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According to JLL Beijing's Second Quarter Property Market Review
Beijing, 12 July 2018 – "Strong office demand has kept up with new supply across Beijing, driving the CBD vacancy rate down to a record low in the quarter," said Julien Zhang, Managing Director for JLL North China. Meanwhile, in the retail sector, smart electronics and appliance retailers actively expanded in the market. Foreign investors continued to actively search for opportunities in Beijing, after securing funds for the China market as more money was put into Asia. Third-party logistics firms and e-commerce companies continued to drive demand, although leasing activity was limited in the tight market. Luxury apartment price growth remained negative in the primary market for a fourth consecutive quarter, as price restrictions remained in place under the tight-policy environment.
Grade A Office
Demand from domestic finance firms picked up after stalling in the previous quarter. Financial institutions regained the confidence required to implement growth plans in the quarter, following a merger between the national banking and insurance regulators in 1Q18 and a spike in regulatory fines in 2017. At the same time in the quarter, Chinese state-owned regional banks were forced to hand back office space in Beijing. Municipal authorities worked to enforce existing regulations requiring such banks to focus on regional economic development rather than chase opportunities in the capital.
The tight-vacancy rate in the CBD recorded a record low of 3.2% in the quarter. Driven by limited supply, construction delays, and strong demand from occupiers with various requirements, CBD vacancy edged down further in 2Q18, as did rates in most submarkets. AVIC Building (80,000 sqm) was completed in Wangjing, but had little impact on the overall vacancy rate due to its large self-use component and strong pre-commitment rate, predominantly from IT and high-tech firms.
Rental growth was positive in all submarkets and proved strongest in the CBD – where the vacancy rate narrowed to a historic low – and neighbouring areas. Finance Street rental growth was relatively subdued, however, after very few leasing enquiries were made in the previous quarter. "CBD landlords were able to leverage the tight-vacancy environment to raise rents as tenants wasted little time in securing core locations that remained available," said Eric Hirsch, Head of Office Leasing for JLL in Beijing. "Given the continued delays in new building completions, rents in highly sought-after core areas such as the CBD are expected to continue to climb steadily through end-2018."
New Everbright Center (Building 2) sold for around RMB 4 billion, marking the highest-profile transaction in Beijing during the quarter. Purchased by Postal Savings Bank of China, the office building (76,800 sqm GFA) belongs to a mixed-used complex under construction in Tongzhou. The sale continues the trend of state-owned banks purchasing assets in the emerging submarket, where the municipal government will relocate as the area is developed into the sub-centre of Beijing. In a deal announced in early July, Allianz purchased ZLink from Kailong Group and Goldman Sachs. The 31,000 sqm-business park in Zhongguncun was reported to be valued between US$ 185 million and US$ 196 million.
In the quarter, foreign investors continued to actively search for opportunities in Beijing, particularly as funds were secured for the China market as more money was put into Asia. In its largest-ever fund-raising activity, US private equity firm Blackstone raised US$ 7.1 billion to invest in real estate across Asia. UK-based real estate asset manager AEW Capital Management also announced that it had raised US$ 1.12 billion for an Asia Pacific property fund that includes Beijing as a target market. "As foreign investors become more active in Asia, we expect to see them buying more assets in Beijing and across China," said Michael Wang, Head of Capital Markets for North China at JLL. "At the same time, with several major deals already under negotiations in Beijing, we can expect to see more deals close in the coming months. All of this will help drive investment growth in Beijing during the second half of the year, and may lead the 2018 investment volume to outperform 2017 levels."
Note: Prime Retail refers to the Urban market. *New Supply is inclusive of the Suburban market.
