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At US$255.50 per square foot per year, Hong Kong is the most expensive place in the world to rent office space in a tower building, according to Knight Frank’s Global Cities 2016 Report.
Chinese companies are the main driver of the Hong Kong office market. In 2015, 40 to 50% of new lettings in Central involved Chinese firms, despite the uncertainties in the stock markets and the devaluation of the Renminbi.
Thomas Lam, senior director, head of valuation & consultancy, Knight Frank expects Hong Kong to continue to enjoy moderate rental growth with sustained demand from Mainland Chinese companies.
The report expects office rents in Central to go up by as much as 5% next year because of limited supply.
“The district’s office buildings are ageing, with more than 50% of the district’s Grade-A offices being over 25 years old. For some of them we see the need for renovation.
“Together with the shortage of new Grade-A offices in Central, such renovation will lead to a long-term impact to the district’s Grade-A office supply,” Lam said.
Overall vacancy rates in Hong Kong decreased to 1.7% in September, while Central’s vacancy rate was as low as 1.4%, close to the historic low of 2008.
Rents in Kowloon East will however drop by up to 5% with abundant new supply in the pipeline.
“Despite the concentration of quality stock and attractive rents in Kowloon East, it cannot replace Central in the short-term because only some firms or operations prefer relocating there.
“In the long term, the emerging Kowloon East office space will serve as complements, rather than direct competitors to Central,” said Lam.
Looking ahead, the report predicts Hong Kong is likely to face a shortage of office space of around two million square foot by 2020, equivalent to an office tower of a comparable size.
Lam is positive about the long-term outlook for premium and Grade-A office buildings in the city, due to sustained long-term demand boosted by the Mainland-Hong Kong mutual recognition of funds.