A financial firm, Muddy Waters Research, accused Focus Media last year of overstating the number of its display panels and questioned acquisitions reported by the company. Focus Media denied the allegations and said independent auditors confirmed the size of its network.
This week, Muddy Waters founder Carson Block said in a statement: "The markets are far better off if a few deep pocketed investors own Focus Media instead of mutual funds and other public shareholders."
The group proposing to take the company private includes its chairman, Jason Nanchun Jiang, and private equity firms Carlyle Group, CITIC Capital Partners, CDH Investments and China Everbright Ltd.
The status of Chinese companies in the United States could be complicated by a dispute between U.S. and Chinese regulators over whether American inspectors will be allowed to examine the work of their China-based audit firms.Washington wants auditors to hand over documentation on companies that are under investigation but Chinese authorities have barred the release of some information. If a settlement is not reached, the SEC could reject audits by China-based firms, forcing companies to find new auditors. In May, Beijing took steps to tighten control of local affiliates of major accounting firms by issuing a requirement for Chinese citizens to head those offices. Dozens of Chinese companies issued shares on Wall Street over the past decade, raising billions of dollars from investors who wanted a stake in the country's booming economy. Many were private companies that could not raise money on Chinese exchanges that were created to finance state industry or wanted the higher public profile. Chinese regulators encouraged the move as a way for entrepreneurs to raise money and speed the development of China's economy. But in recent years Beijing has encouraged private companies to issue shares in China to help develop its markets and give Chinese households better investment options.