NEW YORK (Reuters) – Corporate America is downsizing its real estate footprint as companies allow more employees to work from home, a growing threat to the bottom line of owners of traditional office buildings and a sign that companies are looking for ways to cut costs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
A Reuters analysis of quarterly earnings calls over the past week revealed more than 25 large companies plan to reduce their office space in the year ahead, a move designed to reduce the second-largest expense after payrolls at corporations.
Energy company Halliburton Co said it intends to close more than 100 facilities.
Financial services company State Street Corp said it is going to nearly double the workers assigned to one office before adding additional space, based on the assumption that a significant portion of its workforce will continue to work from home even after a vaccine for COVID-19 emerges.
Bedding company Sleep Number Corp plans to slow the growth of its total square footage as more consumers shop online.
“You should expect and hold us to a much lower footprint really starting quite soon,” State Street Corp’s CEO, Ronald Philip O’Hanley, said on the company’s July 17 earnings call.
Regions Financial Corp, meanwhile, told analysts: “Whether through increased use of hoteling, work from home or modified scheduling, we are confident overall office square footage will continue to decline,” as some workers share desks or stop coming into the building.
Analysts say the plans to cut back on real estate are likely the first wave of cost-cutting measures to hit office workers as companies try to maintain margins going into what may be a long recession. So far, the majority of the 14.7 million U.S. jobs lost during the pandemic have been in hard-hit areas such as restaurants, travel and retailers.
Reductions in office spending could likely be followed by layoffs and investments in technology that should help improve productivity with a reduced workforce, said Bill McMahon, chief investment officer of active equity strategies at Charles Schwab.
“Clearly, we’re seeing businesses starting to rationalise their physical plants and at some point they will turn to labor too,” he said.
Morgan Stanley in June forecast that work-from-home policies will increase vacancy rates in office buildings. Vacancy rates in New York will reach 10%-12% in the next two to five years from 8.7% now, while San Francisco will reach 7-9% from 5.8%, it predicted.
So far, concerns about declining office space use have not hurt commercial mortgaged-backed securities, with the iShares CMBS ETF up 4.4% for the year to date.
While companies tend to cut back on their real estate needs during typical recessions, the last four months of economic lockdown have shown that many workers can remain productive at home, said Danny Ismail, an analyst at independent research firm Green Street Advisors. As a result, the cutbacks that companies are making are more likely to be permanent, he said.
“Every company just went through a mass work-from-home experience and for the majority it was mostly positive,” he said.
Green Street Advisors expects that office demand will be reduced by up to 15% as a result of work from home policies once the coronavirus pandemic is contained.
That reduction in necessary space will most likely hurt real estate investment firms with large exposures in cities such as San Francisco and New York as workers are expected to be given more freedom by employers to live in lower-cost areas away from the coasts, Ismail said.
“Even before COVID-19, you’d seen a migration from majority coastal cities along the Northeast and West Coast to Sun Belt markets,” he said, referring to the region stretching from Florida to Southern California, collectively known as the Sun Belt.
“We think that will accelerate in the future as the cost of living, quality of life and ability to keep your job is much better in a post-COVID-19 world than before.”
Reporting and photo: Reuters
Atmosphere Core expands in South Asia with Atmosphere Living ultra-luxury residences
Atmosphere Core, a globally renowned name in hospitality, has announced the launch of Atmosphere Living as part of its continued expansion in South Asia. Headquartered in India, this new company will offer branded ultra-luxury residences with customised end-to-end amenities and indulgences, including coffee lounges, wine cellars, private transport, and bespoke concierge services.
The global branded residences market has experienced a remarkable 150 percent growth over the past decade, and projections indicate a surge in demand. With the real estate veteran Sandeep Ahuja at the helm as Managing Director, Atmosphere Living is strategically positioned to capitaliSe on this demand.
Atmosphere Living will focus on a conscious design philosophy. All properties will be built in harmony with the environment and will incorporate features such as smart recycling, efficient waste and water management, and green energy solutions.
Sharing his insights on the launch, Salil Panigrahi, Managing Director, Atmosphere Core, said, “Atmosphere Living will bring a distinctive offering to India, and is a brand to watch out for. It will combine Ahuja’s decades of experience, knowledge, and industry network in real estate with Atmosphere’s hospitality expertise, introducing unparalleled serviced residences in India.”
Positioned in major metropolitan areas, established second-home destinations, and undiscovered scenic locales nationwide, these projects will also present lucrative investment opportunities. Elite homeowners will have the option to lease their residences back to Atmosphere Living, allowing them to be rented out for income generation.
