Hong Kong’s Central tops list of world’s most expensive office markets

Premium office occupancy costs in Hong Kong’s Central now 60 per cent more expensive than New York’s Midtown.

December 05, 2018

Hong Kong's Central has the world's most expensive rent for premium offices for the fourth year running, according to data from global real estate consultant JLL. The submarket boasts occupancy costs – including rent, taxes and service charges – that are 60 per cent more expensive than New York's Midtown and nearly 75 per cent more expensive than London's West End.

JLL's Premium Office Rent Tracker (PORT), now in its fourth edition, crunches data on the achievable rent in the highest quality building in the premier office districts of 61 cities.

According to JLL, the high occupancy costs of Hong Kong's Central are driven by Chinese firms snapping up Grade A office space, although this demand has decreased in the last quarter. This has led some companies to search for more affordable office locations in decentralised locations.

"Hong Kong is a key financial hub in Asia, and Central is still the most important financial district. But vacancies are low in Central, which has pushed office rents up. Companies are now looking beyond Hong Kong's traditional core office markets with more than half of all new lettings in the third quarter of 2018 taking place in decentralised locations. Hong Kong East and Kowloon East have emerged as favoured alternatives. Notable tenants who have shifted to Hong Kong East recently include Ernst & Young and Baker McKenzie," says Denis Ma, Head of Research, JLL Hong Kong.

While Hong Kong East has traditionally been seen as a back office location by multinationals, it is increasingly being viewed as a prime office location.

"Total occupancy costs in Hong Kong East are 64 per cent lower than in Central while Kowloon East is 76 per cent lower than Central. The finance, insurance, real estate and business services sectors have been shifting to Hong Kong East, and now account for about 37 per cent of the tenant base. More tech and legal companies are also relocating from Central to Hong Kong East," adds Ma.

Districts in cities in Greater China (Hong Kong, Beijing, Shenzhen and Shanghai) now represent six of the top 10 most expensive premium office markets in Asia. As a result, decentralisation is taking place in many Chinese cities as companies look to make savings, with premium occupancy costs averaging US$338 per square foot in Hong Kong's Central, US$189 per square foot in Beijing's Finance Street, and US$131 per square foot in Shanghai's Pudong district. Meanwhile Singapore made its way into the top 10 for Asian cities, up from 14th place in 2017.

The office scene in Ho Chi Minh City is also heating up with the presence of high-end tenants from outside the country. Total office supply in HCMC office market with 2 million sqm, 5 times lower than of Bangkok market, coupled with high demand from large corporations, led to a shortage of high quality office space in the downtown area.

The premium occupancy costs averaging in Ho Chi Minh City recorded around US$59 per square foot, up nearly 7% over the same period last year. Notably, the highest gross rent was hit a record high rent in nearly half a decade with US$86 per square foot, quoted in one of the most prime Grade A buildings in the market. 

Financial services companies are willing to pay for premium office space

The banking and financial services industry are the top occupiers of premium office space globally, as the leading sector in more than half of the 72 markets covered.

"High-value, high-margin businesses in financial services such as private, corporate and investment banking firms, rent premium office space in Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo and Singapore. While cost remains a key factor, these companies prioritise access to talent and the need for amenities when selecting their next office location. They target premium quality buildings to attract and retain top talent, which also helps to enhance their brand image," says Jeremy Sheldon, Managing Director, Markets and Integrated Portfolio Services, JLL Asia Pacific.

Corporate occupiers across all industries are seeking to consolidate and streamline their portfolios in strategic locations. There is growing recognition of the role that real estate plays in talent attraction and retention. Hong Kong's Central is a prime example for its excellent transport connectivity, local amenities, and the quality of digital infrastructure – factors that organisations consider when choosing their next office location.

The average total occupancy costs of the top 20 tracked markets in Asia Pacific are as follows:

  Country Market Total occupancy cost (USD/sq.ft/yr) Total occupancy cost (USD/sq.m/yr)
1 Hong Kong Hong Kong, Central $338 $3,638
2 China Beijing, Finance St $189 $2,034
3 China Shenzhen $155 $1,668
4 China Beijing, CBD $153 $1,647
5 Japan Tokyo, Marunouchi $148 $1,593
6 India Delhi, Connaught Place $142 $1,529
7 China Shanghai, Pudong $131 $1,410
8 Hong Kong Hong Kong East $122 $1,313
9 Japan Tokyo, Shinjuku $118 $1,270
10 Singapore Singapore $108 $1,163
11 China Shanghai, Puxi $102 $1,098
12 Australia Sydney $102 $1,098
13 South Korea Seoul $99 $1,066
14 India Mumbai $96 $1,033
15 Japan Osaka $94 $1,012
16 Hong Kong Hong Kong, Kowloon East $83 $893
17 China Guangzhou $76 $818
18 Taiwan Taipei $66 $710
19 Vietnam Ho Chi Minh City $59 $635
20 Indonesia Jakarta $57 $614

Download Global Premium Office Rent Tracker Q4 2018 here.

About JLL

JLL (NYSE: JLL) is a leading professional services firm that specializes in real estate and investment management. Our vision is to reimagine the world of real estate, creating rewarding opportunities and amazing spaces where people can achieve their ambitions. In doing so, we will build a better tomorrow for our clients, our people and our communities. JLL is a Fortune 500 company with annual revenue of $16.3 billion, operations in over 80 countries and a global workforce of over 91,000 as of March 31, 2019. JLL is the brand name, and a registered trademark, of Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated. For further information, visit jll.com.

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