority remains the growth opportunity of the 1.5 million sq ft of currently unlet space”. Big Yellow’s occupancy of 83.4% is higher, despite its larger stores, giving less unlet potential and its net rent per sq ft of £27.73 is 6% higher than Safestore’s, despite the latter’s focus on London and the southeast (70 stores). Both shares trade on 27 to 28 times underlying earnings, so they look expensive despite the solid record and prospects.

ASR strategist Zahra Ward-Murphy acknowledges that “the beds, meds and sheds theme is not new and these sectors have been outperforming for some time. Nonetheless, we like these sectors because they are underpinned by secular demand drivers and therefore should prove relatively resilient to any further slowdown in growth”. Business risks look low and dividend yields are reasonable in relation to low interest rates and bond yields, while dividends should climb steadily.

However, with the exception of the recovery story of Empiric and the historically risky care-home owners, valuations are high and vulnerable to market setbacks, so investors should wait for the next general sell-off before eyeing them up.

By Max King

Source: Money Week

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Commercial estate agents keen for approval rates of planning permissions

The majority of commercial estate agents (74%) would like to access data where they can easily see the approval and refusal rate of commercial property planning permissions, research by SavoyStewart has found.

Some 69% think there needs to be improved data when trying to identify the average price per square foot that commercial properties have sold for in any given area.

Darren Best, managing director of SavoyStewart, said: “Data has revolutionised the property industry. Providing key analytics and metrics on various variables that are enabling property professionals to make more informed decisions.

“As the quantity and quality of data grows, there are various aspects with regards to data that commercial property professionals wish there was more of or could be more fine-tuned to provide greater insights.

“This research certainly highlights the type of data that property professionals hope is more easily available in 2020. With some very surprising outcomes.”

Similarly, 63% desire data that will allow them to determine the average asking price per square feet that commercial properties in any set location are commanding.

Interestingly, over half (51%) would like to gain more data that highlights the commercial property crime statistics for different postcodes.

Some 40% feel the same about data that will enable them to more accurately assess the average internet speeds by postcodes.

Alternatively, just under a third (32%) feel more data is required on 5-year capital growth projections for commercial property in any given postcode.

By Michael Lloyd

Source: Mortgage Introducer

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‘Outstanding’ final quarter for north’s commercial property market

A SPRINT finish final quarter saw commercial property investment volume in Northern Ireland complete at £215.1 million last year – 19 per cent above 2018 though 4 per cent below the ten-year average, according to new research from Lambert Smith Hampton.

Its Investment Transactions bulletin showed that despite an outstanding final quarter with volume of almost £91m, the uncertain local and national political climate continued to weigh on volume with 2019 annual volume the second lowest since 2013.

Retail retained its place as the dominant asset class in Northern Ireland, with £92.5m of transactions accounting for 43 per cent of volume in the year due to two large fourth quarter retail park transactions. Throughout the first three quarters of the year, the highest proportion of volume had been in the office sector with Belfast city centre office investments remaining the most in demand asset class.

Despite a challenging retail market, three retail parks transacted in the latter half of 2019. In the largest deal, Sprucefield retail park in Lisburn was bought by New River Retail for £40m (yield 8.71 per cent), Crescent Link retail park in Derry was purchased by David Samuel Properties for £30m (11.50 per cent yield) and Clandeboye retail park by Harry Corry Pension Fund for £8.7m (13.50 per cent yield).

Office transactions this year totalled £74.1m, the highest volume in the office sector on record, boosted by Citibank’s purchase of their Belfast headquarters, the Gateway Office in the Titanic Quarter, for £34m (5.48 per cent yield). Other notable office transactions included a local government department’s £16.0m purchase of James House at the Gasworks and Vanrath Recruitment’s £12.5m purchase of Victoria House.

2019 saw a number of office assets purchased by owner occupiers for a combined total of £62.8m, including the aforementioned Gateway Office, James House and Victoria House.

As usual, local investors were the most active investor type. By comparison to 2018, activity from this group was subdued with the number of transactions down 38 per cent and volume down 23 per cent. There were a number of higher value assets purchased by private investors including Antrim Business Park for £12.5m (14.5 per cent yield) and Timber Quay in Derry for £5.3m (11.5 per cent).

