Robust demand for office space in Macau will continue in the second half as local and overseas firms join the rush to the former Portuguese enclave, Midland Realty executive director Ronald Cheung Yat-fai said yesterday. Macau's surging economy had been drawing an unprecedented number of Hong Kong and overseas firms there since last year, while companies already there were expanding, Mr Cheung said. 'By way of example, our company set up a 6,000 square foot office in Macau after deciding to expand our property brokerage operations,' he said. Surging demand for office space had driven rents up by 40 to 60 per cent in the first quarter from the fourth quarter of last year, said Mr Cheung. More than 700 new companies had set up shop in Macau in the first quarter of this year alone and most of them were from overseas, according to Mr Cheung. This represented a 23 per cent rise over the fourth quarter of last year - when 580 companies established themselves in Macau - and a 51.7 per cent surge from the first quarter of last year, when 470 companies set up shop, he said. Mr Cheung predicted strong demand for office space would continue, and rents and property value would keep rising. 'Every Macau landlord wants to build a hotel or a casino. There will be lack of new office supply in the market,' Mr Cheung said. Rents in core business area would rise up to 30 per cent to $12 per square foot, while property values would rise 15 to 20 per cent to $1,800 per sq ft before the end of the year, he projected. Mr Cheung said there were no official figures on office supplies in Macau. Supported by casino expansion and robust tourism, Macau's economy grew 28 per cent last year.