The world’s most expensive city to rent an office is no longer London

Comes at a cost.
Comes at a cost.
Image: Reuters/Bobby Yip
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London’s West End is a notoriously expensive place to set up offices, but it’s no longer the priciest.

Hong Kong offices are now the world’s most expensive to rent, according to a report published this week by real estate consultancy Cushman & Wakefield. The Asian financial hub has replaced London to become the globe’s most expensive place for companies to house staff, for the first time since 2013. The finding is based on surveys on occupancy costs across 214 markets in around 60 countries.

Measured by average annual cost per workstation, Hong Kong’s office rents went up 6% year-over-year to $27,431 at the end of the second quarter, according to the report, whereas costs in London fell 19% during the same period.

For the same cost of housing 100 staff in Hong Kong, the report says, 300 can be accommodated in Toronto, 500 in Madrid, and 900 in Mumbai.

Chinese companies with deep pockets, the report says, have played a big part in pushing up Hong Kong’s office rents. Financial institutions such as state-owned China Huarong Asset Management and Tianjin-headquartered Bohai Bank are the latest to set up offices in International Finance Centre, Hong Kong’s second-tallest skyscraper. Chinese executives tend to choose prestigious office buildings to raise their global images, John Siu Leung-fai, managing director at Cushman & Wakefield’s Hong Kong office, told Nikkei Asian Review (paywall). 

Recently Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s richest tycoon, sold The Center, a 73-story tower, for a record HK$40.2 billion (US$5.15 billion) to a consortium of Chinese and Hong Kong buyers, in the world’s most expensive real estate transaction.

By contrast, the plunge in London’s office rents were due mostly to the pound’s depreciation, the report says, triggered by Britain’s decision to pull itself out of the European Union.

Hong Kong also ranks after Singapore as the world’s second-most expensive city to live in, according to a March report from the Economist Intelligence Unit. On the bright side, Hong Kong is known for its low and simple taxation, which enjoyed a further cut recently.