At £26.2m industrial volume was at its highest for the decade in 2019, with both propcos and private investors purchasing in this sector. In Armagh, 35 Moy Road was purchased by David Samuel Properties for £6.3m (7.28 per cent yield) and CD Group, Mallusk by Alterity Investments for £2.6m (7.23 per cent).

Martin McCloy, director of capital markets, Lambert Smith Hampton, said: “Q4 provided a strong finish to what was a difficult year for the investment market. The extension of the Brexit deadline, the lack of a Stormont executive and the prolonged uncertainty delayed investment decisions in 2019.

“Yet demand remained constant with potential investors in Northern Ireland particularly seeking secure long-term income or high quality office investments.

“While retail was again the dominant asset class by volume, this was as a result of a small number of large transactions rather than a signal of renewed attractiveness in what is still a challenging sector. Core assets remain attractive but pricing is key.”

He added: “It is anticipated that the ending of local political uncertainty and increased clarity on the Brexit process will boost investor confidence, translating into a substantial release of pent-up demand and a busier 2020.”

By Martin McCloy

Source: Irish News

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2020 will be ‘year of opportunity’ for north’s commercial property market

THE north’s commercial property market ended the year with a much needed boost with the sales of Sprucefield retail park in Lisburn by Intu and Crescent Link Retail in Derry by the Lotus Group.

The combined value of these deals, at £70 million, brought the total value of commercial property investments in Northern Ireland for 2019 to just over £210m.

Property investment at this level is a considerable improvement on levels seen in 2018 at £165m, though there is a long way to go to reach the five-year average at just over £300m a year.

The subdued level of investment in 2019 is not surprising given the uncertainty around Brexit over the last few years, and we would expect investment levels to bounce back strongly this year given the strong mandate the Conservative Party received in the recent general election and the relatively stable macro-economic outlook

The office sector again performed strongly in 2019 with take up of 517,000 sq ft, well ahead of the five year average. Significant deals throughout the year included the signing of leases by Deloitte for 80,000 sq ft in the Ewart Building on Bedford Street, PwC taking the remaining 46,000 sq ft in Merchant Square and the letting by Kilmona of the entirety of Chichester House on Chichester Street to Rapid 7.

The outlook for 2020 for the office sector also looks strong with stated requirements in the market in excess of 400,000 sq ft including the NI Civil Service Requirement for 161,500 sq ft and the as yet unsatisfied Citi requirement for 120,000 sq ft.

Available prime office stock is as usual fairly limited though buildings including The Sixth, Paper Exchange and The Mercantile all in prime locations could be brought on stream this year subject to suitable pre lets.

Trends in the office occupier market are set to continue with co working/serviced office providers predicted to continue their significant expansion throughout the UK.

Technology is as ever set to change the way we work though it is unlikely to affect the demand for office space in the short to medium term as office workers need to interact with each other in an easily accessible work enhancing environment.

The continuing challenges in the retail market will create opportunities both for successful retailers to relocate to better position and for investors who are prepared to look at the sector. There will be undoubtedly be a need for alternative uses for retail space in both suburban shopping centres and retail parks but also in our towns and cities given that the prime retail areas are becoming smaller.

In order for our bricks and mortar retailers to successfully continue to compete with the steady advance of the internet, our government will have to look at the level of rates charged to retailers and work out a way to balance the playing field with their internet competitors. though where this sits on the level of government priorities remains to be seen.

On balance, the outlook for 2020 is a positive one and we look forward to the challenges that the year ahead will bring.

By Declan Flynn

Source: Irish News

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Strong year expected for Yorkshire property sector

Another year of growth has been predicated for the Yorkshire’s office and industrial sectors, as well as a stronger year for residential, but there could still be challenges for the retail market.

Guy Hurwood, senior director of capital markets at CBRE, said the office and industrial sectors were expected to continue to perform well, with challenges remaining in retail.

