Date: May 08 2012
INCOMING QBE boss John Neal is set to put his stamp on the business when he joins in August, opting to move the $16 billion insurer from its ageing Sydney headquarters.
The move marks a change of pace after long-serving chief executive Frank O'Halloran last decade personally oversaw the refit of the art deco-inspired 82 Pitt Street office built in the early 1940s. It also follows the trend of several financial services companies shifting to new headquarters in recent years - ANZ, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank.
The departure has allowed these offices to be redeveloped but the owners of the assets prefer to have a lease signed before the start of major works.
Despite recent developments in Melbourne and the pending $6 billion Barangaroo development in Sydney, the average CBD vacancy rates in the two cities, of between 6 and 7 per cent, is considered equilibrium.
This means there is limited continuous space available for an average CBD-based company.
According to office leasing agents, QBE has issued instructions to look for as much as 20,000 square metres within the ''core'' of the city, ready for occupancy in the next three years.
The timing is less crucial given QBE owns its head office. But the move could also involve all or part of its business from its other insurance business at its 85 Harrington Street property. QBE declined to comment. Suggested new places that are being closely considered by the board include MLC Centre when law firm Freehills moves to 161 Castlereagh Street after its current refurbishment, or the former Middletons space at 52 Martin Place.
There is also space at No. 1 Martin Place that Maquarie Bank will vacate by 2014 when it moves into its newly acquired 40 Martin Place. However, the bank's old space is tipped to be occupied by Charter Hall.
Other mooted movements include Ernst & Young to 190-200 George Street when Mirvac completes that upgrade by about 2015-16. Lend Lease is also expected to confirm that Westpac will lease about 60,000 sq m at Barangaroo, along with KPMG for about 30,000 sq m.
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