SunGard needed to consolidate its operations into a single new facility based in the capital’s financial district. Nick’s starting brief was to report on the state of the office market in The City and Canary Wharf and to investigate SunGard’s strategic options. The company operated from nine central London locations and also occupied premises in Paris, Frankfurt and Zurich. The optimal solution was the acquisition of a single new site of 84,000 sq ft in the heart of London’s financial district.
An initial strategy paper was prepared for SunGard that addressed:
- an overview of its central London portfolio
- the opportunities for the acquisition of new space within the determined timescale
- the disposition of existing leased space
- the restructuring of existing lease liabilities on its core property holdings
- provision of dilapidations and reinstatement advice
- advice on forthcoming lease events, e.g. rent reviews, that might impact upon the disposition of existing offices
Nick’s key strength in this exercise was his robust and informed understanding of the dynamics of the central London property market, specifically in relation SunGard’s requirement for lease flexibility matched to its financial needs. These included a recognition of the implications to the business of adopting both IFRS and US GAAP accounting standards, made more complex by a need to reflect in any transaction SunGard’s own internal lease levelling issues.
The acquisition strategy included:
- formulation of accommodation strategy and occupational brief
- research into size, suitability and timing of available premises in both The City and Canary Wharf
- arranging site inspections and presentations with potential landlords
- drafting of RFPs and generation of DCF appraisals to illustrate total occupational costs for each shortlisted option
- twin-track negotiation to leverage best market terms
- advice on building specification and impact on reinstatement at lease termination
- advice on future expansion and determination options
- advice on level of tenant incentives
- advice on turnkey solutions for fitting out the premises
- advice on drafting of alienation provisions
- drafting and negotiation of heads of terms
Working closely with SunGard’s representatives, principally the Group CFO and the Group Facilities Manager for SunGard Europe, Nick acquired a total of 84,000 sq ft offices from Citigroup in 25 Canada Square, Canary Wharf under four separate leases. This structure afforded SunGard the flexibility it required to draw down and exit space on pre-determined dates under rental and rent-free terms that were significantly more favourable than could be expected in the open market at the time.