BBC shuns headquarter sale-and-leaseback

LONDON (Reuters) - The BBC’s plans to fully vacate its headquarters will cap the amount it can raise from selling the site after the broadcaster ruled out a sale-and-leaseback, but could help to transform a dowdy area of London.

“This is a full scale disposal of BBC Television Centre and we won’t be leasing it back,” a spokeswoman for the BBC said. The sale is part of plans announced on Thursday to make up a budget shortfall.

The spokeswoman told Reuters there was some scope for the BBC to lease back individual studios but its main aim was to fully vacate the 170,000 square metre (1.830 million sq ft) site in White City and two other nearby buildings by 2012/13.

The site lies north of the main highway heading north-west towards Oxford and adjoins Ladbroke Grove and Notting Hill.

Leading commercial property agents -- who declined to be named -- said the question mark-shaped BBC Television Centre would probably be worth less as a vacant lot than if it had a government-backed tenant -- the BBC -- paying a market rent on a long lease.

Any moves to develop or refurbish the historic site would also be subject to planning permission.

A spokeswoman for English Heritage, which advises the government on historic buildings, said the BBC Television Centre was not listed -- something which would tie developers’ hands -- but was the subject of a listing application.

Estate agent estimates of what the BBC Television Centre might be worth varied widely from 50 to 100 million pounds to more than 300 million pounds, depending on the potential for development, the amount of land included in the package, and the terms and conditions while the BBC remained a sitting tenant.

Property experts said the site had multiple possible uses due to major retail developments nearby and to spillover from the pricey central London office market, with around 100,000 square metres (1.076 million sq ft) of existing office space.

“As a micro-location it is going to change beyond all recognition in five years’ time,” said one leading agent, citing the 1.6 billion-pound development nearby of a 150,000 square metre (1.62 million sq ft) shopping mall by Australia’s Westfield Group.

He said the BBC site had the potential to be a lucrative residential play but could also draw some interest from the central London office market, which had already led to the commercial development of other west London areas.

“Given the success of Paddington Basin and Chiswick Park, it could be a viable location,” the agent said.

The BBC spokeswoman said the broadcaster would shift its administration to its 17-acre Media Village office complex, just south of BBC Television Centre, while news operations were moving to central London and children’s programming and sports would move to Manchester.

(See for the global service real estate professionals from Reuters).

Additional reporting by Sinead Cruise