Sino-Forest Advances on Speculation Billionaire Chandler Will Seek Changes

Sino-Forest Corp. (TRE), the Chinese tree- farm operator targeted by short seller Carson Block, climbed to the highest in almost eight weeks on speculation billionaire investor Richard Chandler will push through positive changes at the company.

Sino-Forest rose 76 cents, or 12 percent, to C$7.12 at 4:29 p.m. in Toronto Stock Exchange trading. The shares, which plunged 83 percent last month, are at their highest since June 2, the day Block’s Muddy Waters LLC published a report alleging Sino-Forest overstated its timber holdings in China.

Chandler disclosed on July 20 that his Mandolin Fund Pte increased its stake in Sino-Forest to 26.7 million shares. That gave Chandler’s group an 11 percent stake, making it the third- largest shareholder in Sino-Forest after Davis Selected Advisers LP and Wellington Management Co., according to the most recent filings compiled by Bloomberg.

“People who have done their homework on Chandler and his track record are probably bidding up the stock,” Jim Huang, who helps manage about C$100 million ($106 million) at Toronto-based T.I.P Wealth Manager Inc. and owns Sino-Forest shares, said in a telephone interview. “People are realizing that he knows what he’s doing.”

Chandler became one of New Zealand’s richest men partly by pushing for reforms at South Korea’s SK Group. Chandler helped spearhead a two-year campaign against SK’s chairman on grounds his fraud conviction made him unfit to run Korea’s largest oil refiner. By the time Chandler and his brother sold their SK stake in 2005, shares in his target had jumped fivefold.

Sino-Forest, based in Hong Kong and Mississauga, Ontario, has denied the Muddy Waters allegations and commissioned an independent investigation into the claims.

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