Shares of Sino-Forest Corp. were down more than 20 per cent Thursday before shares were halted from trading after a damning analyst report that rated the company a "strong sell."

The Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada stopped trading in the Mississauga-based company's shares "pending company contact."

Messages to the company by The Canadian Press were not immediately returned.

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Sino-Forest 3-month chart ((CBC))

Sino-Forest owns and manages tree plantations in China, sells standing timber and wood logs, and makes engineered-wood products.

The company also holds a majority interest in Greenheart Group Ltd., a Hong Kong-listed investment company with forest operations in Suriname, South America and New Zealand.

A financial analyst report by Muddy Waters Research raised questions Thursday about Sino-Forest's financial reporting and operations.

Muddy Waters placed an estimated value of less than $1 for Sino-Forest shares.

Sino-Forest shares were down $3.75 at $14.46 when trading was halted Thursday afternoon.

Earlier this week, Sino-Forest said says some of its subsidiaries have struck deals to buy forests in Shaanxi and Yunnan provinces in China.

The company said through its Chinese subsidiaries the company's wholly-owned subsidiary Sino-Panel (China) Investments Ltd. has acquired up to 260,000 hectares of matured plantation forest. 

The company can also lease the underlying land over a number of years.