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TREND WATCH : <i> A roundup of business developments spotted by other publications.</i>

<i> Items were compiled and edited by Grassroots Research, a unit of the San Francisco money management firm of RCM Capital Management. </i>

Room With View: New, cheaper technology is making video conferences more attractive than travel, especially for intra-company meetings. The price of a basic installation has been halved to about $50,000. Companies with private video conference rooms include Texas Instruments, General Dynamics and Arco Oil & Gas. US Sprint and other companies rent teleconferencing rooms, enabling small firms to use the technology without a capital investment. Dallas Business Journal

Faring Well: Between the strike at Greyhound and high summer gas prices, record numbers of Americans are riding the rails. Amtrak reports that ridership is up 12% over last year’s 22 million, with scenic routes pulling in increases of 30% and up. An Amtrak spokesman said that with more cars on its scenic routes, Amtrak could triple its ridership in the summer. Denver Post

Swedish Bid: L. M. Ericsson Telephone Co. of Sweden, the world’s fifth-largest telecommunications equipment maker, is poised to compete for dominance of the $80-billion global equipment market. Ericsson has developed pocket-sized cordless phones in Europe and is spearheading development of a Europe-wide technical telecommunications standard that is expected to be in place by 1992. Lars Ramqvist, the company’s new president, sees the joint venture with General Electric--Ericsson GE Mobile Communications of Paramus, N.J., as Ericsson’s base for competing in North America. Toronto Globe and Mail

Tinted Lenses: PPG Industries of Pittsburgh is joining France’s Essilor International to produce the first photochromic plastic eyeglass lens. PPG spent $10 million to develop a plastic lens sensitive to light, a trait previously available only with glass. About a quarter of all glass lenses are photochromic, and most consumers are expected to prefer lenses in less weighty plastic. St. Petersburg Times

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Microwave Bread: With its joint venture with Nestle and an arrangement with Gai’s Seattle French Baking Co., General Mills is aggressively moving into new territory. The goal of the Nestle cereal venture is to capture 20% of the European market and $1 billion in sales by the end of the decade. The agreement with Gai’s will introduce what is said to be the first microwave bread line. Betty Crocker Microwave Breads, six shelf-stable bread varieties, will debut in Washington state. Chicago Tribune, Minneapolis Star Tribune


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