He said: “The office market is likely to continue to perform relatively well despite ongoing political background noise. The lack of stock in key regional markets has been a driver of growth for second hand stock in 2019 and we expect the same in 2020.

“The retail sector will continue to face challenges, and there will be further pressure on values during 2020. This will be driven by further tenant events (CVAs/insolvencies) as well as some retailers who have undertaken CVAs requiring further rent cuts to continue trading. We expect secondary and tertiary shopping centres to require repositioning for alternative uses and to focus on engaging with their customers to drive footfall.

“The logistics market across the North of England has been a stellar performer for some time. The evidence suggests this will continue into 2020; in the short term we forecast rental growth and strong levels of investment.”

James Scott, development director of Muse Developments in Leeds, added: “I believe there will be another strong year in the logistics and distribution sector in Yorkshire. Now that election is over I think this will continue into 2020 due to the ever-expanding ecommerce/distribution business, but with buyers increasingly focussing on well-let, long-term income. A number of recently announced large speculative deals are moving forwards, which will likely alter the dynamic of the big box market.

“2019 saw the F&B market move dynamically, with a number of household names shrinking or closing completely. This has brought more regional and independent operators into the frame, which of course means that deals need to be structured differently, with good deals being had for fully-fitted units. I can’t see any real change to this in the early part of 2020.”

Edward Ziff, chairman and chief executive Town Centre Securities, suggested the General Election results would provide a boost to the property sector.

“I hope the euphoria of the recent General Election will follow through with a revival in the property sector,” he said. “It feels as though the retail market should be bottoming out – or at least as owners of large retail schemes we hope so. The general economy is set fair for the foreseeable, and we welcome what the new team in London will bring.”

Cameron Sanderson, development surveyor at Keyland Developments, said the next 12 months “look overwhelmingly positive for the region’s property market”.

“With a withdrawal from the EU expected early in the new year, Brexit uncertainty will soon be behind us which will heighten investment into property across the region,” he said. “Well-located offices will be major targets for investors and the industrial and logistics sector will continue to perform well driven by increases in e-commerce and demand for larger units in locations close to labour availability. With increasing amounts of capital chasing few opportunities, investors with higher risk appetites will have to look to retail and alternative uses.

“In respect of housing, Yorkshire has greater capacity for house price growth relative to incomes than southern regions and will continue to see strong growth next year. An increase in interest rates is likely to creep in over the next 12 months although increments will be moderate, rental growth will likely be in line with wage inflation across the region.

“240,000 properties were added to the country’s housing stock in 2018/19, the highest level in almost 30 years. Yorkshire and the Humber will continue to contribute to the government’s ambitious 300,000 a year target. Expect to see growth in SME builders, specialist providers and MMC over the next 12 months.”

Richard Heslop, owner and managing director of DE Commercial, said a bounce was to be expected in the region’s commercial property sector following the General Election.

He said: “I believe there will now to be return to speculative development in the industrial property warehouse sector in Yorkshire, especially West Yorkshire, where demand currently well outstrips supply.

“We have already been approached by a developer looking to build out up to 20,000 sq ft in the first phase of warehouse/industrial space immediately upon receipt of detailed planning permission. There is every reason to be cheerful about next year – the fundamentals are in place for Yorkshire to flourish, especially if the Prime Minister keeps his promise to power up the North.”

The residential sector in the region is also set for a stronger year in 2020. Patrick McCutcheon, head of residential at Yorkshire estate agency group Dacre, Son & Hartley, said 2019 had been a year of “frustration” for the housing market, leading to pent up demand.

“Throughout the last 12 months I have sensed an incredible feeling of frustration amongst buyers who, whilst keen to move, simply haven’t felt the time was right during a seemingly endless period of political uncertainty.

“Without question there is significant pent up demand and my view, providing clear direction continues in respect of Brexit at the end of January, is that demand will now make itself felt through actual acquisitions; and those purchases will also release a fresh wave of property in to the market place.

“Within the upper sectors of the housing market, I believe there will be renewed activity as a reflection of the removal of the threat of a punitive tax regime, although it is equally fair to say that Stamp Duty Land Tax remains a concern and ideally needs review. In terms of house prices, we could realistically see growth of 5 to 7 per cent in Yorkshire in 2020, although this will very much depend on how Brexit pans out.”

