Marijana No Comments

Scottish commercial property market outperforms UK in several sectors

SCOTLAND’S offices, retail and alternatives property markets all significantly outperformed the UK markets in 2018, according to data released by leading property consultant CBRE yesterday.

Their research revealed that the annual Scottish all commercial property total return for 2018 was 5.6%, only slightly lower than the UK all property return of 6%.

Industrials in Scotland also had a strong end to the year, achieving the highest return of the three main sectors.

Office and industrials returns in Scotland have increased year on year, with offices achieving 8.2% compared to 5.9% in 2017, with industrials increasing from 7.9% to 8.6%.

Offices were 2% ahead of the UK figure of 6.2%, while retail returned 4.7% compared to the overall UK figure of minus 1.1%.

Alternatives continued to be the best performing sector in Scotland, and the only one to achieve double-digit returns in 2018, with 10.6% compared to the UK’s 7.5%.

CBRE said that given the current challenges facing the retail sector, it is unsurprising that at year end the outlook remained subdued.

Compared with performance for the whole of the UK, Scottish returns have been more resilient in the final quarter of 2018. At the all property level, the picture is very similar –with UK returns down by almost 1.5% and Scottish returns unchanged.

During the last quarter of the year, £642 million of stock was transacted in Scotland, demonstrating a strong final quarter, and bringing the annual total to £2.49 billion in 2018. This is broadly in line with the £2.5bn achieved in 2017.

The retail sector total was boosted by the controversial sale of Fort Kinnaird Retail Park, located on the eastern edge of Edinburgh, which was acquired from The Crown Estate by M&G Real Estate for £167.25 million, with none of that sum accruing to the Scottish Government despite the Crown Estate being devolved.

David Reid, associate director of CBRE, said: “It’s great to see the industrial and logistics sector in Scotland performing strongly again during 2018 with sharpening yields and increasing rental and land values within prime locations.

“With this backdrop we are seeing increasing developer appetite for speculative schemes and there are a number of occupier pre-lets on the horizon during 2019.”

By Martin Hannan

Source: The National

Marijana No Comments

Commercial property: High street challenges need addressed

The currently volatile environment for UK retailers presents a significant challenge to the commercial property sector. Along with the estimated 85,000 jobs lost in UK retailing in 2018 is the worrying rise in empty commercial units.

Figures published in the Scottish Retail Consortium-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor show hat one in eight high street shop premises lay vacant last month, with a 12 per cent town centre vacancy rate in Scotland, up the 11.1 per cent recorded last October.

Steps are being taken across the nation to repurpose some of these vacant premises for residential, hotel, leisure or community use.

However, UK retailers must also continue to repurpose their businesses to ensure they are relevant to the changing nature of consumer demands.

Many of those which managed to avoid insolvency last year are now embarking on store closure plans and rationalising their portfolios. The trend of traditional retailers extending their online offering also continues, with some smaller stores diversifying by installing convenient customer options such as Amazon lockers and becoming click-and-collect points for larger retailers.

Technological advances, including the use of mobile payment, scan and payment checkout apps, are also making the sector more efficient, while further progress in areas such as VR and AI offers an additional strand of support.

In spite of these positive developments, there is no doubt that many of the larger retailers will continue to struggle with the size and cost of their property portfolios. Debenhams is continuing discussions with its lenders and is not ruling out a company voluntary arrangement, while the new management at Marks and Spencer is promising dramatic changes in range, style and customer focus.

Meanwhile, other big high street names seek to negotiate reduced rents with their landlords to keep themselves trading. The changing nature of the marketplace requires retailers to make bold decisions to entice consumers and leverage value from their physical premises.

Apple and Selfridges are both successfully doing this by making shopping at their outlets an experience. Selfridges credits its successful Christmas trading period to the staging of festive events which drove people into its stores, and Apple delivers added value for customers in its premises by holding free events.

The progression of some online retailers moving to a bricks and mortar model could also make a positive impact on the commercial property sector. Amazon Go is reportedly looking at expanding its app-based convenience store brand into London with the potential of Amazon Books stores opening in the UK.

