Russia's Magnit shares drop after access denied to state inspectors

MOSCOW, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Shares in Russian food retailer Magnit dropped on Friday after the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) said its employees had been refused entry to a building housing Magnit offices and that company officials would be held liable.

The FAS said it was carrying out inspections at supermarket chains Magnit, X5 and Lenta, following complaints from citizens over rising prices, including of important food products.

“This is a threat from the regulator,” said Mikhail Kantolinsky from Veles Capital brokerage.

“Nothing of a catastrophic nature has happened so far but we’ll see. Magnit is a company that foreigners like and they are ditching (its shares) on such news,” he said.

Magnit said the FAS was conducting an unscheduled inspection and that it was cooperating with the regulator. Its shares were down 0.9% by 1244 GMT, underperforming the benchmark MOEX stock index that was 0.4% lower.

The company made more than $20 billion in revenue last year and runs more than 21,500 stores across Russia. Its presence on the retail market in Russia is set to increase after the company bought rival firm Dixy earlier this year.

The FAS said security guards had illegally blocked entry to its employees trying to enter a business centre. The guards said Magnit employees were not at their desks in the building.

“The police have been called to the scene,” the FAS added later.

Market-leader X5 said inspections of its business had already started and the company was complying with requests for documents.

Lenta said it had received an inspection notice from the FAS and was providing the requested information, the RIA news agency reported.

Russia has recently been grappling with high inflation, one of the main concerns among Russian households ahead of September parliamentary election. (Reporting by Olga Popova and Alexander Marrow; Editing by Andrey Ostroukh and Elaine Hardcastle)