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Fringe CBD offices build momentum; Record year for investment
SHANGHAI, 10 January 2017 – Vacancy in Shanghai's CBD office market edged up this quarter, and competition from decentralized areas put downward pressure on CBD rents following a strong first half of 2016. "We continue to see strong performance in decentralized properties, particularly those in fringe CBD areas close to the existing CBDs," said Eddie Ng, Managing Director for JLL East China. Shanghai remained a clear favorite among investors as overall transaction volumes in China set another annual record. In the logistics sector, strong fourth quarter demand boosted annual non-bonded absorption to a record high. Multiple malls opened to strong foot traffic in decentralized areas as F&B and experience-oriented brands continued to drive retail demand. In the residential sector, new restrictive policies led to a decline in both sales and new supply, as well as a moderation in price growth.
Fringe CBD markets flourish in 2016. The decentralised market recorded net absorption of 563,000 sqm this year, surpassing the previous five years' annual average of 396,000 sqm. Head of Markets for JLL Shanghai James Allan noted that "Fringe CBD areas became particularly attractive to cost-conscious CBD tenants looking to consolidate or expand, as well as to companies that are seeking upgrade options from older properties." The CBD market saw slower leasing activities towards year-end, partially due to competition from decentralized areas. City-level commercial banks, insurance firms, and securities companies led demand in Pudong, while technology and communications rose as an emerging demand source in Puxi, alongside non-finance professional services and retail firms.
Seven new completions add 421,000 sqm to stock in 4Q. In the CBD area, Century Link Tower 2 (64,850 sqm) and SOHO Tianshan Plaza (72,000 sqm) respectively reached completion in Pudong and Puxi. Five projects with a total GFA of 284,000 sqm reached completion in the decentralised market. Vacancy increased 1.5 ppt to 9.1% in the Puxi CBD, and rose 1.4 ppt q-o-q to 7.9% in the Pudong CBD. Decentralised vacancy increased 2.2 ppt to 18.1% due to the quarter's large new supply.
Rents strong in the decentralised market despite large supply. Decentralised rents increased 4.4% y-o-y, thanks in large part to new projects and fringe CBDs with maturing business environments. CBD rents had a strong first half of the year, but increasing competition from decentralised areas and upcoming new supply has led rents to trend downwards in recent quarters.
Strong buying demand and large volume of new supply drives 2016 transaction volume to a historical high. Sales volume in Shanghai's high-end strata-titled office market reached 499,106 sqm in 4Q16, rising 191%% q-o-q and breaking the previous quarterly record set in 2Q16. For 2016 overall, annual transaction volumes rose 93%% y-o-y to reach a record high of 1,019,067 sqm. Similar to the past three quarters, domestic companies continued to demonstrate strong buying demand. In 4Q16, ten new projects with total GFA of 252,194 sqm launched in the high-end strata-titled office market, driving new launch volume for the full year to 814,379 sqm. Most new completions in the quarter are located in North Bund and Hongqiao Transportation Hub submarkets.
Domestic investors push transaction volume to another annual record. For the full year 2016, transaction volumes in China reached a record RMB 210 billion, an increase of 54% y-o-y. Following a slow first half, the market saw a recovery towards the end of the year, with 4Q16 transaction volume reaching RMB 93.0 billion, which was a 49% q-o-q increase and a 42% y-o-q gain. Johnny Shao, Head of Capital Markets for Shanghai and East China, said: "this transaction volume was largely supported by domestic Chinese buyers who - in addition to aggressively pushing into overseas markets - have also stepped up their activity in key Chinese markets like Shanghai and Beijing. " Chinese investors accounted for 86% of transactions in China this year, up from about 70-75% in the past few years.