Physical premises supported by a strong online presence point to the future direction of travel in retailing. While we expect more casualties in the year ahead, the changes that are currently being implemented provides some comfort to commercial property landlords as retailing continues its challenging evolution.

The UK retail market is one of the most dynamic in the world and is the biggest employer in Britain; it is also one of the most adaptive to change. But landlords and tenants must act quickly to stem the tide of store closures and declining footfalls.

Source: Scotsman

Marijana No Comments

Commercial property investment in the north falls to five-year low

COMMERCIAL property investment in the north fell to its lowest level since 2013 last year, according to a new industry report.

The latest Lambert Smith Hampton bulletin shows that the £176.6 million investment volume recorded in 2018 was 48 per cent lower than the previous year and 12 per cent down on the 10-year average.

After a slow start to the year, the quarterly activity exceeded £50m for the remainder of 2018, boosted by the beleaguered retail sector.

Retail transactions accounted for almost half of the activity in 2018, with notable deals including the Belfast sale of 40-46 Donegall Place for £16.4m, the acquisition of Bow Street Mall in Lisburn for £12.3m and the purchase of the Newtownards-based Castlebawn Retail Park for £7.2m.

Office activity also picked up in the second half of the year, largely driven by two Belfast deals – the sale of the Metro Building for £21.8m and the £15.2m purchase of Obel 68.

There was further positivity noted within the alternative sector, with car parks, car showrooms, gyms and hotels among the assets that changed hands in 2018.

Private Northern Ireland investors remain the most active and accounted for a third of investment volume last year, while institutional activity increased from 11 percent of volume in 2017 to 21 percent last year.

Notable institutional transactions included CBRE Global Investors £18.4m purchase of the NCP Car Park on Montgomery Street in Belfast and Corum Asset Management’s purchase of 40-46 Donegall Place.

Martin McCloy, director of capital markets at Lambert Smith Hampton, admitted that the ongoing political uncertainty has impacted on the local market.

“ The challenging political environment has undoubtedly had a negative effect on investment activity over the past two years, with 2017 boosted by the £123m sale of CastleCourt Shopping Centre,” he said.

“While overall the market has demonstrated a level of resilience, there is a lack of supply of good quality assets and investor caution is evident.”

Looking at the year ahead, Mr McCloy said the trend of a quiet first quarter is likely to be exacerbated by the upcoming March 29 Brexit deadline.

“Both buyers and sellers are delaying decisions until there is clarity on the withdrawal agreement or on no agreement, as the case may be.”

“Investment activity is expected to pick up when the terms of the future relationship are clearer and the transition period begins,” he added.

Source: Irish News

Marijana No Comments

Struggling retail sector dragging down north’s commercial property sector

A WEAK retail sector is dragging down an otherwise strong commercial property market in the north, according to a new report.

The latest RICS and Ulster Bank Commercial Market Survey, covering the last three months of 2018, shows

a decline in demand for retail space, largely driven by changing shopping habits.

The figures further reveal that enquiries for retail property have fallen for the fourth consecutive quarter.

The outlook for the industry is no brighter, with an expectation retail rents will continue to fall over the next three months.

The retail performance is in direct contrast to the overall picture, with the north one of only a small number of UK regions to report an increase in occupier demand (10 per cent of respondents)

Investment enquiries are also reported to have picked up for the first time in nine months.

The encouraging figures were boosted by the industrial and office sectors,which both reported an increase in demand, the former from a net balance of 26 per cent of respondents and the latter, 48 per cent.

The rental outlook is also positive for the next three months, particularly within the office sector, while

enquiries regarding office and industrial assets are on the increase.

RICS Northern Ireland chairman, Brian Henning said the retail figures mar an otherwise positive market performance.

“Changes in the preferences and behaviours of consumers are resulting in a continually challenging landscape for the retail sector,” Mr Henning said.

