BNP moves into BFH
By MARK SUMMERS
MANAMA: Global banking giant BNP Paribas yesterday announced it is to re-locate its regional headquarters to Bahrain Financial Harbour (BFH).
In a deal Bahrain Financial Harbour Holding Company (BFHHC) chief executive Stephen Rothel described as "one of the largest private sector lettings in Bahrain for some time", the bank will occupy five floors in the west tower of the development on a 10-year lease - covering more than 5,000 square metres of office space.
Yep, they have another tenant! I've been watching the occupancy rate of the Bahrain Financial Harbor over the past few months, which I have to say I still think is pretty slow.
I've had high hopes for the two gleaming emerald towers, but since their actual Phase I opening back on the 2nd of May (a little over 4 months ago), the place doesn't seem to be that lively just yet. As far as I know, Servcorp (a provider of virtual office services) and Reuters have started operations there. Besides those, Dexia Asset Management, Bank Alfalah and Gulf International Investment Company are planning to move there but haven't yet (If anyone knows of any that have already moved there, please let me know. For some reason, information about this project seems to difficult to get).
Anyhow; so far two companies settled in, and another four planning to move there. Obviously there is also Gulf Finance House, the company that facilitated this project, who are going to take a few floors.
For a project of this size, every month that goes by without tenancy must result in a considerable loss. A little over four months after the opening, there is still quite a distance to go; which just makes me wonder - was this project in the right place at the right time?
I guess something went wrong with this project; was it too much focus on getting the buildings done and ready, with little effort placed on approaching prospective tenants? Was it the expectation that clients would jump at the opportunity to rent office space at the BFH? Or maybe the demand for this type of facility still isn't required in Bahrain yet? Too much too quick?
Which brings up another question; what about the other buildings springing up all over the place; the World Trade Center, the unbelievable number of office buildings being constructed right now in Seef, Juffair, and so on? Is there demand? Or will they end up as deserted buildings?
This isn't a professional opinion, so don't get me wrong, but this is what it looks like to someone staring at the towers, basking under the sun in all their glory. Does it promote a confident image? I don't doubt that tenancy will be at 100%, or close to it at least a year or two from now. But does it really make sense that a project of this size, one that is supposed to be the pinnacle of a financial center's excellence and innovation, takes this long to bring in tenants? If this takes as much time as it did to fill up, how about the others? And again, why is information about the tenants etc, so difficult to come by?
Just seems a little confidence shaking to me.