Shanghai remains the top investment destination in China in 2016. Shanghai continued to dominate the China's property investment market this year. "Total transaction volumes in the city reached RMB 92.8 billion, accounting for 44% of China's total investment volume," said Johnny Shao. Beijing was the runner-up, accounting for 22% of all the transaction volume in 2016, while Shenzhen came in third, reaching 4% of the total. As in previous years, the office market accounted for the largest share of commercial transactions with 52% of total deals in China. Mixed-use properties accounted for 15%, and retail space was 14%. As a result of strong online sales, warehouse and industrial demand increased from about 1-2% of total transactions in the past to 7% of total in 2016. The Shanghai office sector accounted for 67% of all office transactions and remained the clear winner in the investment market in China as most potential buyers - most notably domestic players - continued to see Shanghai as a strong long-term investment environment.
Fourth quarter sees Shanghai's largest single asset deal on record. The largest transaction in 2016 was Shanghai Century Link's RMB 20 billion purchase by a joint venture of ARA Asset Management and mainland insurer China Life, a deal which also set an all-time price record for the purchase of a single asset in Shanghai. In the office segment, the second largest transaction in 2016 was China Jinmao's sale of Shanghai International Shipping Institute Building to China's State Development Investment Corporation (SDIC) for RMB 5.3 billion price tag, while SOHO China's sale of SOHO Century Avenue to Guohua Life Insurance came in third at RMB 3.2 billion. In the retail space, JLL was responsible for the largest transaction in 2016, as Chongbang Development conducted an 80% equity stake buyback of Shanghai's Jinqiao Life Hub for RMB 5.5 billion. In addition, among portfolio deals, Legend Holdings' RMB 13.8 billion was the largest transaction in 2016, followed by COFCO's sale of its Joy City portfolio for RMB 9.3 billion.
Strong fourth quarter demand boosts annual take-up to record high. Non-bonded net absorption reached 173,000 sqm in 4Q16, pushing annual take-up to a record high of nearly 550,000 sqm. With space in West Shanghai still limited, absorption in 4Q16 was concentrated in Baoshan and the Pudong Airport (PVG) submarkets. For example, Goodman leased out approximately 90,000 sqm in the third phase of its PVG project. "3PLs continued to play a dominant role in the leasing market," said Stuart Ross, Head of Industrial for JLL China. For example, China Post leased 20,000 sqm in the Goodman PVG project. Other international and domestic 3PLs leased over 100,000 sqm across the city. In addition, e-commerce firms also leased considerable space in the Greater Shanghai area. Automobile companies seeking space for whole car storage also contributed to the quarter's takeup.
No completions in the fourth quarter. Two projects planned for 4Q16 were pushed back to early 2017. With leasing activity strong and no new projects completed in the quarter, non-bonded vacancy dropped from 10.8% to 7.3%. Among all submarkets, PVG saw the largest decline in local vacancy, which fell from 29.1% to 4%. The decline was mostly due to strong leasing in Goodman's project there. In addition, strong leasing in GLP's Baoshan project helped reduce vacancy in Baoshan by 10 percentage points.
Rents remain near flat despite large absorption. Rents edged up only slightly as landlords of projects with remaining vacancy continued to be cautious. Rental growth continued to diverge in the city: average rents increased by 0.6% q-o-q in West Shanghai, compared to a moderate 0.2% increase in East Shanghai, where vacancy tends to be higher.
Continued strong demand from F&B and experience-oriented brands. Fashion retailer sentiment improved this quarter, as several brands experienced y-o-y sales increases after a weak first half of 2016. Most brands continued to be conservative in opening new stores, however, as they remained cautious about overcommitting. Overall leasing patterns remained similar to earlier in the year. F&B demand remained strong, particularly from mid-range restaurants serving regional Chinese cuisine, as well as small casual shops like juice bars, which benefited from collaboration with mobile take-out dining apps. Children's retailers continued to expand, as did fitness centers, sportswear brands and other tenants promoting healthy lifestyles.
