Buying sentiment in the office property market is expected to see continued improvement, with interest rates now expected to increase gradually rather than sharply, giving encouragement to investors and especially end users on the lookout for opportunities. Property consultants say the urge to buy is also being driven by a lack of large, contiguous space. That pushes large occupiers, who have existing footprints in the city and are looking to consolidate their operations, into the sales market as an alternative corporate real estate strategy. "There will be some strong owner-occupier deals in next 12 to 18 months," said John Davis, an executive director of CBRE's investment properties division, adding that price tags would top HK$1 billion. Buying momentum has continued to build up after Citigroup acquired the East Tower of One Bay East in Kwun Tong for HK$5.42 billion in June. Last month, two en bloc office sales, with a total consideration of HK$2.7 billion, were recorded in Central and Wan Chai, according to Knight Frank. Meanwhile, an office tower at 41 Heung Yip Road, Wong Chuk Hang, covering 320,000 sq ft was reportedly sold for HK$3.2 billion to a local investor, rumoured to be Angela Leong On-kei, casino mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun's fourth wife. The investment market was expected to be more active in the second half of the year than in the first half, Davis said. Apart from end users, local and international investors had been more active recently than at the beginning of the year. Davis said sentiment had improved, with more international funds allocating more capital to the Asian real estate market. Meanwhile, investors who used to invest in emerging markets such as Indonesia, or some second-tier cities in mainland China, had come back to gateway cities in the Asia-Pacific region. According to CBRE, investment sentiment and sales momentum rebounded in the second quarter of this year. Investment turnover for commercial properties valued at more than US$10 million - excluding residential transactions and land sales - reached HK$26 billion, a rise of 150 per cent quarter on quarter, to take first-half transactions to HK$36.4 billion.