TREND WATCH

Items were compiled and edited by Grassroots Research

A roundup of business developments spotted by other publications. Items were compiled a nd edited by Grassroots Research, a unit of the San Francisco money management firm of RCM Capital Management. Disk Drive: Avis now rents Compaqs. In an agreement with LapStop Corp. of Salem, Mass., Avis rents laptop computers for about the same price (day or week) as a car. It also rents portable printers and fax machines. The service is available at five U.S. airports--Logan, Newark, O'Hare, Dulles and Washington National--and, if successful, will spread to 20 more by next spring. LapStop's president says that fewer than 15% of laptop users bother to take their laptops on airline flights. Philadelphia Inquirer

Broadly Cast: Gillette Co. of Boston has struck the first pan-European television deal with Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's media magnate. Gillette negotiated volume discounts for air time on his Italian, German, Spanish and French TV stations. Reaching 124 million European viewers, Gillette has proven that it can overcome the difficult task of dealing with multiple advertising agencies, marketing departments and TV stations across Europe. Marketing

Non-Defense Work: Avantek, the Santa Clara-based manufacturer of microwave components, says it is profitable again since it began laying off 250 employees in 1987 and began reducing defense-related work from 80% to 50% of its total business. Microwave components are used in cellular telephones, satellite and fiber optic systems. The $1-billion market turned sour in recent years because of defense cuts and underbidding. Avantek, with 2,300 employees and sales last year of $159 million, is the second-largest independent manufacturer of microwave components, behind M/A Com Inc. of Massachusetts. Competition from Japanese companies well established in the non-defense segment of the market will stymie the return of Avantek to its most profitable days. Sacramento Business Journal

Natural Gas: Because of a surprising increase in the U.S. demand for natural gas, Canada's Northern Border Pipeline will not only lengthen an already profitable pipeline in the Midwest but widen it as well. Two months ago, the company advised the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission of its plan to extend the line 365 miles from Ventura, Iowa, to Tuscola, Ill. Now the company intends to widen the extension from 30 inches to 36 inches. A source at Northern Border reports a waiting list of companies that want to send gas through the line. The pipeline accounted for 23% of sales and 31% of profits last year for parent Williams Co. of Tulsa, Okla. Toronto Globe and Mail

Display Technology: Illinois-based Cherry Corp., a maker of electronic switches, semiconductors and computer keyboards, is trying to reintroduce computer display boards that use a technology called direct current electroluminescence. Currently, liquid crystal displays are preferred for laptop computers and other types of electronic equipment, but Cherry is attempting to persuade manufacturers that DCELs are faster and present a more clearly defined graphic display than LCDs. Crain's Chicago Business

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