The global expansion that began while Romney was at Bain continued after he left. In 2000, the firm announced it was opening a new facility in Guadalajara, Mexico, and expanding in China, Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea.
In addition to taking an interest in companies that specialized in outsourcing services, Bain also invested in firms that moved or expanded their own operations outside of the United States.
One of those was a California bicycle manufacturer called GT Bicycle Inc. that Bain bought in 1993. The growing company relied on Asian labor, according to SEC filings. Two years later, with the company continuing to expand, Bain helped take it public. In 1998, when Bain owned 22 percent of GT’s stock and had three members on the board, the bicycle maker was sold to Schwinn, which had also moved much of its manufacturing offshore as part of a wider trend in the bicycle industry of turning to Chinese labor.
Another Bain investment was electronics manufacturer SMTC Corp. In June 1998, during Romney’s last year at Bain, his private equity firm acquired a Colorado manufacturer that specialized in the assembly of printed circuit boards. That was one of several preliminary steps in 1998 that would culminate in a corporate merger a year later, five months after Romney left Bain. In July 1999, the Colorado firm acquired SMTC Corp., SEC filings show. Bain became the largest shareholder of SMTC and held three seats on its corporate board. Within a year of Bain taking over, SMTC told the SEC it was expanding production in Ireland and Mexico.
In its prospectus that year, SMTC explained that it was in a strong position to meet the swelling demand from other manufacturers for overseas production of circuit boards. The company said that communications and networking companies “are dramatically increasing the amount of manufacturing they are outsourcing and we believe our technological capabilities and global manufacturing platform are well suited to capitalize on this opportunity.”
Just as Romney was ending his tenure at Bain, it reached the culmination of negotiations with Hyundai Electronics Industry of South Korea for the $550 million purchase of its U.S. subsidiary, Chippac, which manufactured, tested and packaged computer chips in Asia. The deal was announced a month after Romney left Bain. Reports filed with the SEC in late 1999 showed that Chippac had plants in South Korea and China and was responsible for marketing and supplying the company’s Asian-made computer chips. An overwhelming majority of Chippac’s customers were U.S. firms, including Intel, IBM and Lucent Technologies.
A filing with the SEC revealed the promise that Chippac offered investors. “Historically, semiconductor companies primarily manufactured semiconductors in their own facilities,” the filing said. “Today, most major semiconductor manufacturers use independent packaging and test service providers for at least a portion of their . . . needs. We expect this outsourcing trend to continue.”
Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this article.