Sino-Forest Corp.’s stock has been halted by market regulators, putting at least a temporary stop to the free-fall of the share price after an obscure independent equity researcher issued a “strong sell” recommendation that included damaging allegations.
The Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) halted trading in Sino-Forest at 1:19 p.m. ET, and it remains halted, awaiting a public statement from the company. This came after Sino-Forest’s stock had tumbled $3.75, or almost 21 per cent, to $14.46 on the Toronto Stock Exchange – accelerating the selling that had shaved more than 5 per cent off the stock on Wednesday.
Sino-Forest, which manages nearly 800,000 hectares of plantation forest lands in China and manufactures forest products, has yet to issue a statement regarding the massive selloff; because most of the company's executives are based in Hong Kong and China, the time difference may make a statement unlikely during Thursday's trading session.
But it appears the source of its troubles may be a report from Muddy Waters Research, a firm whose head of research is Carson Block, a former American lawyer who practised in China and now specializes in researching companies doing business there. His report alleges, among other things, that Sino-Forest has massively overstated the value of its assets – which are, primarily, woodlands in China.
We’ve attempted to contact Sino-Forest, but so far, to no avail. Stay tuned.