“On the other hand, sentiment amongst surveyors remains relatively positive in the industrial and office sectors, which is encouraging in the face of uncertainty. Retail aside, expectations for the market are also relatively upbeat considering the landscape.”

Gary Barr, relationship director for commercial real estate at Ulster Bank added:

“The downturn in high street retail has been most keenly felt in our secondary centres. Investor demand for office and industrial has remained robust and prime assets in Belfast city centre are most in demand.”

Source: Irish News

Marijana No Comments

Sharp rise in property values for UK’s top shared office space providers

The value of property owned by the UK’s biggest shared office providers soared by more than a third last year.

In a sign of the growing flexible workspace market, the value of the industry’s top ten share office providers’ property jumped 35 per cent to £13.6bn last year.

The new data, released by real estate law firm Boodle Hatfield, also underlined the growth in demand for shorter leases among major companies, with the 2017 average length for a new commercial property lease standing at 7.1 years on average, compared to an average of 25 years in 1987.

Rising appetite for such short leases and shared office spaces has driven an increase in traditional property heavyweights experimenting in the sector, with giants such as British Land, Great Portland Estates and Landsec all looking to tap into the fast-growing market.

“Shared workspaces have now gone beyond being a cool place for media and tech startups – they are now a substantial part of the commercial property market in major cities worldwide,” according to Simon Williams, partner at Boodle Hatfield.

Williams added: “The success of WeWork has tempted some of the bigger traditional players in commercial property into the shared workspace market. The expectation is that there is still significant growth in this market in the coming years.”

Source: City AM

Marijana No Comments

London remains top gateway city in the world for commercial property investors

London maintained its position as the top city for global real estate investment in 2018, according to research published today by JLL. The report claims that investors continue to favour cities they are familiar with and that have well-established investment markets and high levels of transparency. Well-known, large gateway cities with the world’s deepest concentrations of capital, companies and talent continue to dominate the top ranks. Twelve cities–London, New York, Paris, Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai, Washington DC, Sydney, Singapore, Toronto and Munich–have appeared in the top 30 ranking every year for the past decade and account for 30 percent of all real estate investment.

The data shows that total volumes in 2018 were $733 billion, up 4 percent from 2017, the best annual performance in a decade. Cross-border purchases accounted for 31 percent of activity in 2018, close to the 10-year average, suggesting investors still have appetite to buy outside their own markets.

Expectations for 2019

JLL projects that investment activity momentum will be maintained into 2019, as real estate continues to look attractive in comparison to other asset classes. Fundamentals in real estate remain compelling, despite historic low yields, as robust corporate occupier fundamentals across most markets are leading to positive returns. As such, investment activity may slow, but only marginally from its current high, as investors look to hold their real estate exposure and become more selective in the search for assets with strong income growth.

  • The institutional real estate universe will continue to expand, driven by factors such as low volatility, diversification benefits, long-term income and an attractive pricing premium to core sectors. Asset classes such as student housing, senior living and multi-family have continued to attract more institutional money in 2018 and this is likely to continue in 2019.
  • Industrial now accounts for 17 percent of all investment, up from 10 percent in 2009. In contrast, the retail sector has seen less activity as investors adjust their investment approach to reflect changing consumer behavior. In gateway cities, the office sector tends to account for a higher proportion of investment volumes—68 percent in 2018, compared to 51 percent in global volumes.
  • The top 30 will continue to be dominated by the gateway cities in 2019. However, at the edges, investors will consider a widening range of cities in their strategies. Reflecting real estate investors’ risk appetite, secondary cities in established transparent markets, such as Osaka and Atlanta, are likely to attract more attention, as opposed to moving into entirely new countries.

Yields are now at historic lows in most markets across the globe. A sharp correction is unlikely, as there is still a significant weight of capital looking to invest in real estate, and corporate occupier market fundamentals across many markets are positive. This creates the potential for continued income growth. However, in 2019, overall investment volumes are expected to fall approximately 5 to 10 percent below the 2018 total, driven by a slightly reduced appetite from investors to sell, as well as continued selectivity in acquisitions.

