Hong Kong has unseated London as the world’s most expensive place to take up office space, highlighting the growing appetite from banks to increase their presence in Asia.

unseat: 剥夺…的席位;使失去资格

The cost of renting prime office space in the island state soared 28 per cent during 2011 to £97.11 per sq ft a year, according to research from Knight Frank, the London-based property services group.

prime office: 优质办公室

soar: 高耸;飙升

The rise, the sharpest of all the established financial centres, comes as the financial services industry’s focus on Asia drives down office vacancy rates across the continent’s main office markets.

drive down:压低;驾车驶去

The importance of the Asian market was further underscored by the rapid rise in the cost of office space in Beijing, which leapt 46 per cent during the year to £36.27 per sq ft to become the world’s 19th most expensive market.

The rise in rental costs across mainland China and Hong Kong is in stark contrast to the majority of European markets, where growth stalled during the second half of 2011 as concerns about the eurozone crisis sapped appetite for taking up new premises.

be in stark contrast: 形成鲜明的对比

Even in London, which is seen by many property investors as a haven from the turmoil in Europe, demand for top-quality office space, having risen strongly during the first half of 2011, slowed during the autumn to end the year at £92.50 per sq ft.

The slowdown has pushed some property developers to mothball projects until demand returns.

mothball project: 后备计划

In spite of the strong growth in many Asian markets during 2011, Mr Colbourne warned that cities that were too dependent on uptake from international financial services could experience a slowdown in demand in 2012.

strong growth: 强劲的增长势头

In the US, San Francisco was the best-performing market with demand from technology companies helping to drive up prime office rates by 24 per cent to $37.75 per sq ft a year.

The increase was more than double that in Manhattan, where rents increased by 12 per cent to $64.36 per sq ft.