JLL retained to find a home for Operation Bluebird

The mysterious financial services inward investor seeking 100,000 sq ft offices in Manchester city centre under Operation Bluebird has appointed Jones Lang LaSalle to help with its search.

The unknown prospective occupier, rumoured to be JP Morgan or Goldman Sachs among others, has shortlisted Manchester and Leeds as the two UK cities it is targeting.

Representatives from the acquiring party viewed buildings in Leeds last week and are expected in Manchester this week to look at its product.

The two shortlisted cities beat Bristol, Birmingham and Liverpool to make the final round.

JLL's appointment follows cost appraisal work by Deloitte. Manchester's inward investment agency Midas is leading the campaign to win the deal on the city's behalf. It would be arguably the most significant newcomer to the city since the Bank of New York into Argent's One Piccadilly several years ago.

Inevitably, Manchester is many local agents' favourite, with its stronger brand, transatlantic flights and bigger population all putting it ahead of Leeds.

However, stock is short for the occupation date of summer 2009; only Argent/Carlyle's Piccadilly Place and Ask Developments' No 1 First Street could easily handle the requirement. Allied London's Spinningfields may have missed the boat as the latest office building there, 3 Hardman Street, is all but fully let. A few agents say the requirement could be accommodated with some re-jigging of the tenants in Spinningfields.

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