Sandeep Ahuja, Managing Director, Atmosphere Living, said, “There is currently a gap in the Indian realty landscape for ultra-indulgent serviced homes catering to affluent consumers. We aim to bridge this gap by curating serviced homes that offer indulgences such as entering homes using smart key cards, 24/7 butler services, fine dining, and co-working spaces, among others. Our ultimate desire is to enable our customers to experience a life of true luxury and exclusivity.”
A night of celestial wonders, luxury, and cosmic inspiration at Anantara Kihavah SKY Observatory by British astronaut Tim Peake
Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas celebrated a historic milestone with the exclusive visit of the renowned British astronaut, Tim Peake. On the evening of November 2, Astronaut Peake hosted an exclusive space talk at SKY Observatory, the finest overwater observatory in the Indian Ocean, housing the most powerful telescope in the Maldives.
Perched gracefully over the pristine Maldivian waters, SKY Observatory provided an idyllic setting for this extraordinary event, complemented by a stunning sunset. The exclusive gathering attracted a full house of eager guests to a delightful evening that seamlessly blended science, luxury, and natural beauty.
The evening commenced with a lovely cocktail reception, where guests were serenaded by the soulful tunes of a live saxophone band. Attendees savoured exquisite cocktails and canapés as they eagerly awaited Tim Peake’s presentation.
Tim Peake’s talk unveiled his personal journey, where he shared his path to becoming an astronaut and narrated the rigorous training that astronauts undergo. He provided insights into life in space, the daily challenges faced by astronauts, and the awe-inspiring experiences he encountered during his
historic mission. He also offered a glimpse into his exciting future projects, leaving the audience both inspired and spellbound.
Following Tim’s presentation, an interactive Q&A session allowed guests to engage directly with the British astronaut. The audience posed thoughtful questions, deepening their understanding of astronauts’ unique experiences and the intricacies of space exploration.
The event was further enriched by the presence of the resort’s three SKY gurus, Hammadh Rasheed, Zunnoon Ahmed, and Ali Arushal, who conducted a stargazing session for the guests afterward.
The success of the event was evident in the overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees, who left with a deeper appreciation for space exploration and a memorable evening to cherish.
The evening marked a significant moment in Anantara Kihavah’s history, showcasing the resort’s commitment to offering unique and memorable experiences for its guests. The presence of Tim Peake, a celebrated astronaut and highly accomplished author, added an extraordinary dimension to the resort’s already spectacular offerings.
Tim Peake is a renowned British astronaut who made history as the first official British astronaut to visit the International Space Station (ISS) and conduct a spacewalk during his six-month mission. He also achieved the remarkable feat of running the London Marathon from space. Beyond his extraordinary space endeavours, Tim is also a bestselling author with his most recent book Space: A thrilling human history published earlier this month.
An astronomer’s paradise, Baa Atoll in the Maldives, is one of the best places on earth to enjoy stargazing due to its proximity to the equator. Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas promises a voyage of discovery on a private Indian Ocean Island, with Sky—an overwater observatory and luxury cocktail bar—providing guests a chance to sip champagne under the stars and explore the Universe.
Visit Maldives website adds atolls segment to showcase diverse regions
Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation’s (MMPRC/ Visit Maldives) has added a new segment to the official Visit Maldives Website specified for atolls showcasing the diversity of the Maldives.
The segment, now live at atolls.visitmaldives.com provides in depth information regarding the different regions of the Maldives, divided by atolls, to refine the traveller’s experience, commencing with an in-depth exploration of Addu Atoll and Fuvahmulah Atoll.
With 26 atolls, the Maldives offers a wide array of unique accommodations and awe-inspiring travel experiences, and this informative section of our website will serve as a gateway to discover the hidden treasures unique to each area. This falls under MMPRC’s initiatives to encourage tourism growth in all regions of the Maldives, broadening exposure to the diverse tourism products available in the Maldives.
The goal is to elevate Visit Maldives’ digital marketing landscape by showcasing the Maldives as more than just a honeymoon destination with various accommodation options. This initiative is driven by a desire to increase awareness about the distinctive offerings within each of the Maldives’ atolls. It aims to positively shape their perception of the Sunny Side of Life brand by curating engaging content that highlights the unique features of the atolls and diverse experiences available in the islands.
Additionally, the initiative will target the affordable luxury market to promote the Maldives as the most appealing option for short holidays and weekend getaways under a unified Maldives brand umbrella.
MMPRC aims to continue exploring other atolls in the Maldives as well, encouraging growth and tourism development in all regions of the Maldives, building on the foundation we have created to promote the destination beyond the traditional paradigms of sun, sand, and sea.
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