Source: Workplace Insight

Marijana No Comments

Outlook 2019: Commercial property sector preparing for a supply shortage

After a solid 2018 in the commercial property sector, the north has to prepare itself for a supply shortage in 2019, according to Craig Burrow, Leeds Director at Bruntwood.

Speaking at TheBusinessDesk.com’s Outlook 2019 seminar, Burrow said: “From a commercial property perspective it’s been a very good year generally. Leeds particularly is having another strong year in terms of the office market take-up. We’ve also had a great year with the completion of the Platform building in the city centre.

“We’ve seen rents rising, occupancy rising, and investment transactions have hit record highs in Northern Powerhouse cities.”

However, Burrow did say that “one of the biggest challenges” for Bruntwood going into 2019 was the “supply shortage” in the north.

As for the challenges facing Liverpool, Philip Rooney, managing partner at the Liverpool office of DLA, said: “What we don’t have here is top quality office space, and we definitely need more of it. If we have that, then Liverpool will become a far better competitor to other cities.

“This is a fantastic place to live and work, it is absolutely the place to be now, so we need to make sure companies are attracted to come here.”

Despite this, Adam Higgins, co-founder of Capital & Centric, said he believed that the success of neighbouring city Manchester would eventually begin to benefit Liverpool from an office take-up point of view.

He said said: “What Manchester has done in the last couple of years really well is attract office occupiers coming up from London, but the city is now getting to the stage where office space is going to become more and more expensive.

“Companies moving into new builds in Manchester will be paying around £36 – £37 a sq ft, whereas Liverpool is down in the mid twenties. Some businesses just won’t want to pay those rates in Manchester which means they will start to look at Liverpool.”

Tom Kelsall, partner at the Manchester office of DLA Piper, commented on the importance of keeping Manchester’s developments connected and act as part of a community almost.

Kelsall said: “The combined authority have an important job over the next several years to pull together different parts of the area’s communities and make sure Manchester continues to grow. What we don’t want is single assets out in the middle of nowhere that don’t feel connected to the rest of the city.”

Speaking of the office occupier market, Vivienne Clements, director at Henry Boot Developments, said: “We have seen a lot of success this year within the employment scheme Markham Vale. This year we have seen major decisions being made to commit to Sheffield.”

Following the success of Henry Boots Developments this past year, Clements also said they have now “gained an insight across the board” in relations to companies that take up space in studio business park developments.

She explained: “The confidence that Sheffield can take forward is that good quality mid-range companies, who can afford to buy their own building, are attracted to the area. Out of the 16 companies that we’ve brought to Markham Vale, five of those have already expanded further onto the site and one of those expanding is doubling its size just in a five year period.

“We can take confidence in that we have a really strong base and we need to nurture that base because when it comes to a recession they are the backbone that we call all resort back to.”

David Wilton, Chief Financial Officer at Sumo Digital, also spoke about the city’s growing technology sector, and the importance of using this momentum to attract other global tech companies to take office space in Sheffield.

He explained: “It it fantastic that Sheffield is becoming a tech centre of excellence. The foresight that drove the movement away from traditional, old fashioned engineering businesses to a more tech end digital city was great.

“We now need to invest more in tech, and that is about training the right people and attracting the right people to this area.”

Source: The Business Desk

Marijana No Comments

Boost to Scotland’s commercial property market as year comes to an end

MORE than £2.5 billion is expected to have been invested in Scotland’s commercial market by the end of the year, according to one global property company.

Some £2.485bn worth of deals have already been completed, and Savills says this will round up by Hogmanay.

The figures mark a 10% increase on those from last year.

Nick Penny, head of Scotland at Savills and director in the investment team, said: “Regardless of Brexit, the simple economic argument around supply and demand of good quality offices is very compelling for Scotland.

“Our development pipeline and general market confidence was paused for longer than the rest of the UK following the financial crash due to uncertainty around the independence referendum. The result is a critically low level of Grade A office supply in Edinburgh and Glasgowthat makes a strong case for rental growth and new development.

