Where does Melbourne’s Southbank rank?

October 17, 2016 / By  

Melbourne’s Southbank Riverside attracted a disproportionally large share of capital in the third quarter of this year. Transaction volumes for the three-month period accounted for approximately 50% of the AUD 1.4 billion (USD 1.1 billion) transacted year to date. Southbank Riverside is a small but significant component of the Melbourne CBD office market, accounting for 4.3% of total CBD stock (6.8% of prime stock).

In Q3 the following assets in Southbank Riverside transacted:

  • HWT Tower, 40 City Road (apportioned value AUD 194.2 million)
  • IBM, 60 City Road (apportioned value AUD 244.9 million)
  • Twenty8 Freshwater Place (AUD 286.0 million).

These sales represent 49.2% of the total precinct by NLA (Net Lettable Area). Currently JLL is marketing 12 Riverside Quay.  A sale would mean that just under 60% of the total stock would have transacted in 2016.

A changing ownership profile

A number of domestic wholesale funds and large-cap REITs have divested holdings in the precinct. DEXUS, Frasers Property and GPT Wholesale Office Fund were active vendors over the quarter. A number of these groups are identifying opportunities to undertake tactical disposals, crystalise capital gains and recycle profits into new projects/investment opportunities or reduce gearing. An availability of investment grade product has enabled large international fund managers such as ARA Asset Management and J.P. Morgan to gain exposure to the Southbank Riverside precinct over the quarter.

The REIT sector remains active within the precinct. Mirvac is constructing a new Melbourne HQ for PwC and has secured superannuation fund ISPT for a 50% takeout of the completed product.

What is attracting a new cohort of investors?

Southbank offers CBD access via a pedestrian bridge and connects to Flinders Street Station. Flinders Street Station provides connections to Melbourne’s white collar employees – a disproportionately high number lives to the East and South of the Melbourne CBD. The market fundamentals of Southbank Riverside have been positive, with the precinct recording an average vacancy rate 2.4 percentage-points lower than the greater CBD, over the last ten years. Investors are also drawn to the diverse nature of the tenant profile in Southbank Riverside – IBM, LinkedIn CPA Australia and PwC are all located in the precinct. The strength of the precinct as a corporate location was underlined with PwC committing to a new office at 2 Riverside Quay.

Historically the precinct has benefited from a flight to quality, with tenants vacating older style assets in St Kilda Road for modern product in Southbank Riverside. Given the significant supply anticipated to be withdrawn from St Kilda Road, this trend is likely to continue. A long-flagged rental upswing is finally occurring in Melbourne’s CBD, with prime net effective rents increasing by 5.7% over the quarter. The new investors in Southbank are poised to capture the upswing as each of the assets had a WALE of between three and four years.

With the precinct tightly held, and limited potential commercial sites for future development, the investment proposition of Southbank Riverside remains firm. The challenge will be securing investment grade product in a tightly held market.

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