Sluggish Demand Leads to Higher Vacancy and a Slight Drop in Both Office and Retail Rents

HONG KONG, July 22, 2014 /PRNewswire/ —

  • Office leasing activities remained sluggish in the first half of 2014, leading to a 1.8% drop in overall grade A office rent.
  • Landlords will continue to show flexibility in their efforts to attract and retain tenants. As a result, rents are likely to drop by an additional 1% to 2% in the second half of 2014. Greater Central rents will be stable.
  • The retail sector continued to face headwinds with retail sales growth slowing markedly. Moderating sales performance and more cautious sentiment impeded retailers’ expansion in the first half of 2014.
  • Prime street shop rents eased by an average of 2.0% over the past six months; rents are likely to be stable or decrease slightly in 2H 2014. Local consumption is intact and the outlook remains generally positive.

Cushman & Wakefield, the world’s largest privately owned real estate services firm, today released a mid-year update on the Hong Kong office and retail leasing markets and the outlook for the second half of 2014.

Office leasing demand stays soft causing overall grade A office rent to ease slightly

Office leasing demand remained sluggish in the first half of 2014, whereas Grade A office net absorption totaled a modest 123,000 sq ft and only crossed into positive territory due to take-up in Kowloon East, primarily within new stratified buildings completed since late 2013. By submarket, leasing activities continued to gain momentum in Greater Central, as evidenced by positive net absorption of 120,500 sq ft, but remained subdued in other locations. Greater Central continued to see leasing demand being supported by mainland Chinese financials and tenants with smaller-sized requirements. For example, China Securities International recently expanded by a floor of 13,000 sq ft in Two Exchange Square earlier this year, while China United Credit Finance took a whole floor of 22,000 sq ft in Two Pacific Place. Foreign financials situated in the district are still tending to downsize (RBS in AIA Central) or relocate for cost savings (Wells Fargo moving from AIA Central to Three Pacific Place), but there were several instances of space upgrades (Banco Santander and Wellington Global Investment. moving from One Exchange Square to Two IFC; UOB consolidating from Landmark and Cosco Tower to Citibank Plaza). Tenants on 3-year leases expiring this year are facing market rents which are, on average, 20% lower than those under their current lease.

Wan Chai/Causeway Bay, Hong Kong East and Tsim Sha Tsui all recorded slight negative absorption of between 50,000 to 60,000 sq ft over the past six months due to higher availability and tempered demand as more occupiers have shelved their expansions or seek to consolidate their office space. These trends are becoming more prevalent in fringe-core and non-core office districts, where office rents are still at or near peak-levels. After dipping slightly to 5.0% in 1Q 2014, office availability rate climbed back to 5.4% in 2Q 2014. Both Wan Chai/Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui’s availability rates climbed to approximately 5.0% by mid-year, while availability in Hong Kong East, still the lowest at 3.2%, climbed to its highest level in two years due to some large tenants, such as Time Warner, Nokia, and Western Union releasing space into the market. In Tsim Sha Tsui, Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley in ICC consolidated operations which caused the district to experience the largest upswing in availability in recent months. Greater Central availability, which has stood at roughly 7.0% since 2Q 2012, remains the highest by district.

Overall grade A office rents dropped by 1.8% in the first half of 2014, led by a 5.5% drop in rents in Kowloon East. Kowloon East landlords are facing added pressure from new strata units put up for lease and also several new industrial revitalization projects to be completed this year whose low pre-commitment rates are indicative of slower overall demand. Rents inched upward by 0.7% in the first half in Wan Chai/Causeway Bay, but dropped mildly in other districts. Greater Central rents continued to hover around HK$96-97 per sq ft, on average. Gary Fok, Executive Director, Commercial – Hong Kong, said, "We anticipate that the Greater Central leasing market will continue to exhibit a stabilizing trend owing to a gradual improvement in demand. Availability will slightly ease and rents will remain stable over the next six months. Outside of Greater Central, demand has been sluggish with few tenants willing to expand or absorb relocation costs. Landlords will continue to show flexibility in their efforts to attract and retain tenants, most notably in Kowloon East where availability is higher. As a result, rents will drop by an additional 1% to 2%, but not more than this because availability is still at a healthy level, and there is a lack of new supply especially in core and fringe-core locations."  

Sales slowdown urging caution, leading to slower brand expansion and a drop in rents

The retail sector continued to face headwinds associated with slower tourism growth and changes in visitor profile and spending in the first half of 2014. These factors, as well as a high base for comparison last year, caused the slowdown of retail sales to deepen. Total retail sales decreased by 0.2% year-on-year from January to May. The slight drop was led by the downturn in sales of watches and jewelry, which dropped by 14.3% after robust sales in mid-2013. Apparel and department stores sales and restaurant receipts all grew stably owing to intact local consumption.

