Confidence in the UK’s commercial property sector has fallen for the first time in almost a year amid fears about the economic fallout of the Eurozone crisis.
According to survey data released last Friday by Lloyds Banking Group, the UK’s largest commercial lender, confidence in the prospects of the industry are being pushed lower by fund managers, only 10% of whom expect activity to increase within the next six months.
Large businesses were more positive, however, with more than two-thirds intending to increase their exposure to the sector.
Lloyds is well placed to gauge industry sentiment, having inherited a large loan book from its takeover of HBOS.
The group owns more than £60 Billion (GBP) or $93 Billion (USD) of commercial property loans.
Lloyds’ Managing Director of Corporate Real Estate, Lynda Shillaw said: “This quarter’s market overview suggests that weakening prospects for the world economy, turbulence in global financial markets and Europe’s sovereign debt crisis are impacting negatively on UK commercial property confidence.”
Added to the news that UK retail surveyors are reporting an increase in vacant retail units and the picture becomes even gloomier for landlords with commercial premises on the British high street.
According to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, (RICS), the number of retail surveyors who saw an increase in available shop space rose 14% during the three months to September,
The 29% net balance of those seeing a rise in availability, up from 15% in the last quarter, is a worrying omen for the retail property sector, which is suffering from falling consumer confidence as well as a massive tightening in lending from UK banks.
The number of respondents reporting increased demand for shop space fell, with the net balance declining from 12% in the second quarter to -19% during the three months to October.
Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist said; “There is a suspicion that the recovery that was expected is no longer coming, and with more stock coming through and demand falling, rents are going to come under pressure. The resolution of the sovereign debt crisis in Europe would go some way to alleviating the concerns, but confidence is crucial to the retail sector and at the moment it is hard to see where the good news story is coming from”.
Across the wider commercial property sector, demand levels slipped back for the first time since last year, with a net balance of surveyors seeing demand among tenants falling to -11% from a 10 % positive balance during the last quarter.
Landlords across the sector also offered special deals and discounts to encourage retail tenants to take up commercial property rental agreements.
Over the last three months, 20% of commercial landlords said the need for inducements had been increasing and many felt that landlords were under increasing pressure to incorporate more flexibility into their leases.
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