July 11, 2012 11:30 pm
US insurer to scale up European profile - From ft.com
Do you reckon they might want to build this on the Pinnacle site? They say next door to Lloyds and I can't think of any other locations?
A large US insurer has struck a deal with the City of London to build its own skyscraper, underlining the rapidly growing presence of international insurers in the Square Mile.
WR Berkley, which has a market value of $5.4bn, is understood to have agreed terms with the City’s planning authorities to construct a 40-storey tower next door to the offices of Lloyd’s of London.
WR Berkley is among the largest providers of insurance to midsized companies in the US. The company is scaling up its operations in Europe, with offices in Germany, Ireland, Spain and Norway. The agreement to build its own skyscraper follows a flurry of deals by US insurers to expand their office space in the centre of London, taking advantage of the shrinking of banks, which have long dominated the City office market.
In January, Aon signed a lease on 191,000 sq ft of office space in the nearby Leadenhall building, under construction and nicknamed the Cheese Grater. Meanwhile, Markel took up a 51,000 sq ft pre-let agreement last month on Land Securities’ 36-storey Walkie-Talkie building.
The building would become one of five skyscrapers under construction in the Square Mile, which, in contrast to the low levels of development outside of the UK capital, has seen a spike in demand for new office space. The buildings are expected to capture some of the demand arising from lease expiries and breaks, expected to hit 3m sq ft a year in the City until 2017.
However, the City is undergoing a transformation in terms of its occupiers. Many of the large investment banks have relocated to Canary Wharf, favouring the wide floor plates and ability to have all of their staff in one building. The cost of office space in the City is also a big driver. Prime office rents in Canary Wharf are at £36 per sq ft a year, compared with £55 per sq ft in the City.
The departure of many traditional occupiers has opened the door for other industries, such as technology, media and professional services businesses.
However, it is the rise of the insurance sector in the City market which has spurred on letting activity during the first half of this year. A recent report from CBRE, the estate agents, said that there are 13 insurers actively searching for a combined 1m sq ft of office space in central London.