Toby Cockcroft, director of York property agency Croft Residential, said North Yorkshire had continued to “buck the trend of an otherwise rather stagnant property market”.

He said: “The Brexit-induced property jitters that have continued to stymie the market across the UK since the 2016 referendum have not had the same negative stranglehold in the property hotspots of York city centre and Harrogate, or in the picturesque villages around Ripon and Thirsk. Sales have continued apace here, with strong prices achieved.

“In 2020 though we anticipate home sales will go from strength to strength. With some Brexit clarity delivered via the decisive general election result, we are already seeing increased momentum among both vendors and buyers in our key areas, and expect to welcome in the New Year with something of a property bonanza.”

Richard Lumley, chairman of Castlehouse Construction, said political uncertainty had not unduly affected the business and it was well-placed for 2020.

“In 2019, as we celebrated a decade in business, we have had a record year with a 125 per cent order book increase, a strong project pipeline and we also announced our expansion into the North West with the opening of our Manchester office. Looking ahead to 2020 with more political and economic certainty, we are incredibly positive about the year ahead.

“Much of our focus in the last half of 2019 was on regeneration and we are part of several key regional projects which are injecting major investment into Yorkshire’s towns and cities. The commitment by the industry to breathe new life into areas identified as ripe for regeneration is an incredibly positive sign and we are excited to be playing a role in these transformational developments. We anticipate that 2020 will see the commitment to more investment and development activity which will have a positive impact on the wider property market.”

By Stephen Farrell

Source: Insider Media

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Scotland returns to growth despite impact of Brexit woe

THE Scottish economy returned to growth in the third quarter, matching UK-wide expansion of 0.3 per cent, official figures show.

Business services and finance was a key driver of growth during the three months to September, according to the data published yesterday by the Scottish Government, but manufacturing contracted by 0.2% and construction output was flat.

The Scottish economy had contracted by 0.2% in the second quarter, matching the UK-wide performance in that period, having expanded by 0.5% during the opening three months of this year.

Comparing the year to September with the preceding 12 months, Scottish gross domestic product grew only 1%.

The dampening impact of Brexit-related uncertainty on economic growth in Scotland and the rest of the UK has been highlighted in a raft of surveys, and by economists.

CBI Scotland director Tracy Black said: “While it’s good to see that Scottish GDP growth recovered following a contraction in the second quarter, underlying momentum remains weak.”

Andrew McRae, the Federation of Small Businesses’ Scotland policy chair, highlighted the resilience of consumers and firms amid weak confidence, cost increases and political turmoil.

He said: “It’d be easy to dismiss these uninspiring growth figures, but they show that many people and firms have been getting on with business despite shaky confidence, rising overheads and political upheaval.”

In spite of manufacturing weakness, the broader Scottish production sector achieved a 0.9% quarter-on-quarter rise in output in the three months to September on the back of a 5.9% jump in electricity and gas supply. The services sector in Scotland grew by 0.2% quarter-on-quarter in the three months to September.

Comparing the third quarter with the same period of 2018, Scottish GDP was up 0.7%. This was adrift of a corresponding rise of 1% for the UK as a whole.

Scottish manufacturing output in the third quarter was down by 0.8% on the same period of last year. UK manufacturing output was flat quarter-on-quarter in the three months to September. However, third-quarter UK manufacturing output was down by 1.4% on the same period of last year.

Mr McRae called for politicians at Holyrood and Westminster to pay heed to the needs of smaller businesses.

He said: ”If in 2020 we want smaller firms to drive stronger local growth, MPs and MSPs must find time to think about their needs. Across the UK, we must see a new drive to end the late-payment crisis. And at Holyrood, we must see MSPs dismiss a half-baked effort to hand councils sweeping new tax powers.”

The FSB noted yesterday that earlier this year at the Scottish Parliament’s local government committee, opposition MSPs had united to force through a stage-two amendment to the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill that it observed “could see councils take full control of the Scottish rates system and may end Scotland-wide small business rate relief”.

