The newly established Bulgarian Outsourcing Association made prognosis for a stable increase in the number of companies that plan to outsource their business to Bulgaria. These companies be registered in Sofia and could come from many spheres of activity. The new association predicted that the increase in the number of companies will be around three times in the next five years. The outsourcing business is considered among the most dynamic industries in the country and currently it employs around 15 000 people in the capital. Their number is expected to triple according to the five year prognosis. The stable political situation, the low taxes and the acceptable wages in the country, the professional skills of the employees, as well as its being part of the European Union, make Bulgaria an attractive destination for the large and stable companies in Western Europe and the United States. These companies will look for business centers with offices of the highest class, which have central and convenient locations and perfect infrastructure, besides offering an impressive range of services and facilities. It is believed that these big companies will later open other offices throughout the country in cities like Varna and Bourgas, Plovdiv and Rousse.
Among the founders of the Bulgarian Outsourcing Association are companies like Coca-Cola Hellenic IT Services, AII Data Processing, Sofica Group, Atos Bulgaria and Bulpros. They believe that if the state and the companies join their forces, this will lead to a stable development of that industry sphere. If the proper activities are arranged and successful policies are followed, then Bulgaria can become one of the top ten destinations for outsourcing. Special attention has to be paid to the professionals who apply for work in these outsourcing companies. Usually, these are people with a lot of knowledge and skills, but they still need training in certain spheres. It is not a secret at all that some of the largest outsourcing companies that are working in Bulgaria are in direct connection with the universities where they look for ambitious students. They try to attract the talented ones and offer them a job before they head to a carrier abroad. There is potential in the rest of the big cities in the country besides Sofia, where there are no such projects and opportunities, but there are still good professionals. The outsourcing industry is in demand for different types of employees – from recent graduates to managers and strictly qualified professionals.
In general, Bulgaria has excellent reputation among the companies in the outsourcing business and it will continue to attract them. The reasons for that are not only the membership of the country in the European Union, but also the tax alleviations and the desire for less bureaucracy. Of course, we should also mention the welcoming atmosphere, the excellent infrastructure and the construction of business centers with prestige location that correspond to the needs and the requirements that are important to the foreign investors.
Year 2017 that just ended can be defined as the year of the tall buildings in the capital of Bulgaria. The skyscraper projects provoked numerous disputes, protests, and debates about the need for such tall buildings in Sofia and the chosen location for them.
In February 2017 one of the biggest projects – Grand Kanyon Sofia received a building permission. The event was followed by more plans for constructing big office buildings in Sofia including a multi-functional building (215 m) near a large mall, a project for a residential building with offices (100 m) in Lozenets and an office building project (80 m) next to Bulgaria Blvd in Borovo District. In the autumn of 2017, it was reported that there is a serious struggle against the construction of an office building (150 m) in Strelbishte District due to lack of all the necessary documents.
Conversely other two tall office buildings has gained their building permissions and both are currently under construction. One of these office buildings is located on Tsarigradsko shosse Blvd while the other is rising up in the heart of the city on Macedonia Square. The increased demand for business offices in the capital have led to the renewal of several old projects for office buildings as well. In general, the largest office building projects of 2017 in Sofia are mainly focused on good infrastructure and fast transport links, with the new metro lines which are currently in development, being the main factor.
The Today’s Office Building Projects in Sofia
Which are the present worth mention office building projects in Sofia and what will they offer us as work area and environment? Let’s take a look on them.
Grand Kanyon Sofia
Grand Kanyon Sofia is one of the biggest office building projects that will be constructed in Mladost 2 District. The building is situated right next to Alexander Malinov metro station which grants quick access to almost each city point. The investor of this huge project is the Turkish company Garanti Koza.
The project includes modern offices, two residential buildings with 700 apartments, a hotel from an international brand, an entertainment and commercial center with a cinema complex, a spa area, and a park. The investment is expected to reach 120 million leva and the launch of the site is planned for 2020.
Advance Business Center
Advance Business Center is an administrative building on 11 floors in Mladost 4 District. It is built near the Business Park and is expected to be the tallest building in the area. The project has been financed by the foreign investor Global Trade Center. The company plan to open an area of around 14,500 sq. m. with Class A offices right after the first stage of the project is completed.
