Interior Ministry Checks News Outdoor Offices

Interior Ministry officials inspected the Moscow headquarters of News Outdoor, an advertising firm owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., the company said Wednesday.

The reason for the inspection on Tuesday at the firm, the country's largest outdoor advertiser, was unclear.

Kommersant cited a company official saying it may have been done at the behest of local rivals in the advertising industry.

News Outdoor spokeswoman Irina Komissarova declined immediate comment. She pointed to a statement on the company web site, which said, "Our legal department believes that the inspection was connected with the activities of a third party."

Repeated calls to the Interior Ministry's press office went unanswered. The ministry's Economic Security Department was unable to confirm Kommersant's report that it had carried out the inspection.

The Moscow city government earlier this month claimed that the company owed almost 400 million rubles ($15.5 million) in unpaid fees for advertising space and had unjustly claimed discounts of up to 90 percent.

News Outdoor, however, denied that the inspection was related to the payment demands and said its tax payments were also in order. News Corp. announced last year that it was considering selling News Outdoor, which operates in several countries across Eastern Europe, Turkey, Israel and India, as part of a drive to shed noncore business assets.