Published: Thursday 30 June 1994

FARNWAY, a farmers' cooperative in northeastern England, is all set to pave the way for bio-diesel-fuelled vehicles. It plans to run its cars and lorries on bio-diesel produced from rapeseed.

Farnway is not alone in the venture. It is a member of British Bio-diesel, a consortium formed by a group of farmers with Unitrition, the specialist seed-crusher, and Chemoxy, a manufacturer of organic compounds. Together, they have produced 4,000 gallons of bio-diesel. Bio-diesel's proponents say it produces lower emissions of sulphur, hydrocarbons and particulate matter and is fully bio-degradable.

SANDOZ, The Swiss pharmaceutical and chemicals company, plans to purchase the baby foods firm, Gerber Food Products Company, for a whopping $3.7 billion. Sandoz officials point out that the nutrition business, in contrast with drugs, is not capital intensive and is free from the sharp cyclical swings of the group's existing agricultural and industrial chemicals businesses. The business includes performance foods and drinks for athletes, special diets and feeding systems for the ill and the aged and baby food. But this does not mean that Sandoz is planning to phase out its drug-manufacturing operations. This venture achieves "a better balance of our activities", insists Marc Monet, the group's chairperson.

THE only way to describe Russian banks is that they are "supremely high-tech", thanks to the efforts of the Moscow-based systems integrator company, Intermicro Business Systems. An average bank unit in Moscow is fitted with the latest model of automatic teller machines, which have left their Western versions far behind. Using colour graphics and a choice of languages to interrogate the users, it zips out bundles of roubles at the touch of a few buttons. At the counter, people carry out transactions through credit cards. The cashier checks the signature on the printout slip against a facsimile on her screen. The cash is then delivered through an automatic chute, in the requested denominations. Going to a bank in Russia may well turn out to be an awe-inspiring experience --- even for a Westerner.

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