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Chinese Companies Pull Out Of US Stock Markets

JOE McDONALD

BEIJING (AP) â¿¿ Just a few years after Chinese companies lined up to sell shares on Wall Street, a growing number are reversing course and pulling out of U.S. exchanges.

This week, Focus Media Holding Ltd., announced its chairman and private equity firms want to buy back its U.S.-traded shares and take the Shanghai-based advertising company private. The deal would value Focus Media at $3.5 billion, according to financial information firm Dealogic.

Smaller companies also are withdrawing from U.S. exchanges. In a sign of official encouragement, a Chinese business magazine said a state bank has provided $1 billion in loans to help companies with listings abroad move them to domestic exchanges.

The withdrawals follow accusations of improper accounting by some companies and a deadlock between Beijing and Washington over whether U.S. regulators can oversee their China-based auditors.

Some Chinese companies say they are pulling out of U.S. markets because a low share price fails to reflect the strength of their business. Withdrawing also eliminates the cost of complying with American financial reporting rules.

Focus Media "has been seriously undervalued on U.S. stock markets" and being taken private will help to promote its "long-term strategic development," said a company spokeswoman, Lu Jing.

The company, formed in 2003, operates electronic advertising displays in elevators, grocery stores and other locations.

"We haven't considered whether to list the company on Chinese markets but that possibility has not been excluded," Lu said.

U.S.-traded Chinese companies faced scrutiny after auditors for several quit and others were accused of accounting irregularities. Concerns about company finances have caused share prices to tumble, costing investors several billion dollars.

"Probably all these companies have some questionable accounting, so they may prefer to move out of the U.S., not to come under too much scrutiny," said Marc Faber, managing director of Hong Kong fund management company Marc Faber Ltd.

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