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Dunne gets €500m backing for D4 skyscraper

SWASHBUCKLING property developer Sean Dunne has borrowed a further €500m from a group of Irish and international banks to fund the development of his landmark €3bn Ballsbridge skyscraper complex.

Ulster Bank, Kaupthing Singer Friedlander and another Irish financial institution have agreed to lend Dunne the money as development finance as the speculator gears up for phase one of the massive project, which has been likened by some commentators as bringing Knightsbridge to Ballsbridge.

Despite the slowdown in commercial and residential property markets and the clamping shut of credit markets, this new funding deal marks a pretty emphatic display of confidence by bankers in the high-profile and often controversial city building project.

The long-awaited planning decision is now expected on March 11.

Dunne initially borrowed close to €275m from Ulster Bank for the purchase of the site from the Jurys Doyle hotel family in 2005. He paid the equivalent of €55m per acre for the site -- which was briefly the most expensive chunk of land in the country.

As soon as that deal was agreed, it is understood that a number of other financial institutions approached Dunne looking for a slice of the action.

While Ulster Bank is ramping up its presence in the corporate market, the arrival of British-based bank Kaupthing Singer and Friedlander into the deal is seen as a significant move.

Despite the downturn in the property market, sources have ascribed an "end value" of €3bn to the seven-tower scheme when it is finally completed.

Dunne's plan will involve the construction of a 37-storey skyscraper as well as a number of shorter buildings that will contain apartments, offices, shops, a cultural centre and a hotel.

The cost of phase one of the six-year planned construction project is thought to be close to €1.1bn. The banks have stumped up nearly half, with the balance to be funded by Dunne.