Moderating sales performance and more cautious sentiment impeded retailers’ expansion in the first half of 2014. Luxury brands have stayed conservative, while watch and jewellery retailers notably cut back on new stores. Several leading local retailers announced lower sales during recent holidays and are also taking more cautious approaches. Despite the hurdles, Hong Kong has not lost a step as a leading retail destination in Asia, and, therefore, in its ability to attract new brands and support expansion of existing ones. As evidenced by recent activity, including Topshop’s and Esprit’s planned expansions and the entrance of J.Crew, renowned international brands are showing a long-term commitment to the market, which is also seeing a shift toward a more diverse offering of middle to high-end brands.

Vacancies in main streets have remained low, but have risen in 2nd and 3rd tier streets over the past six months. Prime street shop rents eased slightly in the first half of 2014, having dropped by an average of 2.0%. During the first half of 2014, average rental increment on renewals and new leases stood at approximately 40%, which is down from 60% to 70% growth during the same period last year. In the second half of 2014, we expect that prime shop rents will be relatively stable, potentially falling by 2% to 3%, while more secondary locations will see a slightly steeper adjustment of 5% to 8% due to higher vacancy and slower demand. Michele Woo, Executive Director, Retail – Hong Kong, said, "Luxury brands have turned more cautious as sales growth has slowed amid the shift toward more affordable luxury and mid-priced goods. Their slower expansion has opened some doors for more mid-tier brands, but they also operate under tighter margins, therefore, their real estate affordability is comparatively lower and this will have an impact on rents. Nonetheless, the outlook for the sector is still positive. The local consumer base remains strong and tourism is still growing at a high rate. Hong Kong will maintain its position as the premier shopping destination in Asia and this will continue to bring new brands to the city."

APPENDICES

I.     GRADE A OFFICE LEASING TRANSACTIONS

Date

Tenant

Building

District

Area (sq ft)

Reason for Lease

Existing Address

2Q

United Overseas Bank

Citibank Plaza

Greater Central

33,500 (L)

Relocation & Consolidation

COSCO Tower & Landmark

2Q

China UCF Group

Two Pacific Place

Greater Central

22,100 (L)

Relocation & Expansion

Hutchison House

2Q

Nissan

Hopewell Centre

Wan Chai/ Causeway Bay

46,000 (L)

Relocation & Expansion

Citibank Tower

2Q

Wells Fargo

Three Pacific Place

Wan Chai/ Causeway Bay

32,000 (L)

Relocation

AIA Central

2Q

Societe Generale

Three Pacific Place

Wan Chai/ Causeway Bay

16,300 (L)

Expansion

Three Pacific Place

2Q

FWD

Devon House

Hong Kong East

27,000 (L)

Expansion

Devon House

2Q

Compass Office

Silvercord Tower 2

Tsim Sha Tsui

11,500 (G)

Expansion

N/A

2Q

E. Sun Commercial Bank

The Gateway Tower 6

Tsim Sha Tsui

7,400 (G)

Expansion

The Gateway Tower 6

2Q

National Investment Fund

Octa Tower

Kowloon East

23,800 (G)

Expansion

Great Eagle Centre

2Q

Sainsbury’s Asia

Millennium City 1

Kowloon East

21,400 (G)

Relocation

The Gateway Tower 1

1Q

Wellington Global Investment

Two IFC

Greater Central

23,000 (L)

Relocation

One Exchange Square

1Q

Banco Santander, S.A.

Two IFC

Greater Central

18,400 (L)

Relocation

One Exchange Square

1Q

HK Sanatorium & Hospital

One Pacific Place

Greater Central

39,000 (L)

New Set Up

N/A

1Q

Principle Insurance

Hopewell Centre

Wan Chai/ Causeway Bay

16,400 (L)

Expansion

Hopewell Centre

1Q

Facebook

One Island East

Hong Kong East

11,000 (L)

New Set Up

N/A

1Q

Medisun Co.

Octa Tower

Kowloon East

46,200 (G)

Expansion

Great Eagle Centre

1Q

Compass Office

Langham Place Office Tower

Kowloon West

17,400 (G)

Expansion

N/A

1Q

Sun Life Financial

Two Harbourfront

Kowloon Others

22,000 (G)

Expansion

Two Harbourfront

II.  MAJOR OFFICE SUPPLY

Completion

Project Name

District

Developer

NFA (sq ft)

Single Owner / Strata-Title

2014

33 Des Voeux Road Central

Greater Central

Bank of East Asia

53,500

Single Owner

Billion Plaza II

Kowloon West

Billion

166,200

Strata-Title

Pioneer Place (revitalized ind bldg)

Kowloon East

Pioneer Global

184,300

Single Owner

KOHO (revitalized ind bldg)

Kowloon East

Pamfleet

157,500

Single Owner

KC100 (revitalized ind bldg)

Kowloon West

Campell Group

157,500

Single Owner

Octagon

Kowloon West

K Wah

296,700

Single Owner

Sub-total:

1,015,700

2015

50 Wong Chuk Hang Road

Hong Kong South

SHK

68,000

Strata-Title

41 Heung Yip Road

Hong Kong South

Cheung Kong

186,800

Single Owner

2-12 Observatory Road

Tsim Sha Tsui

Lai Sun & Henderson

139,700

Single Owner

10 Shing Yip Street 

Kowloon East

Billion

198,300

Strata-Title

15-17 Chong Yip Street

Kowloon East

Billion

201,500

Strata-Title

52-56 Tsun Yip Street 

Kowloon East

Billion

297,700

Strata-Title

Manulife Tower (One Bay East – West Tower)