Scottish Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said: “While it is good news the economy has grown in the last quarter, it is unsurprising the overall pace of growth has slowed as a result of the continued uncertainty around Brexit.”

Sterling has come under pressure this week, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson spooking markets with proposed legislation to prevent extension of the Brexit transition period beyond the end of next year.

The pound was, at 5pm in London yesterday, trading around $1.3076, down nearly 0.4 cents on its previous close. It had tumbled by more than two cents on Tuesday, and is now below levels at which it was trading last Thursday as voters went to the polls.

Sterling had spiked above $1.35 in the wake of an exit poll published immediately after the polls closed at 10pm, which showed a clear Conservative majority.

Mr Mackay said: “Brexit remains the biggest threat to our economy. Just this week the Prime Minister has put the risk of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit back on the table by ruling out any extension to the transition period. This would be catastrophic for Scotland’s economy. Scotland did not vote for Brexit and the people of Scotland have the right to determine their own future free from Brexit as an independent member of the European Union.”

By Ian McConnell

Source: Herald Scotland

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London’s commercial property market bounces back in fourth quarter

Investment in London’s commercial property market rebounded in the fourth quarter as the capital’s risk profile began to improve, strengthened by Boris Johnson securing a majority in last week’s General Election.

Investment jumped 15 per cent compared to the previous quarter, rising to almost £2.8bn, according to preliminary figures.

Property experts at estate agents Knight Frank have forecast that the boom will continue next year, driven by the result of the General Election and the increased certainty surrounding Brexit going forward.

Knight Frank head of capital markets Nick Braybrook said: “Investors have been circling the market in increasing numbers over the last few months, with international capital drawn in by attractive yields and the currency discount compared to other global cities.

“London’s perceived risk profile has improved tremendously through the second half of 2019 whilst geopolitical tensions in markets from Asia to the Middle East have eroded their relative attractiveness boosting the appeal of London.”

Faisal Durrani, head of London commercial research added: “The political uncertainty certainly dampened activity for most of 2019, but a shortage of assets for sale exacerbated this.

“With the decisive Conservative majority secured in the General Election last week, confidence is expected to rapidly return into the market, something investors have been hankering for.”

Figures published by CBRE earlier this week also painted a positive picture for London’s commercial property market.

The data showed that central London office take-up soared 31 per cent between October and November, driven by a growth in the capital’s fintech sector.

Office take-up jumped to 900,000 sq ft, while the year on year increase was five per cent.

By Jessica Clark

Source: City AM

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Edinburgh rebound boosts Scottish commercial property sales to £1.2bn

A Scottish Property Federation (SPF) analysis of the latest commercial property sales figures has shown a rebound in the total value of sales in Scotland in Q3 (July to September) 2019.

In total, £1.2 billion was transacted in the quarter, nearly double the total value of commercial property sales in Q2 (April to June) 2019.

Edinburgh was a key driver of the increase in the value of commercial property sales, with sales in the capital more than tripling to £462 million in Q3 2019 when compared to the previous quarter. Partly as a result of several high-value transactions, Edinburgh dominated the commercial property market in Q3 2019, with a 38% share of the Scottish market by value.

Glasgow also continued the positive momentum with £216m transacted in the city during Q3 2019. Its total value increased by £44m on Q2 2019 and £63m against the same period in 2018.

Commercial property sales in Aberdeen remained steady at £32m. Aberdeen’s total value of sales rose slightly on Q2 2019 (by £2m) but remained £20m below values recorded in the same quarter last year.

Responding to the latest sales figures, David Melhuish, director of the Scottish Property Federation, said: “Q3 2019 was a strong quarter for commercial property sales; however, it comes on the back of a subdued first half of 2019, and the current one-year rolling total is still 3% lower than in the same period in 2018.

“We will be watching closely to see if this momentum can continue in the last quarter of the year, against the headwinds of continued political uncertainty and low economic growth.”

Cameron Stott, director at commercial property agency JLL, added: “The large volume by value has been driven by substantial asset sales which have offered investors either long secure income or the asset is in a prime location.

“This volume also reflects how attractive Edinburgh continues to be notwithstanding the political uncertainty.

“It is also interesting to note the continued interest from foreign investors no doubt seeing the UK as value for money but also benefiting from a more attractive yield compared to many other European cities.”

Scottish commercial property investment volumes also rose sharply on both a quarterly and an annual basis, according to property data experts CoStar UK. Investors spent £798m in Q3 2019, the highest quarterly amount since Q1 2018.

CoStar also highlighted that Scotland attracted more investment than any other UK region outside of London and the South East, with volumes heavily supported by a continuing flow of capital from overseas. It was reported that foreign investors were behind over half of all acquisitions by value, with European and American investors involved in sizeable purchases.

Source: Scottish Construction Now

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Scotland’s commercial property market outgunning rest of UK

Scotland’s commercial property market is holding up better than the rest of the UK despite being buffeted by Brexit uncertainty, new research suggests.

Total investment volume for the first nine months of 2019 was down by 12 per cent year-on-year in Scotland, according to new figures from Colliers International, the property adviser. That compares with a fall of 26 per cent for the whole of the UK.

Property experts from the firm said the cooling economy and uncertainty over Brexit and the global outlook had caused investors to adopt a more cautious approach.

Douglas McPhail, head of Colliers International in Scotland, said that investment in Scottish property totalled some £717 million in the third quarter, marking an 18-month high and compared with £347m in Q1 and £619m in Q2.

He noted: “Although investment volumes during the first nine months of the year are down by 12 per cent compared to the same period in 2018, it is very likely that activity will break through the £2 billion mark for the sixth year running.”

Middle East

McPhail added that the proportion of international money flowing into Scottish property saw an upturn in the third quarter, with particularly strong interest from Middle Eastern (£182m) and US (£160m) investors.

Scotland’s relative outperformance comes despite a greater reliance on overseas investors, who account for around 55 per cent of Scottish investment and 43 per cent of UK investment.

Patrick Ford, director of Capital Markets at Colliers International in Glasgow, said: “By city, Glasgow was the star performer, attracting £278m of capital, closely followed by Edinburgh at £226m.

“The largest deal of the quarter was Hines Global Income Trust’s purchase of the ‘true Glasgow West End’, a 607-bed operational student asset, traded for £72m. This was followed by Ashby Capital’s acquisition of Abbotsinch Retail Park in Paisley for £67m. Completing the top three deals is Arbah Capital’s purchase of Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Building – a leisure and retail mixed-use asset – for £55m.”

These deals mean that Glasgow’s strong office market is expected to bypass the five-year average of 700,000 square feet by the end of 2019.

Ford added: “Demand for space remains healthy and a lack of stock will continue to exert upward pressure on rents. In Edinburgh, the office market is characterised by lack of existing stock. A number of significant requirements cannot be met by existing supply and are likely to result in pre-lets.”

In Aberdeen, Q3 saw the largest office deal in three years with the letting of 51,356 sq ft at Aberdeen International Business Park to Oceaneering.

By SCOTT REID

Source: Scotsman

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RICS: Surveyors sense a downturn of commercial property market

The Brexit impasse is contributing to perceptions that the commercial property market is in the downturn phase of the property cycle, the RICS UK Commercial Property Market Survey has revealed.

Figures for Q3 2019 showed that 62% of surveyors sensed the overall market is in a downturn phase of the property cycle.

Brexit was suggested as having an increasingly detrimental impact on market activity.

Tarrant Parsons, economist at RICS, said: “Although a clear majority of respondents now perceive the market to be in a downturn, the fact that capital value expectations are still positive in many parts of the country suggests a relatively soft landing for the commercial real estate sector is anticipated overall.

“It remains to be seen what impact the latest Brexit developments have on confidence across the sector, but with the picture unlikely to become clear until into the New Year it may well mean hesitation continues over the near term.”

Tenant demand reportedly fell at the headline level with the net balance slipping to -19%.

Interest in the commercial property market fell at a faster pace last quarter with -15% more surveyors seeing a fall in investment enquiries.

By Michael Lloyd

Source: Mortgage Introducer