The investment for the entire project is 54 million euros, and the first building is expected to be finished in April 2019. The second part of the project is awaiting a building permit.
In the very heart of Sofia, only a few meters away from the Levski monument, a hotel of a famous international hotel chain is under construction. In addition to the countless five-star luxury rooms and suites, two restaurants, two bars, and a huge spa center, the Hyatt hotel will offer a large conference hall with an area of 600 sq.m as well as five smaller meeting rooms. The common space for the organization of various business meetings and events will be 1300 sq. m. The company owner of Hyatt Hotel project is Terra Tour Service. It plans an investment of 30 million euros that will support finalizing the project during the first half of 2019.
Building Office A
Located near Tsarigradsko shosse Blvd, this office building will provide office space of the highest Class A. The building will also feature a restaurant, a café and an underground parking area. The investment is 10 million leva and the expected date of completion is December 2018.
Office Building 15
The company Arko Real Property Holding will locate its Office building 15 in the eastern part of Business Park Sofia, not far from the lake. The building features an interesting architecture and offers five levels of offices and two levels of parking lots, as well as a ground floor with shops and restaurants. The roof space will be organized as a small park. The project value is about 30 million leva and the expected date of its completion is December 2018.
Interest in Class B Office Space in Sofia
The optimistic forecasts of the business and the good economic performance in 2017 affected the office property market in Sofia. Along with the new class A office projects the interest in Class B office spaces in Sofia has also revived.
Available Office Premises and New Office Projects in Sofia
The volume of new office rents has increased by 14% in 2017 compared to the previous year 2016. The offices of class A and B available at the end of 2017 are approx. 187,000 sq.m. Under construction are approx. 340 000 sq. m. of office space that are to be completed in the current year of 2018. At the same time, in 2017 were issued building permits for offices with approx. size of 110 000 sq.m. The experts expect that by 2020-2021 another 300,000 sq. m. will be completed.
There is a slight increase in the rental rates, reaching 7-10 euro/sq.m. for Class B offices and 12-14 EUR/sq.m for Class A offices.
The preferred business locations in Sofia remain the same. The interest is towards office buildings located in the districts of Lozenets, Hladilnika, near the Business Park Sofia, around Tsarigradsko shosse Blvd., Todor Alexandrov Blvd and Bulgaria Blvd. These areas have a high percentage of already rented office space at an early stage of the projects. The demand comes from well-established companies that expand their business and from emerging companies that are starting their business in Bulgaria.
In the second half of 2016 the offices under construction in Sofia city reached 175 000 sq.m. The offices are expected to become ready in the capital city of Bulgaria in 2017. Great deal of these new office premises are based in the main business zones of the city, along Tsarigradsko Schousse Blvd., the ring road, the Business Center in Mladost 4 District and the city center.
Even so, the trend is for decreased number of available office premises. In fact, the available offices of class A and B in the last quarter of 2016 were approximately 210 000 sq.m, which is two times less than the previous quarter. The average rental levels remain unchanged, which means 11-14 Euro/sq.m for the offices of class A and 6.5-8.5 Euros/sq.m for the offices of class B.
One of the major construction companies in Bulgaria will built a huge office center right in the heart of the Bulgarian capital Sofia. This will be the second phase of the Polygraphia Office Center and it is calculated at 10 million Euros. The completion of the new office project is planned for the end of the summer 2017 and is expected to provide 12 600 sq.m of Offices of the highest class A. The investment is backed up with the Bulgarian holding company AG Capital and the British Real Estate Fund Northridge Capital.
The new office building will feature six floors and an inner yard. It will be connected to the already existing office center through a solid covered passage. It will feature a parking zone on two levels with 100 parking lots. The new office building will further have an ecological certificate LEED Silver. The rental levels in that office building under construction, are expected to be around 13 Euro/sq.m.
Various companies from UK and Russia show interest towards Sofia offices market. They are opening new branches in the capital city of Bulgaria and are one of the numerous companies that are looking for new and larger office premises. Due to that many investors have stared new office building projects in 2016, choosing locations that are within easy reach to the already established office areas in Sofia.
