Published June 24, 2008

Office rents to rise 10%: RREEF

But no hike next year as new supply from key projects starts coming in


OFFICE rents here are expected to rise a further 10 per cent or more this year - before growth all but disappears in 2009.

Upcoming bay views: Artist's impression of the Marina Bay Financial Centre

According to a report by Deutsche Bank's property arm RREEF, rental growth is expected to 'evaporate' by 2009 as extensive new supply starts to come onstream from projects such as the Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC), Ocean Building and Marina View.

From 2010 to 2012 - when the market adds 570,000 square metres of new Grade A office space - Grade A stock is expected to increase 25 per cent, the report says.

'The vacancy rate, currently near one per cent, will shoot up to 2005 levels by the time this new wave of supply is all brought on line,' it adds.

RREEF expects rent momentum - the 'general momentum behind the potential changes in rent, not an absolute variation in rates' - to decrease in 2010 and 2011, then stabilise in 2012.

In its report, Asia Pacific Property Cycle Monitor, it says each property sector has a clearly identifiable cycle with four main phases:

# recovery (high but declining vacancy rates - stable to rising rents);

# growth (low and declining vacancy rates - rising rents supportive of construction);

# post-growth (low but increasing vacancy rates - rising/flattening rents); and

# contraction (high or increasing vacancy rates - falling rents).

'The office market has the greatest volatility of the three main commercial sectors,' says RREEF. 'The retail and industrial sectors are less volatile due to the relatively high levels of owner-occupation, with less investment activity and limited modern supply, particularly in the industrial sector.'

While the office sector is currently still in the growth stage, a post-growth stage is expected in 2009, followed by two years of contraction, and finally recovery in 2012.

On the upside, the retail property sector is expected to remain in the growth stage until at least 2012.

RREEF attributes this to a 'broad construction boom' and 'robust economy'. 'Two new malls in the Orchard Road area will join the island's existing stock of dated retail space in 2008, which could spur structural change in the market,' it says. 'Extensive pre-leasing of this space will keep Singapore's retail vacancy rate steady in the one per cent range.'

RREEF expects retail rental growth to average 3 per cent per annum between now and 2012.

It also sees the industrial property market booming - especially business parks. It projects growth until 2010, when a post- growth stage will kick in until at least 2012. Rents, which grew at double-digit levels in 2006 and 2007, should continue to rise this year, before the rate of increase tapers off to single digits.

While the spillover effect from the office sector has led some companies to turn to business-park space for their back-office operations, RREEF reckons that this effect will 'diminish' when the large supply of new office space comes onstream from 2010.

It also adds a note of caution: 'While it poses no immediate competitive threat to Singapore, Malaysia's long-term plan to develop the Iskandar Development Region in Johor will be a project with structural implications for Singapore, and its progress should be monitored over the long-term.'