One prime and five decentralized projects opened in 4Q16. Qibao Vanke Plaza and Longfor Paradise Walk opened in the decentralized Qibao and Hongqiao submarkets. "While it is still too early to assess sales performance, both of these large projects opened with high occupancy and strong foot traffic," observed James Hawkey, Head of Retail for JLL China. Community mall RHTD Luna Plaza Phase 2 opened in Hongkou, while Macrolink mall opened in Minhang and 118 Plaza Phase 2 completed its refurbishment in Putuo. Vanke's Infinitus opened in the prime area. Vacancy decreased slightly to 9.7% in prime areas as projects in mature submarkets improved occupancy; Vacancy decreased to 9.4% in the decentralized market as most new projects opened with higher than average occupancy. Several projects originally scheduled for 2016 were pushed back to 2017, a result of delays related construction, permitting, leasing, as well as sales and purchase activity. Notable projects rescheduled to 2017 include Century Link and the Bund International Financial Center.
Prime rental growth slows. Prime ground floor base rental growth decelerated from 2.8% y-o-y to 1.3%, reaching RMB 51.6 per sqm per day. Prime rents have been impacted by weak or falling rents in struggling submarkets like West Nanjing Road. Decentralized rents held up better, slowing from 3.0% y-o-y to 2.9% y-o-y to reach RMB 20.4 per sqm per day.
Sales fall due to limited supply and restrictive measures. Following a buying spree in 3Q16, Shanghai's government announced a series of tightening measures to cool down the market. Coupled with limited new supply, the new policy led to a plunge in the city's residential sales volume. Mass market and high-end sales respectively fell 50% q-o-q and 29% q-o-q. That said, buoyant demand from upgraders prevented a steeper decline in sales momentum, with sales strong in the quarter's newly launched projects. For example, One Majesty launched 137 units, of which 84 units were sold in 4Q16. In the leasing market, rents declined by 0.9% q-o-q as demand slightly softened towards the year end.
New supply falls sharply, while developers' appetite for land fades. New supply in the mass market contracted 34% q-o-q as the government tightened policy. In the high-end segment, the quarter saw only two projects launch a combined 275 new units for sale, representing a sharp decline of 76% from the previous quarter. In addition, as the local government stepped up efforts to scrutinize funding sources for land acquisitions, developers' appetites for land purchases faded. As a result, almost all of the 26 residential-use land plots sold in 4Q16 were traded at reserve prices.
Price growth moderates. Despite the new tightening policy, most developers remained upbeat given low inventories and solid demand from upgraders. Growth in high-end prices in the primary market rose a further 1.0% q-o-q in 4Q16, down moderately from last quarter's 1.6%. For the full year of 2016, high-end prices are up 14.3%. In the secondary market, prices rose a further 2.7% q-o-q this quarter after growing 3.0% in 3Q16. For the full year of 2016, the average secondary price surged 21.3% y-o-y, driven by strong buying demand. The rise in capital values, coupled with the slight dip in rents, led to a further compression in yields in 4Q16.
Sales expected to remain low, while prices should stabilize. "Shanghai's housing policy stance is likely to remain tight throughout 2017, because stabilising the housing market is a top political priority," said Stephenie Zhou, Head of Project Sales for JLL Shanghai. As such, sales in the mass market will likely stay low over the next 12 months. In the high-end segment, sales are also expected to be relatively muted in 2017, mainly due to limited new supply in the pipeline. However, given solid demand from upgraders, we expect prices to remain stable in the months to come.
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JLL (NYSE: JLL) is a professional services and investment management firm offering specialized real estate services to clients seeking increased value by owning, occupying and investing in real estate. A Fortune 500 company with annual fee revenue of $5.2 billion and gross revenue of $6.0 billion, JLL has more than 280 corporate offices, operates in more than 80 countries and has a global workforce of more than 70,000. On behalf of its clients, the firm provides management and real estate outsourcing services for a property portfolio of 4.0 billion square feet, or 372 million square meters, and completed $138 billion in sales, acquisitions and finance transactions in 2015. As of September 30, 2016, its investment management business, LaSalle Investment Management, has $59.7 billion of real estate assets under management. JLL is the brand name, and a registered trademark, of Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated. For further information, www.jll.com.
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