The new companies that are in search of offices in Sofia are looking for 700 – 800 sq.m of usable area, in office buildings of class A, placed within easy reach to the central parts of the city. Those companies are usually outsourcing their business to Sofia, or are working in the spheres of communications, financial services, information technologies, etc. Often those companies are serving not the local Bulgarian markets but clients outside the territory of the country.
The rental levels of the Sofia offices vary in the price range between 10 and 13 Euro/sq.m, while the interest towards the new office projects remains high. These facts make many investors start planning new office buildings in preferred Sofia office locations in the next 12-18 months.
The newly founded companies in Bulgaria and those that are outsourcing their business in the capital city of Sofia are looking towards office premises of around 200-300 sq.m. There are also companies that are searching for office premises of 700-800 sq.m. The business situation in Bulgaria is changing and that is felt everywhere. In many cases the companies that are looking for offices in Sofia are serving markets and clients outside the country.
The office buildings with central location and good functional distribution of the office premises have been rented with approximately 5-10% availability only. The rental levels are between 10 and 13 Euro/sq.m. depending on the desire of the owners of those offices to make discounts.
Outsourcing companies from neighboring countries, UK, Russia, Israel, etc. are looking for spacious offices of high class to set up their businesses in Bulgaria. That was a major tendency on the office market in Sofia in 2016. The newly formed outsourcing companies that enter Sofia market are looking for offices of 200 – 300 sq.m, with an option to rent more in the same building. In addition, more companies are now looking for 700 – 800 sq.m of office space. These companies are representatives of the IT, pharmacy, consulting and outsourcing business.
Those new players on the office market in Sofia are looking for high class services and convenient location. Yet, the demand is not always meeting the supply on the Sofia office scene. However, more and more new office projects are being completed and new ones are being planned to cover those needs. That trend on the office market in Sofia is expected to continue in 2017.
Year 2016 brought a serious demand for office space in Sofia and this has been carried over into the entire 2016, setting a stage for very dynamic office market. The increased demand for office space have continued while new projects for office buildings in Sofia have entered the market. Some of these projects are in already established office locations and they provide office supply in response to the serious demand from the outsourcing companies. The offices with good location in Sofia and smart distribution of the area reach occupancy rates of 90 to 95%.
There is however a slight difference on the office market. In 2015 the newly opened companies were looking for office space of 200 to 300 sq.m, while in 2016 there was a demand for bigger offices in Sofia of 700 to 800 sq.m. The tenants for such office premises in Sofia are companies working in the outsourcing and IT business, as well as companies offering financial intermediation services. In many cases those companies working in Sofia do not serve the Bulgarian market but have clients abroad.
The rental levels of the offices in Sofia city have increased with 4 % on an yearly basis, reaching up to 13 Euro per sq.m for occupying the offices of the highest class A. These are average levels for this type of office buildings in Sofia, which are characterized by convenient location, excellent working conditions, many facilities. Such offices of high class which however do not share such central location can be found for lower rental levels.
In general, Bulgaria remains a very attractive office destination in comparison with the other countries from Eastern Europe. In addition to the strategic location and the attractive rental levels, the country also provides low taxes and professionals with excellent knowledge and rich experience. The rental prices of the offices of class A in Sofia are lower compared to such destinations like Prague, Budapest, Warsaw. Bucharest, Belgrade, Skopje.
Many office buildings in Sofia that were under construction have been completed or are near completion by the end of 2016. At the same time, the increased demand for such offices have let to the start of many new office building projects in Sofia. In the end of 2015 the city had 1.79 million sq.m. of office premises. The large office projects that were completed in the capital of Bulgaria included Capital Fort with its 42 000 sq.m, Brussels Business Center with its two office towers of 9000 sq.m and Trade Center Europe with 8000 sq.m, as well as the SPS Tower featuring another 10 000 sq.m.
The increased demand of the large companies led to the start of many new projects and enlargement of the ones that already existed. Approximately 30 % of these office buildings in Sofia were constructed for own usage or were not large enough to answer to the needs and demand of the large outsourcing companies. The companies that stay behind the increased demand are working in the IT and the outsourcing sphere. These companies already occupy almost three thirds of the rented offices of class A in Sofia. The low levels of supply of this type of offices lead to a slight increase in the rental levels.