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BOD plans to defy Dubai crash by opening second upmarket restaurant

IRISH rugby star Brian O'Driscoll plans to open a second overseas branch of his Dubai-based restaurant Hive, despite the state's much publicised property market crash.

The Herald can reveal the Leinster player and two co-investors are in the early stages of expanding their business and plan to investigate suitable properties for a second Hive premises later this year.

But it may be autumn before any plans are finalised, given BOD's hectic Six Nations' schedule and upcoming marriage to fiancee Amy Huberman.

Upmarket Hive, which opened last February, boasts a restaurant, bar and roof terrace and is based in Souk Al Bahar, one of Dubai's main tourist spots.

"Business has been steady since they opened and they are confident that now's the right time to build on this by opening a second restaurant," said an insider. "It is something they are seriously considering at the moment although no property has been bought yet."

The move will be seen as a brave one for the Clontarf native, given that many leading property gurus are now urging residents to cut their losses and get out of the Emirate state before the bubble bursts completely.

Property prices in Dubai are expected to continue falling throughout this year and into 2011, with prices expected to slump by as much as 20pc as supply continues to outstrip demand.

O'Driscoll is among up to 6,000 Irish investors who have bought property in the Gulf state over the past decade, many of whom were left stunned last year when one of the biggest property development companies in the emirate state, Dubai World, requested a standstill on billions owed in debt repayments. The company is now hoping to be granted a debt freeze, in a bid to cover a bond repayment of $980m from property unit Nakheel.

They have also asked creditors for a six-month standstill on $22bn in debt this month, until it completes restructuring.

O'Driscoll also invested in a €680,000 apartment in the luxury Tiara Residence on the Palm Jumeirah development in 2006, where neighbours include the Beckhams, Simon Cowell and Colin Montgomerie.

However, the value of their properties has since collapsed due to the global downturn and the debt troubles of Nakheel. One of the sportsman's three co-owners in Hive is Robert Norton, chief executive officer of Zabeel, the firm that sold him the Dubai property.

Like Nakheel, Zabeel is state-backed and also sells property on Palm Jumeirah.

Tom McCormack, a spokesman for Zabeel explained that Brian's complex was not affected.

"Nahkeel's difficulties don't affect Zabeel or its Irish clients," McCormack said. "Brian received his keys in September and is extremely happy with it."

lnolan@herald.ie


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