“Highlighting this point is the reality that Edinburgh’s development pipeline is now almost entirely pre-let.

“Low yields in Edinburgh reflect the potential for growth and lack of risk however despite the strong level of investor demand for the Scottish capital, a lack of assets being marketed for sale in 2018 as a result of preceding record levels of activity has hampered overall transaction volumes.”

In 2018, Glasgow saw nearly twice the office transactions than Edinburgh did, and Aberdeen also saw a rise in activity with close to £170 million changing hands.

Penny added this greater spread of investment activity across Scottish cities, rather than specifically in Edinburgh, was notable.

“By investing in Edinburgh, and Glasgow, you are investing in a landlords’ market as supply is so limited and with its World Heritage status there will be restricted opportunity to change this dynamic in Edinburgh.

“Meanwhile, in Aberdeen a gradual improving economy and uptick in office activity being led by the oil and gas sector is piquing the interest of those investors looking for value.”

Savills says prime office yields in Edinburgh are at 4.5%, Glasgow 5.25% and 6.25% in Aberdeen.

Source: The National

Marijana No Comments

New opportunities and risks in evolving market

It is widely accepted that we have reached a late stage of the property cycle. Some even argue that a downturn has already set in. However, our view is that while values feel pretty full, we certainly aren’t in bubble territory. It is reassuring to note that UK commercial property values have increased half as much as they did during the last cycle and the industry as a whole is nothing like as highly geared as it was in the run-up to the financial crisis a decade ago.

However, as lenders and investors, we can’t afford to be complacent. We remain alert to the risks of lending late in the cycle which today are as much, if not more, of a concern as structural changes in the market. Against this background, we have still been able to find value and we have invested more than £800m over the past 12 months, including our largest transactions to date in both our senior debt and partnership capital strategies, while we have been able to back some very interesting residential development opportunities in London and the South East.

The most obvious risk in today’s market is posed by changes to shopping habits. The inexorable rise of online shopping has already started to bite hard into the retail property market and undoubtedly, values and rents will continue to come under more pressure. We have therefore been reducing our exposure against retail property for some time but we are not turning our backs on the market completely.

”As lenders and investors, we can’t afford to be complacent. We remain alert to late-cycle risks”

While there is clearly trouble ahead for department stores and the centres they anchor, many retail centres will continue to attract shoppers, particularly those in densely populated areas that are focused on convenience shopping. We’ll continue to back borrowers and partners with deep retail experience in this part of the market.

The industrial market presents very different challenges for us. The rise of ecommerce is driving growing occupier demand but this means competition between investors to buy assets and between lenders to fund them is high. We have been active in the industrial market for many years but, with investment yields contracting to record levels, we see better relative value in development than investment and have funded two speculative warehouse schemes in the South East in recent months. Having said that, one of our biggest loans this year, and the largest loan to date in the senior debt programme, was the £125m refinance of an industrial portfolio, predominantly located in the West Midlands.

‘Live-work-play’ situation

The office market is also going through a period of rapid change with TMT tenants driving demand in many parts of the country, not just London, which are often followed by co-working operators, with most looking for that millennial-friendly ‘live-work-play’ situation. We are keen to support borrowers targeting this market, as evidenced by our loan earlier this year to support FORE Partnership’s £51m acquisition of Tower Bridge Court on the South Bank. It was our first office deal in London since 2015 and we are on the lookout for others as pricing for value-add investments in the capital is looking increasingly attractive.

evolving market

Tower Bridge Court £51m acquisition and refurbishment whole loan

We also continue to target the other major UK cities, confident that despite the uncertainty around Brexit, there are good lending opportunities available. The fundamentals of the office market in large UK cities remain healthy. Demand for space is robust; this has been driven by strong employment growth; supply remains tight due to a lack of new development and a similar lack of conversion of secondary office space to residential under development law.