Smart electronics and appliance retailers actively expanded in the market, with a focus on experience stores. Popular UK household appliance-maker Dyson opened its first experience store in Beijing, marking its third such store in China. Wireless speaker and home sound systems retailer Sonos and PC giant Dell also opened new stores in the quarter. Meanwhile, designated art galleries and cultural exhibitions have become a baseline requirement for prime regional and destination malls. WF Central's 'Serpentine Galleries' exhibit from London was the highest-profile opening in 2Q18, while Raffles City and Xidan Joy City also introduced new art exhibits in the quarter.
In the quarter, key openings included one premium children's project in the CBD and one suburban mall in south Beijing. Space 3 opened in the CBD with a focus on the premium children's market, targeting parents of students attending the nearby Beijing City International School and young families in the area. Developed by the same operator of the well-established school, the project entered the market with high commitment. In the suburbs, Han's Plaza unexpectedly opened after sitting vacant for more than two years following completion. The quality mall entered the market with a strong tenant mix: nearly 75% of brands entered suburban Yizhuang in south Beijing for the first time.
Theme park operators and related retailers are expected to grow their presence in Beijing, with some planning to use malls as a location for expansion in the city. For example, Merlin Entertainments announced plans in the quarter to open its second Peppa Pig theme park in China in Beijing, after committing to its third China Legoland Discovery Center in Beijing at Changing Paradise Walk. "The growth potential of the children's sector in Beijing makes the city an attractive place to open theme parks and expand related retail," said Queenie Qu, Head of Retail Leasing for JLL in Beijing. "Strong-performing suburban malls make sense as locations for expansion because these properties tend to have large spaces available for lease at lower rents."
Third-party logistics firms and e-commerce companies continued to drive demand, although leasing activity was limited in the tight market. In the quarter, a leading domestic 3PL firm leased around 6,000 sqm in GLP Park Daxing. Few other deals were recorded in the quarter, however, given the lack of new supply and limited leasable space in the market.
The tight-vacancy environment remained with the overall vacancy rate unchanged from the previous quarter at 0.5%, following delays from two projects. In 2Q18, two projects were expected to enter the market in Tongzhou, but were postponed due to construction delays. The overall vacancy rate (0.5%) rested at the same level recorded in 1Q18, which marked a new five-year low for the market. For a fourth straight quarter, no primary land plots for warehouses were transacted in 2Q18.
The tight market enabled landlords to raise rents by 1.8% q-o-q to RMB 1.22 per sqm per day in the quarter. Although rental growth was flat q-o-q, rents strengthened on a y-o-y basis, reaching a five-year high of 6.5% annual growth. "Landlords continue to benefit from the tight market," said Michael Hart, Head of Industrial Leasing for North China at JLL. "Their bargaining power is expected to remain high through end-2018, particularly as leasable space in the more coveted mature areas remains scarce."
Capital Values Growth
High-end residential sales continued to be restrained by the tightening policies. Although the luxury apartment sales volume grew 44.8% q-o-q as lower prices attracted buyers, the figure was down 13.4% y-o-y due to the tightening policies that continued to restrain demand. The tight-policy environment had a similar impact on the villa market, which recorded a 62.4% q-o-q decline in the sales volume.
No new luxury supply entered the market, as housing authorities slowed pre-sale permits and continued to push newly launched units into the mass market. Similarly, the villa market saw limited supply in the quarter; just one project was launched on the market in 2Q18. Land supply was also scarce in the quarter. Only three land plots were transacted, down significantly from 17 land plots in the previous quarter.
Primary luxury apartment price growth remained negative for a fourth consecutive quarter, as the high-end residential price caps remained in place. In 2Q18, primary luxury apartment price growth was recorded at -1.6% q-o-q. Under stable demand and limited supply, villa prices rose 3.4% q-o-q. "Given that there are no signs of the price restrictions being lifted anytime soon, we continue to forecast negative price growth in the luxury apartment market through 2018," said Joe Zhou, Head of Research for China at JLL. "On the other hand, we can expect greater loosening in policy for the rental apartment market, after we saw housing authorities give insurance companies the green light to invest in rental housing in June."
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