Murdoch's News International in talks to occupy Shard neighbour

LONDON Wed May 8, 2013 11:49am EDT

LONDON May 8 (Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch's News International is in talks to occupy the whole of an empty office block at the foot of London's Shard, Western Europe's tallest skyscraper, two sources told Reuters.

News International, part of the News Corp media empire that publishes British newspapers The Sun and The Times, is negotiating a lease for a 430,000 square foot building called The Place, which, along with its taller and more famous neighbour, was funded by the state of Qatar.

A Shard spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

A deal would be the first major office letting at the site next to London Bridge station as crisis-hit companies stay put, making for a weak central London office lettings market.

The main Shard tower has not announced an office tenant yet but several property sources told Reuters it was waiting to reveal several occupiers, which are likely to include broadcaster Al-Jazeera, in one announcement.

A News International spokeswoman did not comment on a move to The Place, on the south bank of the river Thames, but said the company's lease on Land Securities' Thomas More Square expired next year and it was exploring all options to accommodate its staff.

The publisher, which shut the News of the World Sunday paper in 2011 over a phone hacking scandal, occupies the development next to its former home, known as "Fortress Wapping", which was sold to housebuilder Berkeley Group last year.

The Fortress Wapping site gained its nickname after it was the scene of riots in 1986, when thousands of demonstrators clashed with police in protests at Murdoch's move to shift his news operation out of Fleet Street and break the power of the print unions.

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