Alternatives also look more attractive than ever. In an environment where Brexit brings an uncertain economic outlook, it clearly makes sense to be lending and investing in sectors where demand isn’t tied to the economic cycle. One such example is data centres; demand for data is set to grow exponentially but there are a very limited number of locations that can meet data centres’ specific requirements for connectivity or power. As well as backing student accommodation and hotels, which have been our alternatives bread and butter since 2011, we have been providing finance for data centres as well as a number of other non-traditional assets this year.

Indeed, we made our biggest-ever loan across the business this year in the alternatives sector – a £200m whole loan to Royale, an operator of permanent park homes aimed at the over-50s. The loan was backed by 27 individual parks and 3,500 plots, providing a good level of granularity. We also like the fact that the number of over-50s is set to grow at twice the rate of the whole population.

This year, ICG-Longbow expanded its direct investment activities with the launch of our build-to-rent business, through the Wise Living joint venture with SDL Group, and a pan-European sale-and-leaseback strategy. Growing both will be a key focus for us in 2019. Increasing demand for private rented housing gives us confidence in the outlook for build-to-rent, particularly as our focus is on family housing, which is an undersupplied part of the market. The sale-and-leaseback business is also an exciting venture for us that brings together ICG-Longbow’s property expertise with ICG Group’s 29-year track record of investing in European corporate credit deals.

We also plan to expand our partnership capital lending and investing activity into continental Europe in due course. For us, it’s a natural progression for the business and doesn’t mean we’re any less interested in the UK. Although the UK market faces challenges, not least Brexit, we are still firm believers that there are plenty of good opportunities out there.

Healthy sign for the market

Looking at the supply of capital to the market, we see that banks remain cautious and have lowered their LTVs. However, we see this as a healthy sign for the market as a whole and they at least remain active. From our perspective, the fact they have pulled back somewhat is helpful for obvious reasons. When it comes to our senior lending, we used to compete with the banks mainly on our flexibility and speed, whereas now there is usually substantial clear water between our terms and the banks on leverage, while in the higher LTV whole loan market there are only a handful of lenders equipped to underwrite more complex property strategies, including value-add and development.

Finally, in the residential construction market, we have seen more activity from other non-bank lenders, but in our opinion this has been more than offset by a couple of UK banks pulling back from the market, while the volume of debt capital available still remains low relative to financing requirements.

With positive occupational fundamentals in all but retail, we look ahead to 2019 with confidence that there will be plenty of attractive lending opportunities, despite (or even potentially resulting from) the ongoing political uncertainty. Having raised nearly £900m across our senior debt, partnership capital and residential development strategies this year and with fundraising efforts still ongoing, we have plenty of firepower coming into the new year and we look forward to continuing to support our customers with our flexible capital and partnership approach going forward.

Source: Property Week

Marijana No Comments

Decline in new UK commercial property construction work within private sector

The results of the EU referendum have been detrimental to the commercial property sector with the number of constructions continually decreasing, according to an analysis of the figures by Savoy Stewart.

With figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showing a monthly decline in the number of new UK commercial construction work undertaken by the private sector since December 2017, the property firm analysed the number of commercial properties available to let in 20 of the biggest cities in the UK.

As expected, the city with the highest number of commercial properties to let was England’s capital city London, which had 6,137 properties in November 2018 available for businesses to rent.  However, figures from estate advisory organisation Colliers claims that 90 percent of London office availability is constituted by second-hand product, while new/refurbished availability is down by over a third in the past year.

Scotland’s capital city Edinburgh had the second lowest number of commercial properties on the market to let (133). And although Edinburgh’s figures seem to be less intriguing than anticipated, it seems Scottish commercial real estate has experienced a bounce back, with a total return of 1.7 percent in the third quarter of 2018; a 1.4 percent rebound in the second quarter.

The figures, which were extracted from property website Zoopla for the month of November 2018 also showed that The cities with the highest number of commercial properties to let in November 2018 on Zoopla were: London (6,137), Derby (822), Birmingham (724), Manchester (501) and Leeds (481).

The cities with the lowest number of commercial properties to let in November 2018 were: Preston (153), Coventry (145), Belfast (145), Edinburgh (133) and Newport (128).

Source: Work & Place