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£3B affordable homes scheme proposed in UK; £600M London project approved

* U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond outlined in the Spring Statement a new Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme that will provide £3 billion worth of loans to housing associations to enable the delivery of roughly 30,000 new affordable homes, Property Week reported.

* Aviva Investors and Galliard Homes Ltd. received planning consent for a new £600 million development at 520 Old Kent Road in London, Construction Enquirer reported. The five-acre Cantium Retail Park scheme will include London's fourth-tallest residential tower, rising 48 floors, in addition to shops and offices.

The project will include four buildings rising 37 stories, two rising 11 stories and one with nine stories, all surrounding a central podium. The residential component will comprise more than 1,000 units, divided into private sale, shared ownership and social-rented homes. Construction is expected to last six years.

UK

* Office take-up in the central London market totaled 524,900 square feet in February, marking a 41% jump from January, according to CBRE.

* Flexible office space provider Knotel Inc.'s co-founder and chairman Edward Shenderovich told PW at the MIPIM property conference in Cannes, France, that the company intends to triple or quadruple its 14 London locations in 2019. The company had taken up 60,000 square feet across six buildings in London between November 2018 and February.

* The U.K. government's Housing Infrastructure Fund has provided £250 million in funding to Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corp. to assemble land and lay out roads and utilities infrastructure for the Old Oak North scheme in west London, PW reported. Old Oak North is the first of six new neighborhoods planned at the 650-hectare site that is expecting the arrival of an HS2 and Crossrail station in 2026.

The full redevelopment of industrial land at Old Oak and Park Royal is expected to result in 25,500 new homes and commercial spaces worth a total of £7.6 billion, the publication noted.

* MEPC plans to develop a 200,000-square-foot speculative office project in the Noma scheme in Manchester, PW reported. The 4 Angel Square building will rise 11 stories.

* The Birmingham City Council is searching for investment and development partners for a housing-led regeneration project in Birmingham's Ladywood area, PW reported. The procurement process for the 150-acre project is slated to commence March 26.

* A joint venture between developer Court Collaboration Ltd., the City of Wolverhampton Council and West Midlands Combined Authority unveiled plans for the £250 million Brewers Yard scheme that will deliver a neighborhood on 10 acres of brownfield land neighboring the University of Wolverhampton's Springfield campus, Construction Enquirer reported. The project is expected to contain some of the city's tallest towers, according to the report.

* U.S. private equity firm Lone Star Global Acquisitions Ltd. is handing over to lenders the remaining assets in a U.K. shopping center portfolio that it acquired from Rockspring in 2014 for £260 million using a £200 million loan from Citi, PW reported.

Austrian lender BAWAG Group AG, which provided the senior mezzanine loan for the acquisition of the portfolio, is set to receive the properties, including the Mercury Mall in Romford and Marlands in Southampton, according to the publication, citing Debtwire. The debt market intelligence platform also mentioned Citi and Oz Real Estate as the other lenders.

* The U.K. Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts U.K. home prices to drop 0.3% in 2019, a revision from its previous forecast of a 3.2% growth in 2019 that it provided in October 2018, London's Financial Times reported. The independent body noted that leading indicators of housing activity and prices had "weakened noticeably" since its previous forecast.

For 2020, it now forecasts a growth of 2.6%, compared to expected growth of 3.1% in its previous forecast.

* U.K. commercial real estate investments in the first two months of 2019 totaled £5 billion, compared to £9.2 billion in the same period in 2018, Property Magazine International reported, citing Colliers International.

France

* Covivio plans to suspend the exercise of rights related to the conversion of €200.0 million of 0.875% convertible bonds due 2021 into ordinary shares of the company.

The suspension of the exercise of rights will be considered at the upcoming April 17 annual general meeting of Covivio's shareholders, and it is proposed that the suspension take effect from Feb. 20, the date of the meeting of the board of directors, to May 10.

Italy

* UBS Asset Management AG bought the La Forgiatura business campus in Milan on behalf of two institutional investors in what is the first deal for UBS AM Real Estate & Private Markets' European Club Deal strategy, IPE Real Assets reported. According to the news outlet, UBS did not disclose the acquisition price but said it was a "low three-digit million amount."

The property offers 30,000 square meters of grade A office space in nine buildings, with one more under construction, along with 400 on-site parking spaces.

Eastern Europe

* Cromwell European REIT paid €69.3 million for three office assets in Poland totaling 34,496 square meters, IPE Real Assets reported. Two of the properties are in Warsaw, and the third is in Gdansk.

* On behalf of Generali Real Estate Fund CEE, Generali Real Estate acquired the mixed-use Palac Spork asset in Prague, Czech Republic, from SEBRE for an undisclosed price, Europe Real Estate reported. The 1925-built property was fully renovated and expanded in 2017 and offers roughly 10,000 square meters of office and retail space. The property is fully let. SEBRE will continue as property manager at the asset.

Middle East

* Citing Qatari state news agency QNA, Reuters reported that the country's cabinet intends to identify new areas in which foreigners can own real estate in a bid to draw more investments. According to the news agency, 10 new locations would be identified where foreigners can have full ownership, and they would also be able to own villas in residential complexes and shops in commercial complexes.

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