Business Environment

Macroeconomic outlook

According to the survey published by the Ministry of Finance, the weakening of the euro and decrease in oil prices have shifted to economic growth in the euro area:  in 2015, GDP growth reached just under two per cent. However, growth is being hindered by the difficult unemployment situation. Growth in the euro area during the next two years is expected to remain at approximately two per cent.

According to the Ministry’s projection, Finland’s economy was on the rise during the fourth quarter of 2015. In terms of the entire year, the change in gross domestic product is projected to rise to 0.2 per cent, whereas in 2014, Finland’s GDP declined by 0.4 per cent. The minor growth in 2015 was caused primarily by an increase in private and public consumption.

In 2016, Finland’s GDP is projected to grow by 1.2 per cent. In addition to consumption, growth is being spurred on by private investments. Inflation is expected to remain at 0.9 per cent.

The transaction market

The property transaction market in 2015 was the second liveliest in history. According to KTI Property Information, the transaction volume for 2015 was roughly EUR 5.46 billion, which is 26 per cent more than in 2014 (EUR 4.34 billion). The 2015 market is surpassed in activity only by the 2007 market, when the volume was EUR 6.29 billion. Property transactions in the Helsinki metropolitan area made up 55 per cent of the transaction volume in 2015.

International investment demand remained strong during 2015, with international operators’ share of the entire year’s acquisitions making up approximately 33 per cent. Strong activity is expected to continue in 2016, as investors seek out new properties.

The market for office premises

In Finland the amount of new office space completed in 2015 was higher than that of the previous year. Approximately 86,000 square metres of new office space was completed by the end of the year in terms of the office market in, for example, the Helsinki metropolitan area, whereas the corresponding figure in 2014 was around 55,000 square metres.

The difficult economic situation has been increasing the amount of vacant office premises for a long time, but the second half of 2015 saw an end to this growth. According to Catella, the area’s average vacancy rate stood at 13.3 per cent at the end of the year, compared to 13.4 per cent half a year earlier. Vacancy rates in Helsinki’s central business district increased significantly over the course of 2015. The growth rate was 5.7 percentage points. At the end of 2015, the vacancy rate in Helsinki’s central business district was at a record high of 13.6 per cent.

There were no significant changes in rental levels in the most important office areas of the Helsinki metropolitan area in 2015. The rental levels for office premises in these areas varied from EUR 204 to EUR 378 per square metre per year. The only area where rental levels decreased was Leppävaara.  The average rent in Helsinki’s central business district remained at EUR 312 per square metre per year.

In the market for office premises in Tampere, the vacancy rate remained stable at 10.7 per cent. The upper limit of rental level increased slightly from the previous year. Rents in Tampere varied from EUR 168 to EUR 228 per square metre per year.

The vacancy rates of offices are not expected to undergo major changes in 2016.

The market for retail premises

In the Helsinki metropolitan area, the vacancy rates of retail space decreased somewhat starting at the turn of 2014–2015, and stood at 4.6 per cent at the end of 2015. The occupancy rate is expected to remain at a high level in 2016 due to the area’s net migration and the limited supply of new retail space. Approximately 34,000 square metres of new retail space was completed in the Helsinki metropolitan area in 2015.

At the turn of the year, the vacancy rates for retail space were 4.1 per cent in Tampere and 2.7 per cent in Oulu.

In Helsinki’s central business district, the market rent levels of retail space declined in 2015. At the turn of the year, rental levels per square metre were EUR 600–1,680 per year. Rental levels per square metre per year varied from EUR 420 to EUR 900 in Tampere and from EUR 480 to EUR 1,020 in Oulu.

Retail space vacancy rates are not expected to undergo major changes in 2016.

The market for logistics properties

The Finnish market for logistics properties was quiet in 2015. At the end of the year, the average rental level of logistics properties per square metre in the Helsinki metropolitan area was EUR 99 per year, or only slightly lower than the year before.

The vacancy rate of logistics properties was 6.9 per cent at the end of 2015, representing no significant change from the previous year. Approximately 43,000 square metres of new logistics premises was completed, which is substantially more than in the two previous years.

Russia

According to the Bank of Finland, Russia’s GDP declined by approximately 3.7 per cent in 2015. The GDP is predicted to decline by 2 per cent in 2016. The prevailing uncertainty is reducing investments and rapidly increased prices are having a negative impact on consumption. Tensions in eastern Ukraine, sanctions and the unclear prospects concerning the development of economic and trade restrictions are still causing uncertainty. The price of oil, which further decreased in January 2016, is hindering the Russian economic situation and making it difficult to predict economic development.

Despite the general uncertainty, activity in the transaction market picked up slightly in the second half of 2015. According to data from CBRE, the world’s leading real estate adviser, the transaction volume in the last quarter stood at USD 0.8 billion, while the transaction volume for the entire year stood at USD 2.8 billion. The number of transactions was the same as in 2014, but the volume decreased significantly from the previous year (USD 4.4 billion).

Further according to CBRE, the average vacancy rates of office space in Moscow rose to 17.7 per cent by the end of 2015. Some 0.7 million square metres of new office space was completed in Moscow in 2015. Around half of the planned construction projects were postponed to a later date due to weakened demand and a high vacancy rate.

Sources:
Statistics Finland
Ministry of Finance
KTI 
Catella 

BOFIT 
World Bank
CBRE