Exodus from Canary Wharf leaves it at its emptiest for 18 years

The Canary Wharf business districtCanary Wharf is at its emptiest since 2005, according to new analysis, compounding fears over the future of the financial district as big names continue to abandon their offices.

Vacancy rates at Canary Wharf hit 14.8pc in the second quarter of this year, a level last seen 18 years ago, according to data from the property information provider CoStar.

This comes as an increasing number of financial services companies shrink their offices to reflect more working from home.

A CoStar spokesman said: “With many large corporates cutting their office footprints in the Docklands, this part of London has seen particularly high vacancy rates, which we expect to continue to increase in the near-to-medium term.

“These changes in office space requirements currently affecting the Docklands have been prompted by the pandemic, which resulted in a high number of companies adopting flexible working policies whereby organisations require less office space.”

Canary Wharf in numbersThe credit ratings agency Moody’s last week prepared to join the exodus.

It houses 1200 employees at its Canary Wharf office, is said to be seeking to reduce its current footprint of 170,000 sq ft. Moody’s declined to comment on its office plans.

Canary Wharf Group – which is owned by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund and Brookfield Asset Management – was itself recently downgraded by Moody’s after it noted that the company would have difficulty in selling its offices “without offering substantial discounts”.

Moody’s threatened departure came on the heels of HSBC’s announcement that in 2027 it will abandon its Docklands tower for one in the City of London.

HSBC will leave its 45-storey skyscraper, dubbed the “tower of doom” by staff, for a smaller office at the former BT head office near St Paul’s.

Magic Circle law firm Clifford Chance last year also announced it was leaving the Docklands for the City of London. Barclays has sublet 500,000 sq ft of space at its Canary Wharf office on the market.

Credit Suisse is also trying to let empty space at its Canary Wharf headquarters. Its top nine floors were already on the market before UBS bought its Swiss rival in March.

Canary Wharf Group declined to comment. The district is attempting to reinvent itself as a home for life sciences amid a chronic shortage of suitable laboratory space.

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