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Guilty plea in fraud case

(Bloomberg) -- A New Jersey man pleaded guilty to charges that he defrauded investors in a real estate Ponzi scheme.

David Connolly, 51, of Watchung, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of money laundering and one of securities fraud, according to a statement by U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.

From 2006 through 2009, Connolly took in more than $50 million from more than 200 victims of a real estate investment fraud that resulted in losses of at least $9 million, prosecutors said.

He told investors their money would buy properties that would generate rental income to pay distributions, the government said.

Connolly misrepresented the properties' condition, financial performance and amount of equity, prosecutors said.

In 2009 the scheme collapsed when Connolly began to default on mortgage payments.

The case is U.S. v. Connolly, 12-343, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Newark).

Pakistani complex planned

(AP) -- Pakistani officials say the government plans to build a recreation complex in the town where al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. commandos in 2011.

Syed Aqil Shah, sports and tourism minister in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said Monday the project in Abbottabad will have a zoo, paragliding club and water sports facilities. It will also have cultural heritage park.

It will cost about $50 million and take five years to build. Construction will begin in a few weeks.

UK construction

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. construction shrank for a third month in January as weak demand was compounded by a cold snap that brought snow across the country and created a drag on building projects, Markit said.

An index of activity held at 48.7 from December, Markit and the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply in London said Monday. A reading below 50 indicates contraction.

The United Kingdom is at risk of a triple-dip recession after the economy shrank in the fourth quarter.

Markit said while there were reports that snowfall had contributed to the construction weakness in January, the majority of respondents cited weak “underlying client demand and a lack of new projects.'

The survey results "are yet another indicator of the severe underlying fragility across the U.K. construction sector," said Tim Moore, a senior economist at Markit.

"Construction firms reported improved optimism about the business outlook, although much of this appeared to rest on hopes that the chorus of calls for greater public-sector investment spending starts to come to fruition."

Housing volumes dropped at the slowest pace for three months, and civil engineering projects declined for the first time since August, according to the report. Commercial activity was unchanged.

New business fell for an eighth month, the longest period of decline since 2008-2009, according to the report.

Still, respondents' confidence improved, and employment rose for the first time in four months.

London-based Barratt Developments Plc, the U.K.'s largest homebuilder by volume, on Jan. 16 predicted a "significant" increase in profitability this year as prices rise and the BOE’s Funding for Lending Scheme helps the mortgage market.

Probe news hits shares

(Bloomberg) -- South Africa's construction and building material shares dropped the most in more than five months after a company said it’s in talks with the antitrust authority over an industry probe.

The FTSE/JSE Africa Construction & Building Materials Index retreated 2.9 percent, the most since Aug. 30, at the close in Johannesburg.

Wilson Bayly Homes-Ovcon Ltd., a Johannesburg-based company with interests contracting and civil engineering, said Monday that it's “engaging in confidential discussions with the Competition Commission,” and that it “strongly rejected” any suggestion of criminal conduct.

The Competition Commission is reviewing information from participants in the industry, which offered “different levels of cooperation,” said Trudi Makhaya, a spokeswoman for the regulator.

The Hawks investigative unit of South Africa's police is probing construction companies over alleged illegal collusion for contracts of at least 30 billion rand, City Press reported Sunday.

Bank names unit management

(Bloomberg) -- Deutsche Bank AG, Germany's largest bank, named the management of its unit that invests in real estate and infrastructure seven months after scrapping a sale of the business.

The nine executives will report to Pierre Cherki, who leads the RREEF Alternatives division, Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank said Monday.

John McCarthy, head of RREEF Infrastructure, will leave Deutsche Bank (NYSE: DB) as a part of the overhaul, according to the statement.

Deutsche Bank is counting on RREEF and other parts of its asset- and wealth-management unit, run by Michele Faissola, to help boost profitability by 2015.

The businesses faced client money outflows last year as the company considered selling most of its asset-management operations to U.S. money manager Guggenheim Partners LLC before scrapping the deal in June.

UK property inflation

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. residential property rent inflation will slow this year as purchases by landlords boosts supply, Rightmove Plc said, citing a survey.

Seventy-four percent of professional landlords intend to expand their portfolios in 2013, the London-based property company said in an emailed report Monday.

Investors will be lured by tenant demand and “attractive” returns, it said.

“Buy-to-let investors, attracted by evidence of sustained demand and strong yields, will provide much needed supply relief,” said Miles Shipside, director and housing market analyst at Rightmove. “Greater supply of rental property coming on tap is good news for tenants.”

Eighty-eight percent of landlords said the minimum average return they are seeking is 5 percent, Rightmove said.

The average U.K. rental yield is 5.73 percent, meaning the “right balance of rent versus return is being achieved,” according to the report.

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