Demand for new offices in London to progress even as Brexit weighs - survey

(Reuters) - Demand for new office space in London will continue even with the imminent exit of UK from the European Union, a closely-watched industry survey showed on Tuesday, with technology, media and telecom companies taking up most spaces in the city.

A worker looks at their phone as they walk past The Gherkin, Lloyds, and other office buildings in the City of London, Britain November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville

The London office market remains resilient despite the slow pace of Brexit negotiations and growing speculation about a no-deal weighing heavily on business sentiment, the London Office Crane Survey by Deloitte Real Estate showed.

“Development pipeline remains above average, suggesting stable office construction levels,” Deloitte said in the report, adding that developer sentiment was positive with above average new construction activity.

“There is a healthy balance with a strong occupier demand and half of the office space under construction is already committed to,” said Mike Cracknell, the director of capital projects advisory team at Deloitte.

Britain is due to leave the EU in March 2019, with the BBC reporting that the European Union and Britain agreed to a draft Brexit divorce deal text on Tuesday. It remains unclear whether Prime Minister Theresa May can get any deal approved by the British parliament.

The survey echoed property consultancy Knight Frank’s report last month, which showed that office take-up in central London was 6 percent higher in the third quarter than a year earlier as businesses shrugged off Brexit uncertainty.

Some of the biggest central London property deals in the third quarter were Facebook Inc FB.O renting three buildings in the King's Cross Central development and Publicis Group PUBP.PA take-up of space at White City Place, Knight Frank had said.

However, demand from financial services companies, which has dominated office pre-lets in London for the last three years, dropped to 24 percent, Deloitte said.

Deloitte said 3.2 million square feet was transacted overall in third quarter, a 10 percent drop sequentially, but well above the quarterly average, adding that this implied continued demand for office space, particularly from larger tech businesses.

The tally for office space currently in construction fell as a record number of projects were completed and handed over in the six months to September and as new projects accounted for less total space.

The survey showed 40 central London office schemes totalling 4.2 million square feet were completed in the survey period, the highest in over 14 years.

Construction began on 32 new central London office schemes in the six months ended Sept. 30, but in terms of space, new starts totalled 2.6 million square feet, a drop of 18 percent since the last survey.

Reporting by Shariq khan and Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr