Taiwanese Firm Sets Up Trading Company in Tustin

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Taiwanese steel manufacturer has officially opened a trading business here as part of a larger effort by the Asian nation to help even out its huge trade imbalance with the United States.

Alton Industries Inc., a subsidiary of Taipei-based Yieh Loong Group, will be the largest Taiwanese enterprise to settle in Orange County, said officials at the Coordination Council for North American Affairs, Taiwan's quasi-official government representative in the United States.

According to Alton President Michael Lee, Yieh Loong's exports to the United States were in the "tens of millions" of U.S. dollars. He declined to be more specific. It is one of many large Taiwanese companies that are being prodded by Taipei to increase imports of American goods to help reduce that nation's trade surplus with the United States, which hit $9.8 billion in 1991.

Lee said the company hopes to do about half its business exporting U.S. products to Asia and the other half importing products from the Far East to this country.

Alton began its operations in the county in October but officially opened its headquarters in Tustin today.

Its large showroom in Tustin displays products from all over Asia. There are ready-to-assemble wooden and steel furniture from the Philippines and Taiwan; cookware and kitchenware from Indonesia and South Korea, and lighting fixtures and bathroom accessories from Taiwan and Thailand, as well as Mexico.

Alton's imported products are sold at several major West Coast retailers, including Price Club, Fedco and Home Depot, Lee said. By next year, some of the products now being imported, such as wood furniture, will instead be supplied by U.S. factories, he said.

So far, the company has exported about $300,000 worth of U.S. products--primarily lumber, steel and household products such as refrigerators, washers and dryers--to Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia. Lee expects exports to increase to at least $3 million during the next year and plans to add to its current work force of 32 people.

"We're forecasting sales to rise between 20% to 25% annually," said Kevin Chan, vice president of operations.

Alton can afford to expand rapidly, Lee said. The Yieh Loong Group is one of Taiwan's largest manufacturers with its core business in the steel industry. Yieh Loong has annual sales of $850 million.

Yieh Loong has been seeking to diversify its business and the U.S. trading company is part of that effort.

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