Rents for offices in Central are under pressure as the financial industry - the key tenants for grade-A premises in the district - is badly hurt by the financial turmoil, but Sunlight Real Estate Investment Trust thinks it will benefit from the decentralisation trend in the sector. 'The property market will definitely be affected by this financial crisis,' said Keith Wu Shiu-kee, the chief executive and executive director of Henderson Sunlight Asset Management, the manager of Sunlight Reit. 'The pace of office take-up will slow down, especially for the financial, insurance and banking sectors.' Sunlight Reit has 12 office properties with a gross rental area of 830,437 square feet, of which eight are on Hong Kong Island. It also has eight retail properties with a gross rental area of 370,839 sqft. Mr Wu believes the property trust will benefit from decentralisation because it will be the main theme as tenants begin to take advantage of the big differences between rents in Central and other business districts. For example, International Finance Centre and AIG Tower in Central were on lease at about HK$140 per square foot, against about HK$40 for grade A offices in Causeway Bay or Wan Chai, he said. That difference will translate to a lot of cash in a slow economy. At the end of last month, the average rent for Sunlight Reit's office portfolio was HK$18.90 per square foot, up from HK$17.10 in June. Mr Wu believes office rents in its portfolio will be under slight pressure amid the declining property market, but as Sunlight Reit's offices are in non-core districts such as Sheung Wan or Wan Chai, they will show higher resilience to the market downturn. Their more moderate rental growth compares with a pattern seen after 2003. The average rent per square foot in Central soared to more than HK$100 from HK$30 that year, while rents for non-core districts such as Wan Chai and Causeway Bay only doubled in the same period, he said. On the other hand, Mr Wu said less exposure to financial-industry tenants made the company more defensive amid the crisis. At 248 Queen's Road East - an office property with 376,381 sqft of gross rentable area - stable tenants include branches of the government such as the Tobacco Control Office, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, and the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority. In the retail property sector, rents will also be under pressure because of declining retail spending sentiment. Although more bargains or even distressed properties might be available on the market during a financial crisis, getting bank loans or raising funds was not easy, particularly now, Mr Wu said. 'Every move therefore needs to be done prudently.' Mr Wu believes acquisition will halt for a while. Before listing, Henderson Land Development agreed to make available for sale to Sunlight Reit at least two office or retail properties worth at least HK$2.7 billion within 18 months after listing. Although some shortlisted properties have become available, no decision had been made, Mr Wu said.