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On the look-out for the right office environment

Demand for good office space in Malta is on the rise. This comes about as a result of Malta being considered an attractive jurisdiction in which to do business by more than three quarters of existing foreign direct investors (FDI) as published recently by a reputable international firm in a survey examining Malta’s attractiveness to investors. This brings with it a demand for proper infrastructure and good quality property, amongst other things.

The survey also shows that the ICT, telecoms and iGaming entrepreneurs rate the attractiveness of Malta for FDI very highly, with over half of the respondents believing that the iGaming sector will be the business sector driving Malta’s growth in the next five years. These statistics are further enhanced by Malta’s rating in the Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015 published by the World Economic Forum where Malta is described as an Innovation-Driven Economy. The country ranks with the top fifty countries from a total 144 countries surveyed in the report in terms of global competitiveness, scoring excellently in terms of technological readiness and business sophistication.

The island is also logistically well placed with its modern port, efficient distribution facilities and good flight connections. This is backed by a highly educated, qualified and English speaking workforce. Foreign companies already based in Malta, as well as those looking to invest, are attracted by favourable corporate taxation, other fiscal incentives and competitive human resources.

Last but not least, Malta makes for a pleasant location to live in. The island still boasts a relatively low crime rate, a healthy residential property market, a stable Mediterranean climate and sound healthcare and education facilities. This is further backed by the Individual Investor Programme (IIP) which allows for the granting of citizenship by a certificate of naturalisation to individuals and their families who contribute to the economic and social development of the country. Malta is experienced in serving some of the world’s most demanding markets and is constantly investing in attracting new investment in a number of sectors.

A flurry of investment is noticeable in the commercial office market to keep up with the ever increasing demand, with new projects and developments underway. Location hotspots across the island include the capital city Valletta, Smart City, SkyParks at the Malta International Airport, St. Julian’s, Sliema and environs. A study conducted by Miriam Azzopardi in 2013, titled “A Study of Locality Choices by ICT and iGaming Companies in Malta” has shown a preference for the latter localities in terms of office space location. The choice of location is driven by an affordable rent, attractive lease conditions and availability of human resources.

St.Julian’s, Sliema and environs offer adequate infrastructure, public transport links, support services and activities such as entertainment and retail, whilst representing one of the strongest residential rental markets in Malta, and hence the tendency of foreigners choosing such locations to reside in. Besides location, other key aspects of importance when considering leasing office space include the contract terms and conditions, asking rent (this still tends to be quite competitive compared to other European countries), other costs such as parking and service charges, the state in which the offices are being leased in terms of finishing and furnishings, whether the offices form part of a bigger block which might offer support services, and the actual space availability and layout. Office size and layout requirements will vary greatly from one company to another.

One thing to keep in mind is future company growth and whether the space being considered can accommodate this. It is paramount to focus on the quality of the office space available. Aspects influencing quality include age and upkeep of the building structure, space configuration, acoustic and thermal insulation, natural lighting and ventilation, service installations, flexibility of use and overall finish. Another salient point is whether the property is offered in a furnished state or whether works have to be carried out to the property before it can be used, hence requiring time for a proper fit-out.

In the scenario that the property would require a fit-out, one is encouraged to appoint competent professionals who can clearly understand the brief at hand, represent the corporate identity of the client within the office space design proposal whilst also providing the client with insight as to costings and timeframes. Other tenants occupying office space within the same building also have an impact on the attractiveness of such space to a potential client, in terms of business clustering and prestige.

Last but not least, before entering into a lease contract it is advisable to seek professional advice. Turn to a competent legal professional to review the final agreement draft before signature . It would be wise to also appoint an architect to inspect the property, especially if a fit-out is required. The latter will also be in a position to advise the client about any building irregularities and hidden defects or problems which might not be visible to the untrained eye.

About the Author

Stephanie Cassar graduated from the University of Malta as an Architect & Civil Engineer and subsequently completed a Masters in Real Estate Appraisal with the University of Reading, UK. She currently runs her own architectural practice focusing on architectural design and property/development appraisal. Stephanie Cassar is an independent contributing author. E: info@stephaniecassar.com W: www.stephaniecassar.com.

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