Kowloon East

Wheelock

409,600

Self-Use

Citibank Tower (One Bay East – East Tower)

Kowloon East

Wheelock

409,600

Self-Use

33 Tseuk Luk Street

Kowloon East

SHK

196,000

Strata-Title

Sub-total:

2,107,200

2016

Joyce Centre

Hong Kong South

Kwong Hing Investment

130,800

Single Owner

34 Wong Chuk Hang Road

Hong Kong South

K Wah

132,800

Single Owner

22 Des Voeux Road

Greater Central

Chinachem

65,400

Single Owner

10-12 Queen’s Road Central

Greater Central

SH Comm. Bank

106,200

Single Owner

Wing On Central Building

Greater Central

Chinachem

72,100

Single Owner

8 Cannon Street

Wan Chai/Causeway Bay

Phoenix

142,600

Single Owner

14-30 King Wah Road

Hong Kong East

Henderson

230,800

Single Owner

Goldin Financial Global Centre

Kowloon East

Goldin

681,900

Single Owner

2 Ng Fong Street

Kowloon East

Billion

251,200

Strata-Title

Hung Luen Rd. & Kin Wan St. (Two Towers)    

Kowloon Others

Wheelock

477,600

Strata-Title

On Kwan Street & On Muk Street 

Kowloon Others

Billion

281,600

Strata-Title

Sub-total:

2,573,000

2017

4 Yip Fat Street & 8 Heung Yip Road

Hong Kong South

SHK

117,600

Strata-Title

Asian House Redevelopment

Wan Chai/Causeway Bay

Chinachem

236,000

Single Owner

Somerset House Redevelopment

Hong Kong East

Swire

928,200

Single Owner

New World Centre Redevelopment

Tsim Sha Tsui

New World

637,100

Single Owner

Sheung Yuet Road & Wang Tai Road

Kowloon East

Pacific Investment

233,100

Single Owner

Wang Chiu Road & Lam Lee Street

Kowloon East

Swire

499,300

Single Owner

180 Wai Yip Street

Kowloon East

SHK & Wong’s

383,400

Strata-Title

On Yiu & On Kwan Street 

Kowloon Others

Billion

344,300

Strata-Title

Sub-total:

3,379,000

2018

Sunning Plaza Redevelopment

Wan Chai/Causeway Bay

Hysan

317,200

Single Owner

15 Middle Road Carpark Redevelopment

Tsim Sha Tsui

TBC

254,800

Single Owner

Wharf T&T Square Redevelopment

Kowloon East

Wheelock

447,000

Strata-Title

Hang Yip St. ,Yan Yip St. & Kwun Tong Rd.

Kowloon East

Mapletree

528,200

Single Owner

CSW Post Office Redevelopment

Kowloon West

First Group

135,500

Single Owner

Sub-total:

1,682,700

Grand Total:

10,757,600

*Note: The expected timeline is subject to changes

III.   MAIN STREETS RETAIL LEASING TRANSACTIONS

Date

Tenant

Location

District

Area (sq ft)

Retailer Type

2Q

Currency Exchange

Cannon Street

Causeway Bay

50

Currency Exchange

2Q

Prince Jewellery & Watch

Kai Chiu Road

Causeway Bay

400

Watch & Jewellery

2Q

Esprit

Leighton Road

Causeway Bay

7,000

Fashion

2Q

Pandora

Queen’s Road Central

Central

2,400

Accessories

2Q

Esprit

Queen’s Road Central

Central

17,900

Fashion

2Q

Chow Tai Fook

Haiphong Road

Tsim Sha Tsui

1,600

Watch & Jewellery

2Q

Sulwahsoo

Canton Road

Tsim Sha Tsui

700

Cosmetics

2Q

Chain Pharmacy

Park Lane

Tsim Sha Tsui

700

FMCG

2Q

Swatch

Sai Yeung Choi Street South

Mongkok

300

Watch

2Q

City Chain

Sai Yeung Choi Street South

Mongkok

1,400

Watch

1Q

Standard Chartered Bank

Russell Street

Causeway Bay

5,700

Banking

1Q

Tsui Wah

Lockhart Road

Causeway Bay

8,000

Catering

1Q

Samsung

Des Voeux Road Central

Central

6,000

Electronics

1Q

Marks & Spencer Food

Hollywood Road

Central

4,600

Grocery

1Q

Luk Fook

Canton Road

Tsim Sha Tsui

1,900

Watch & Jewellery

1Q

ISA

Carnarvon Road

Tsim Sha Tsui

10,800

Fashion

1Q

Innisfree

Granville Road

Tsim Sha Tsui

1,000

Cosmetics

1Q

Chow Tai Fook

Sai Yeung Choi Street South

Mongkok

4,800

Watch & Jewellery

1Q

Chain Pharmacy

Soy Street

Mongkok

900

FMCG