In July we acquired two properties for our clients: a 28,000sqft office in Watford let to a subsidiary of WPP for £14.5m and a 39,000sqft office in Brentwood let to Sky for £19.3m.
Regular readers of this blog will be aware that our thematic investment approach, built around our themes of technology, demography and infrastructure, underpins everything we do. These two deals are perfect examples of this in action.
Clarendon Road, Watford
Technology’s impact on the world of work reduces the need for occupiers to cluster in expensive Central London real estate. But rather than negating the requirement for offices themselves, it re-enforces their need to be in accessible locations that provide transient staff with a place to work, meet and collaborate. Technology is thus supporting demand for select M25 and regional office markets.
Because technology gives employees complete flexibility about where, when and how work is done, successful offices must be appealing to talent if they are to be used which is focusing demand on quality space. Technology is increasing the value of knowledge-based workers for whom corporates are competing fiercely. The war for talent further magnifies the value of providing a dynamic environment for staff recruitment and retention and for enabling productivity.
The Brentford property is being comprehensively refurbished to a high specification by Sky. The Watford asset is a new build, Grade A building with a “very good” BREEAM rating. Both comprise best-in-class offices within their respective markets, perfectly aligned with our strategy.
Office workers are changing. Younger staff value lifestyle and want to be in mixed-use locations that provide opportunities to live, work and play. Watford and Brentford provide holistic offers combining office, retail, entertainment and residential uses. Crucially for young talent, house prices are relatively affordable too giving them a better chance to attain their desired lifestyle.
Reliable transport links have immense value to occupiers. Watford is just 14 minutes by rail from London Euston. Rail accessibility to Brentford will be revolutionised with Crossrail in 2019. Additional investment in place-making, urban domain, retail, leisure and housing infrastructure supports the long-term attraction of these markets to occupiers.
Our thematic approach tells us that Watford and Brentford are winning locations aligned to future occupational demand. But this strategic view is not enough to support these deals unless it is combined with positive bottom-up market analysis.
Watford and Brentford have both seen a sizeable loss of office stock for residential uses due to permitted development rights. This improves the rental growth prospects of remaining stock. Office rents in both markets look affordable on a relative basis which implies scope for future growth. Acquiring these properties ahead of an expected rental uplift means that we have confidence in their ability to deliver long-term value to our clients.
Senior Analyst - Investment Strategy and Risk