US bank to rent 100,000 sq ft in West End as rates tighten

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The Independent Online
THE AMERICAN bank J P Morgan is to rent almost 100,000 sq ft of office space to house its investment and private banking arm in the biggest West End letting for two years.

As a sign of renewed confidence in the London property market, the move to King Street, near St James's Square, is not thought to be dependent on the bank being able to assign the lease on its present offices in Pall Mall.

The deal will use up almost a third of the available new office space in the upmarket St James's area, which runs from Pall Mall to Piccadilly, underlining the shortages that are expected to send rents soaring in London's West End after four years of decline.

Richard Ellis, the agent acting for the Dutch owner of Almack House, is thought to have secured a rent of pounds 43 a square foot for the 95,000 sq ft letting.

That is one of the highest rents in the West End since Cadbury Schweppes paid pounds 55 a square foot to beat off Polygram in a secret auction for its new headquarters on Berkeley Square.

According to research by rival agent Hillier Parker, average rents in St James's between May and November last year were pounds 32.50. After peaking at pounds 70 a square foot in 1990 rents fell as low as pounds 30.

Richard Ellis has already let one floor of Almack House to another US bank, State Street, for pounds 42.50, although the 10-year lease included a two-year rent free incentive.

J P Morgan would not comment on the proposed move, but the bank is known to have rejected overtures from Jones Lang Wootton for it to take a similar amount of space in Henrietta House, the only comparable building available in the West End.

The only question mark over the deal is what would become of Morgan's current lease at 83 Pall Mall, where it is thought to be paying a rent of almost pounds 50 a square foot to Hammerson, the building's owner.

Figures from Hillier Parker suggest that at current rates of take- up all the available office space in St James's will be exhausted in little over a year.

The firm says the imbalance between supply and demand has been exacerbated by an almost complete absence of property development.

The tightening of the West End market is good news for London Capital Holdings, the owner of the Berkeley Square building taken by Cadbury, which is planning a stock market flotation in May.

The former Randsworth Trust, now 100 per cent-owned by Citibank after it went into receivership in 1992, owns an extensive portfolio of West End offices and shops.

(Photograph omitted)

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