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Sterling slump knocks London off most-expensive spot for locating staff

Sterling's slump since the Brexit vote means London is no longer the world's most expensive city for companies to locate staff, luxury real estate firm Savills said on Thursday.

The British pound has declined by around 12 percent since the U.K. voted to leave the European Union (EU) on June 23 and is down by around 11 percent since the start of the year. This has sliced the cost in U.S. dollar terms of housing and office rental in London compared to other leading world cities.

In July 2016, the total live-work accommodation cost per employee in London stood at $100.141.30, down 11 percent from December 2015, Savills said.

As a result, London is not the most expensive city to locate staff in for the first time in two-and-a-half years.

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"For the last two-and-a-half years … London has held top spot, reflecting the strength of its economy and high demand for space from a wide variety of occupiers, but the impact of currency falls post-EU referendum has made London very much more competitive on the world stage," Savills said in a report on Thursday.

Both New York and Hong Kong are currently more expensive to location to place staff, having risen slightly since December 2015. The cost for these two financial hubs stands at $114,009.57 and $100,984.26, respectively.

"Office-based businesses operating in major world cities will spend around one-third of their total operating costs on accommodation through a combination of commercial rents, paid directly to landlords, and demands on salaries created by the cost of employees' living accommodation. Fluctuations in these costs will therefore have a significant bearing on how competitive a city is to employers," Yolande Barnes, director at Savills World Research, said in the report.

After London, Tokyo was the next most expensive city, where costs in dollar terms have jumped by over a fifth this year. This reflects the close to 16 percent leap by the since the start of 2016.

"The swings in world currencies since Britain's vote to leave the EU have helped to change an already dynamic range of market movements across cities to an extremely varied one. Tokyo saw the biggest increase in dollar terms as rent rises, particularly in prime residential and creative office sectors, where amplified by significant strengthening in the yen," Savills said.

The falling cost of renting in Dubai, Lagos (in Nigeria) and Moscow was due to the hit to occupier-demand in countries and companies closely affected by oil prices, Savills added.

The appeal of locating in London may be dented for international businesses once the country quits the EU, as the city was viewed as an English-speaking gateway to the rest of Europe. However, many of its attractions, including world-class schools and universities and cultural attractions will likely remain unchanged.

S&P Global Ratings said on Thursday that is saw any upcoming drop in real estate valuations as likely to be more dramatic for commercial than residential assets —but issued a warning on prime central London property.

"High-end and luxury apartments in central London were already experiencing some negative trends in the past few months. We would expect this situation to continue given that this segment relies more heavily on foreign investors, which we expect may be even more hesitant buyers now, despite the fall in sterling," the ratings agency said in a report.

In a separate report, it added that U.K. house prices would likely decline by 2 percent in 2017 as a result of the Brexit vote.

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