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Economy Briefs: FBI’s News Corp. probe goes to Russia

- - Monday, March 5, 2012

NEW YORK — The FBI is investigating whether a Russian billboard company once owned by media giant News Corp. bribed local officials to get sign placements approved.

Two people familiar with the investigation told the Associated Press that it will examine operations at former News Corp. subsidiary News Outdoor Russia.

The investigation grew out of Britain's phone-hacking scandal, which revealed that journalists at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid illegally eavesdropped on politicians, celebrities, sports stars and even crime victims to score scoops.

The two people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation.

A spokeswoman for News Corp. in New York did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

CALIFORNIA

Apple's app store reaches 25B downloads

CUPERTINO — More than 25 billion apps have been downloaded from Apple's app store.

A news released from Apple on Monday said the downloads came from more than 315 million iPhones, iPads and iPod touches. The app store has more than 550,000 apps, some of which are free.

Chunli Fu of Qingdao, China, downloaded the 25 billionth app and won a $10,000 iTunes gift card.

The app store launched four years ago. Apple says the store has paid out more than $4 billion to developers.

Apple Inc. is based in Cupertino.

NEW YORK

Facebook case takes on 5 more lawyers

BUFFALO — An upstate New York man who says he's entitled to half ownership of Facebook has added five attorneys to his legal team.

Paul Ceglia's lead attorney, Dean Boland, said Monday that the addition of lawyers from the New York firm Milberg LLP and elsewhere is an indication of the case's strength.

Mr. Ceglia is suing Facebook and founder Mark Zuckerberg in federal court in Buffalo. Mr. Ceglia says a contract he signed with the then-freshman at Harvard University in 2003 entitles him to half of the multibillion-dollar social networking site.

Lawyers for the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company say the contract is doctored and had nothing to do with Facebook. A Facebook spokesman declined to comment Monday.

The social networking site has 845 million users and recorded $3.7 billion in revenue last year.

NEW JERSEY

Merck: FDA won't OK combo cholesterol drug

WHITEHOUSE STATION — Federal regulators have decided not to approve a new combination cholesterol drug made by Merck & Co., at least for now.

The drug-maker says the Food and Drug Administration informed the company it will need more data before it can approve the medicine.

The Merck experimental drug combines the company's cholesterol drug Zetia with a generic version of rival Pfizer Inc.'s Lipitor, which had been the top-selling drug of all time.

Merck says company officials will talk with the FDA to determine the next steps for trying to win approval. Merck says some new data expected later this year may address the FDA's concerns.

From wire dispatches and staff reports