BOSTON — Taiwanese companies have been actively pursuing United States acquisitions.
Within the past five years, large Taiwanese firms have purchased the Wyndham Foods Inc. for $329 million, the Huffington Oil Co. for $600 million, Altos Computer Systems for $94 million, and Wyse Technology Inc. for $220 million.
The foreign investment is related to what the Taiwanese experts see as urgent need to upgrade the island's industry. Taiwan's economic miracle was created by marketing its labor-intensive products such as textiles, bicycles, and sporting goods.
As labor costs have escalated and competition from Southeast Asian countries has increased, Taiwanese companies have begun seeking new ways to compete globally.
"We have seen more and more interest in computers and related equipment, automation systems, environmental protection, and biochemical industries," said Peter Fei Fan, an attorney in California. During his nine years of practice, he has noted a change in the pattern of Taiwanese capital investment. In the past, the Taiwanese focused on real estate transactions; now, they want to open their own firms.
"Taiwan's economic policies engendered the growth of relatively tiny, equity-based companies," says Andrew Brick, a policy analyst for the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation. He says that more than four-fifths of Taiwanese firms in 1981 had fewer than 20 employees. These companies are investing their money through unofficial channels. Every Taiwanese is entitled to send a maximum of $3 million per person overseas for personal use. Investors often bypass government controls to send funds to o verseas operations to avoid business tax on profits.
"A major portion of our investment does not go through official channels," said Harry Chen, secretary of the Investment & Trade Office of the Coordination Council of North American Affairs, a Taiwanese government agency in the United States.
"Taiwanese capital-rich companies have an urgent need to upgrade their technology," says Chuang Yii-Der, director of the science division of the Taiwanese trade office. "It's easier to cooperate with the US companies."