AVERAGE island-wide Grade A rents are currently just a shade under those of Hong Kong, but the highest rents achieved by Hong Kong Grade ‘AAA’ office buildings are still about 1.8 times higher than the top rents achieved in comparable buildings here.
A report by Savills reveals that in the CBDs of Hong Kong and Singapore, Grade A rents are now the equivalent of $9.80 and $9.70 psf respectively.
However, top rents in Hong Kong’s Grade ‘AAA’ buildings like the International Financial Centre, Chater House and AIG Tower are closer to $32 psf while those in Singapore’s Republic Plaza, One Raffles Quay and 6 Battery Road are at about $17.50 psf.
Rising business costs have come under scrutiny recently and Savills Hong Kong senior director (research and consultancy) Simon Smith does say that there is the perception that Hong Kong and Singapore are in direct competition to attract businesses for this segment of the property market. However, he added: ‘I have not come across any financial institutions that have chosen to relocate from Singapore to Hong Kong yet.’
Indeed, Mr Smith believes that the financial institutions that are so important to the economies of both cities are more likely to set up offices in both cities to service different markets.
In terms of new supply of office space, Mr Smith does point out that Hong Kong will see some ‘AAA’ space become available next year in areas like West Kowloon where the 2.5 million sq ft International Commerce Centre (ICC) is set to open. The ICC is said to have attracted some major financial institutions already.
In contrast, Savills notes that the recently awarded commercial development sites including those at Marina View and Beach Road are expected to generate a combined 3 million sq ft of office space, scheduled for completion between 2010 and 2012.
But competition actually could come from more unlikely quarters.
Savills’ survey of regional office rents includes the emerging Vietnamese cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and already average Grade A office rents in both cities have outpaced those in Shanghai and Beijing (but are still less than Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore).
Mr Smith believes that rising rents and 100 per cent occupancies in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are largely due to the shortage of quality buildings in these cities, and hence adds: ‘There is a huge potential there for developers.’
Giving an insight into the pace of development there, he said: ‘Vietnam is much like China was in the 1990s, where companies were running their businesses out of hotel rooms. But when the market matures, rents will settle down.’
Savills believes the outlook for Singapore office sector remains positive, with rents continuing to rise, although at a slower pace for Grade A space due to ‘resistance from tenants’.
‘Demand from multinational companies for offices in suburban areas and high-tech space is expected to increase, especially by those who are more conscious of their bottom-line,’ it said.
Source : Business Times - 22 Nov 2007