London has lost its spot as the world's most expensive city for office occupation. It has been overtaken by Hong Kong and Tokyo for the first time in nine years. Falling rents in London combined with the continued weakening of the pound against the Euro has brought occupancy costs for prime offices in London's West End down 23 percent to €1,403 (£1,251) per square meter over the year.
February 2009 Archives
A new "ring of steel" is being considered to protect skyscrapers from becoming a target from suicide bombers. Security experts fear that the 60-storey, 288 metre Helter Skelter on St Mary Axe and Tower 42 could pose as prime terrorist opportunities. British Lands' proposed 52 storey Cheesegrater is also seen as a possible target.
Corporation of London chiefs are so concerned about the potential for suicide attacks a series of measures are being considered. These include:
• Road closures to stop traffic moving freely down St Mary Axe
• Installing rising bollards which would only allow access to authorised drivers
• Security guards at points of entry 24 hours a day
• Giving the City of London Police extra powers to stop and search
But is this "ring of steel" truly necessary and who will be forking out the cost for it?
The latest banking crisis gag doing the rounds in City A.M is petty interesting.
'Which is the odd one out, out of former RBS bosses Sir Fred Goodwin and Sir Tom McKillop, HBOS's Andy Hornby and Sir Terry Wogan?
Wogan, of course - but not because he's the only one who's a radio presenter. The veteran interviewer is actually the only one with a formal banking qualification, having started his career as a bank clerk before moving into the media.
Property tycoon Nabeel Chowdery has attacked the Ritz Casino for suing him over a £160,000 gambling debt. "The casino behaved irresponsibly . They gave me £100,000 of chips after I had already lost £60,000. They should have told me to go home. It was the first time I'd gambled". Nabeel stated.
I am not quite sure whether this kind of appeal will wash, and maybe the 34 year old should have considered 'no more bets'.
Never the less I am sure his £145 million worth of net assets will cover the bill if the Ritz declines his appeal.
Come on, it was the first time he had gambled after all.
The neighbours of the development works at the Shard of Glass, notably those at Guy's hospital, could be in for a surprise in the forthcoming weeks after workers discovered a block of concrete which can only be removed via a controlled explosion. The development had been progressing and with the main building contract likely to be signed to Mace even those of a sceptical nature may come round to the idea that the landmark skyscraper may actually be built.
Let's just hope they warn those on the cardio surgery ward prior to detonation.
In these troubled times the tightening of bank lending has seen many forced to raise funds from property portfolios, and latest casualty appears to be British Land. The London real estate investor needs to sell its 'sacred cow' assets to improve its future performance, according to an analyst at Nomura Real Estate.
Commenting on the company's third-quarter results and rights issue, analyst Mike Prew said "Under the new chief executive, Chris Grigg, we are looking for radical rather than cosmetic surgery and a break with Stephen Hester's legacy of being overweight and over-leveraged in the wrong real estate sectors."
But is the current climate forcing those at risk into making poor business decisions?
At a time where most are trying shore up ship and plan for the future, sure cutbacks must be made and assets offloaded. But shouldn't prime assets, such as the Broadgate Centre, be held onto with a firm grasp if at all possible, in order to maintain a strong foothold in the next upturn.
A monster created in the testosterone-drenched environment of Wall Street and the City.
Women should be considered for new board positions in banks bailed out by the government, to counter the male dominance of senior directorships at the biggest companies, the Cranfield School of Management has recommended.
It points to the fact that the number of female directors in FTSE 100 firms has barely risen over the past 10 years, with more than a fifth still run by all-male boards, which it has become clear in general have over-stretched themselves.
At a time when it is becoming increasingly clear that our banks are largely being headed by chiefs with no formal banking qualifications, surely we must start taking the plunge on those with the relevant education, as opposed to those with the most experience, and try to cut out this overconfident sense of invincibility.
If Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters, run by women instead of men, would the credit crunch have happened? It might seem an outlandish question, but to the many thousands of female workers who have lost their jobs the recession may well look like a case of highly-paid men creating a mess, and low-paid women suffering the consequences.
This downturn is different to the last and it is shaping up to be Britain's first fully feminised recession. If the gender aspect of the economic crisis is ignored, it could potentially jeopardise the progress towards equality at work, and threaten the financial independence many women prize and have struggled to achieve, as well as making families more vulnerable through the loss of a large chunk of household income.
"The evidence is that women are not more risk-averse, but they are more risk-aware," says the Cranford School of Management.
The amount of vacant offices in central London has increased by 36.5% in the last 12 months as companies cut back and shed staff, consolidated their property holdings or relocated to alternative locations.
According to Cushman & Wakefield's Central London Business Briefing just over 14m sq ft or 5.72% of offices are vacant across the West End, City and Docklands.
Despite take up levels being propped up by JP Morgan's purchase of a new HQ in Docklands, the level of activity across the City and Docklands would have been at its lowest level for five years, if this deal was removed from the figures.
Cushman said that although the figure is the highest for two years, the commercial property market is "well placed to recover on the upturn" because developers have started to be cautious in building speculative offices without pre-agreed tenants.
Despite this, there is still a substantial amount of speculative stock set to complete throughout 2009 and in response to this, the West End incentives have tripled in length over the last 12 months and rents for grade A prime properties are down by an average of 20% in 12 months in the City and are expected to fall another 14% in 2009.
James Young, head of Central London offices, Cushman & Wakefield, said: "2008 has not been a great year for London's commercial property market to say the least.
"The financial downturn has been felt across all of the city's office markets but we won't see a return to the massive vacancy rates of the early 1990s."
The recent snowfall may have provided a welcome break from the negativity and hardship being felt across the capital with those not able to make it to work able to take a brief rest from the doom and gloom, but has the reported 'lack of preparation and lack of ability' to cope with these conditions led to a further knock in confidence among London occupants.
The British Chambers of Commerce predicted yesterday that the recent snow would cost the UK £3.5 billion, and with disruption in the capital seeing companies operating at only 50% capacity, the snow appears to have settled at the wrong time for a market already in strife.
Many businesses have complained that local authorities were poorly prepared for the adverse weather conditions, and questions are being asked of Mayor Boris Johnson over the inability for this country to cope in conditions which appear to be so well dealt with throughout the remainder of Europe. The question being asked by many being, should London invest in equipment to keep the city up and running in severe weather conditions?
It is often easy to jump to a conclusion that YES we should be better prepared, as a majority of reports have stated, but for an event which seems to only happen once every one or two decades I would like to see a cost benefit analysis on how much it would take to improve our ability to deal with adverse weather conditions, and if implemented what costs would be passed onto the taxpayer.