Sino-Forest Corporation

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Not to be confused with China Forestry Holdings Ltd.[1] (HK:0930)[2] and PRC state-owned China Forestry Group Corporation (CFGC)[3]

Sino-Forest Corporation (Sino-Forest) (TSX: TRE) (Chinese: 嘉汉林业; pinyin: Jiāhàn Línyè) claims to be one of the leading commercial forest plantation operators in the People's Republic of China. In 2011 the company was accused of fraud and is being investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Ontario Securities Commission. On March 30, 2012 Sino-Forest filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada. It also announced that the company would be sold or restructured, with the proceeds going to its creditors.

History[edit]

Formed in 1994, its principal businesses are claimed to include the ownership and management of tree plantations and complementary manufacturing of downstream engineered-wood products. The company claims to derive most of its revenue from the sales of wood fibre needed to produce industrial, commercial and residential wood products. Sino-Forest also holds a majority interest in Omnicorp Limited, an investment holding company listed in Hong Kong (HK:0094) that claims to import wood fibre into China. Sino-Forest’s common shares have traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol TRE since 1995 and its corporate office is in Mississauga, Canada. Sino-Forest had a market capitalization of just over $5 billion in November 2010.

As of September 30, 2009, Sino-Forest claims to have had approximately 757,000 hectares of trees under management and over 700,000 hectares of trees available to be acquired under its six long-term master agreements. The company intends to replant 200,000 hectares by 2012.

The company claims that it expects to benefit from China's economic stimulus plan which includes further infrastructure development, rebuilding after Sichuan's 2008 earthquake and building of affordable housing for rural areas.[4]

Business segments[edit]

At the end of September 2010, Sino-Forest Corp had claimed approximately 757,000 hectares of forest plantations located in southern China. Its principal business segments include Wood Fibre Operations (i.e. the ownership and management of plantation trees, the sale of standing timber and wood logs, the trading of wood products sourced domestically and internationally) and Manufacturing and Other Operations (i.e. downstream engineered-wood flooring and panels, seedling nurseries, greenery services).

Subsidiaries[edit]

Sino-Forest Corporation owns an interest of approximately 60% of Omnicorp Limited (to be renamed Greenheart Group Limited upon shareholder approval), a Hong Kong listed company (HK:0094). In addition, Sino-Forest owns HK$212 million of convertible bonds of Omnicorp, which if fully converted would increase Sino-Forest’s interest to nearly 60% of the enlarged issued share capital of Omnicorp.

The principal activities of Omnicorp’s subsidiaries claimed to consist of log harvesting, lumber processing and marketing and sales of logs and lumber products to China and other countries around the world. Omnicorp claims to own 60.4% of the harvesting and other rights in an 184,000-hectare hardwood forest concession in Suriname, South America and Sino-Forest, through its wholly owned subsidiary Sino-Capital Global Inc. owns the remaining 39.6%. Omnicorp also intends to acquire a high quality radiata pine plantation in New Zealand upon satisfaction of certain conditions as announced on November 3, 2010.

ARCPE[edit]

Sino-Forest Applied Research Centre for Pearl River Delta Environment (ARCPE) officially opened on 22 June 2009 at the Hong Kong Baptist University.[5]

Fraud allegations and share suspension[edit]

On Thursday 2 June 2011, shares in Sino Forest plummeted following the release of a negative research report [6] by Carson Block of Muddy Waters Research, which made allegations that Sino-Forest had been fraudulently inflating its assets and earnings, and that the company's shares were essentially worthless. Muddy Waters claimed that Sino Forest was a “multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme” that was “accompanied by substantial theft”.[7] Sino Forest rejected the allegations of fraud and launched an independent investigation by PricewaterhouseCoopers.[7] Shares in Sino Forest fell by 82% following publication of the Muddy Waters report,[8] with prominent investor John Paulson selling his entire stake in the company at a $720 million loss.[9]

On June 30, debt rating agency Standard & Poors downgraded Sino-Forest's long-term corporate credit rating from "BB" to "B+". A second downgrade to "B" followed on August 23.[10]

On August 15, Sino-Forest announced that the results of the PwC probe into the allegations would be delayed to the end of the year due to difficulties in gathering data from the Chinese companies involved.[11] The following week, on August 26, the Ontario Securities Commission suspended the shares of Sino-Forest, stating that the company had engaged in practices they “knew or should have known” perpetuated a fraud.[12] The OSC also initially ordered that five directors of Sino-Forest resign, but rescinded this demand a few hours later as the Ontario Securities Act does not allow the commission to summarily force the resignation of a company director without a hearing.[13]

Bankruptcy protection proceedings[edit]

On March 30, 2012 Sino-Forest filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada under the framework laid out in the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.[14][15] A Plan of Compromise and Reorganization was approved by the court on 10 December 2012,[16][17][18] which is expected to come into effect on 17 January 2013.[19]

At the same time as it initiated CCAA proceedings, Sino-Forest also announced that it would sue Muddy Waters in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for its accusations.[20] However Muddy Waters stated that the actions vindicated its accusations, since the company would not have required filing for restructuring if it was really generating close to $2 billion in cash flow. And now Sino-Forest is in its liquidation state. [14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ China Forestry Holdings Co. Ltd. Hong Kong website
  2. ^ Reuters China Forestry Holdings Co. Ltd. 0930.hk)
  3. ^ State owned China Forestry Group Corporation (CFGC) website
  4. ^ "PREVIEW-Sino-Forest seen benefiting from China's stimulus". Reuters. August 7, 2009. 
  5. ^ "HKBU sets up territory's first applied research centre for Pearl River Delta environment". Hong Kong Baptist University. 23 June 2009. 
  6. ^ "Muddy Waters Initiating Coverage on TRE.TO, OTC:SNOFF – Strong Sell". Muddy Waters Research. 2 June 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Canadian regulators order Sino-Forest executives to resign - DealBook/New York Times, 26 Aug 2011
  8. ^ Sino-Forest Shares Surge After Wellington Management Discloses 11.5% Stake - Bloomberg, 5 July 2011
  9. ^ Paulson May Deal Clients $720 Million Loss - Bloomberg, 21 June 2011
  10. ^ "Sino-Forest shares slide after S&P's 2nd downgrade". Reuters. August 23, 2011. 
  11. ^ Sino-Forest Investigation Extended - Wall Street Journal, 16 Aug 2011
  12. ^ Ontario regulator accuses Sino-Forest of fraud, halts trading of its shares - The Canadian Press, 26 Aug 2011
  13. ^ Sino-Forest Trading Halted, OSC Rescinds Order - Bloomberg, 26 Aug 2011
  14. ^ a b "Sino-Forest files for bankruptcy protection". BBC. 2012-03-30. 
  15. ^ "Sino-Forest Corporation". FTI Consulting. Retrieved 14 January 2013. 
  16. ^ Peter Koven (2012-12-11). "Judge approves Sino-Forest restructuring despite opposition from funds". Financial Post. 
  17. ^ "Court Approves Sino-Forest's Plan of Compromise and Reorganization". Sino-Forest Corporation. 10 December 2012. Retrieved 14 January 2013. 
  18. ^ Re Sino-Forest Corporation 2012 ONSC 7050 (12 December 2012), Superior Court of Justice (Ontario, Canada)
  19. ^ "Sino-Forest Announces Anticipated CCAA Plan Implementation Date and Reduction of Unresolved Claims Reserve". Sino-Forest Corporation. 11 January 2013. Retrieved 14 January 2013. 
  20. ^ David Benoit (2012-03-30). "Sino-Forest Sues Muddy Waters for $4 Billion". Wall Street Journal. 

External links[edit]