Posted by Barry Millar

HSBC - Area Director

Wed 09th, Dec

This year, at our Annual Dinner 2015 we saw nearly 600 business leaders join us to #ThinkCreateDo, a testament to the very basics of business prowess. We caught up with Barry Millar, Area Director at HBSC, our Headline sponsors.  

What made you THINK to sponsor the Annual Dinner and what did you most look forward to?

The Annual Dinner is a fantastic showcase of all the business activity that is taking place right here in Liverpool. This year’s award categories, Reach, Aspire & Strive attracted nominations from a diverse set of local businesses, and I personally enjoy seeing these businesses receive recognition for all of their hard work and dynamism. Moreover, the event is attended by key business influencers, with a clear focus on how that population can assist the economy by supporting local businesses. This is very much in line with HSBC's own goals both locally and nationally.

What has HSBC CREATED this year? 

We continue to create stronger, more valuable relationships with our customers by understanding their needs, helping them to expand and source new customers, and connecting them with other businesses that can provide valuable opportunities. This year, we also launched an £8 billion SME fund, to ensure we get the funding small businesses need to grow and thrive.

What are HSBC currently DOING with businesses in Liverpool?

We have a local SME fund for Liverpool businesses worth £150 million- although this is by no means a limit. If local businesses need more, we will make more funding available. We also ran a special promotion this summer to make borrowing cheaper and easier - we waived arrangement and HSBC security fees on qualifying loans. In September, we have introduced business owners to their own business coach to help them with the leadership of their businesses. We plan to roll out other innovations as well which will make business banking easier for small businesses.

 

To find out more about some of the fantastic services HSBC provide

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Posted by Ninh Hao

Marketing and Communications Manager - Britcham Chile Services SpA

Tue 08th, Dec

British businesses have greater access to high growth markets than ever before, but it still remains a challenge to begin exporting. Where to go and how to start?

Britcham Chile Services participated in UKTI´s ExploreExport week in London on the 6th to 13th of November. ExploreExport gathers more than 67 high growth markets in one place for businesses to meet and greet and more importantly give you the opportunity to ask any export questions which you have in mind.

Why export to Chile? Because access to Chile means easy access to the rest of Latin America. Do you want to export to a market of 588m people with a GDP of US$4.65 trillion? That is the size of Latin America and here is why Chile is the easy option:

According to the FCO, Chile scores highly in terms of like-mindedness when conducting business with the UK as well as in growth potential, per capita wealth and business environment. It is open to trade and investment, meaning great opportunities for UK companies.

Chile’s greatest strengths lie in:

  • The wealth of its population: Chile has one of the highest GDP per capita in the region.
  • Its competitiveness relative to other countries in the region.
  • Reduced trade barriers leading to Chilean exports and imports rising significantly
  •  Tax on goods imported from the UK is zero, as part of a double tax treaty. Chile has 47 international trade agreements and is a great stepping stone into the rest of the continent.
  • Corruption is rated the lowest in the region. It is easy to do business in Chile. It is stable, rules-based and secure.

 

Apart from the quantitative facts that make conducting business in Chile easy, the one thing that is a huge advantage for British companies from the very start is that Chileans love the British brand. Chileans are anglophiles and associate the brand “Britain” with quality and prestige. This is evident with the British brands such as Topshop, Twinning Tea and Waitrose who are enjoying a lot of success in Chile.

Besides retail, Chileans are increasingly seeking to optimise productivity and existing services and products. Therefore, any British companies dealing in such services would be most welcomed by the Chileans.

Some of Chile´s key sectors

• Agribusiness – Agribusiness is Chile’s largest economic sector after mining, accounting for 10% of GDP and 29% of exports.
• IT - Chile has one of the strongest ICT industries in terms of growth in the entire region: for the past five years it’s growth statistics have always been higher than the Latin American average.
• Retail - In 2014, Chile was named the second best emerging market in the world for retail opportunities.
• Health - The government plans US$2.2billion investment to build and equip six new hospitals and repair, expand and modernise 56 older public hospitals.
• Construction – Sector in general shows strong performance especially with a growing demand in sustainable construction.
• Water – the provision of drinking and industrial water, the treatment of wastewater and effluents and water efficiencies are of key importance in several industries.

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Zee Hussain from Simpson Millar shares his HR guide for the festive period

Posted by Zee Hussain

Employment Partner - Colemans-ctts

Mon 07th, Dec

During the festive period, it makes sense that employees embrace the celebrations with open arms; presents, the office party, and that bit of extra time off work to be with loved ones. And whilst this should be encouraged, as employer's preparation and communication is key.

This employers’ HR guide provides some useful information and tips on how best to avoid the embarrassing stories, HR-headaches, and any other potential pitfalls for employers during the festive period.

Annual Leave

In an ideal world, all employees could clock off ahead of Christmas Eve and not need to return until the New Year, but the truth of the matter is that many businesses don’t lock up shop over the festive period.

As such: employers should expect a higher than usual demand for annual leave as we approach the festive period.

The key to dealing with this effectively is to be prepared and remember that whilst the employee has the right to request annual leave (within their entitlement), the employer has the right to refuse it.

Likewise, employers can require employees to take annual leave at a certain time of the year and or cancel approved annual leave in line with the business needs.

The caveat here is that the employer must give sufficient notice under the Working Time Regulations 1998 and comply with any notice provision stated within the employee’s contract.

If you are intending to close between Christmas and New Year, it is good practice to have a clause within the holiday section of an employee’s contract to confirm that X number of days must be reserved for use between this period as the workplace will be closed.

For more information on notice periods please contact us.

Online Shopping

Many employees will turn to the internet to do their last minute Christmas shop as the number of available shopping days dwindles away the closer we get to Christmas Day.

The approach to using the internet for personal matters at work varies between employers; just make sure that you have a steadfast policy.

You may have an outright ban on any type of personal use, or perhaps a more relaxed approach - the key is to check that your IT policy clearly states your intentions as the employer.

In the event that an employee is spending more time using the internet for personal matters, as an employer, you can turn to your policy.

Secret Santa

Secret Santa is now much more commonplace, and usually, it is a chance to exchange thoughtful gifts with colleagues. Though the roots of Secret Santa are in a jovial place, some may see it as an opportunity to embarrass another employee in disguise; it is not without risk for the employer.

It is quite often the case that employees taking part in such a tradition purchase an offensive gift with the intent of embarrassing a fellow colleague. Whilst the ‘Secret Santa’ may find this amusing, the recipient may not.

You should have an up to date policy on equal opportunities, bullying, and harassment. It should confirm that purchasing gifts to cause (or which are likely to cause) offence will lead to disciplinary action under the company policy.

Whether or not something is deemed offensive, will be judged with reference to the impact on the recipient - and not to others, this is the approach taken in the Equality Act 2010.

Christmas Parties

Your Christmas party should be an opportunity to thank employees for their work throughout the year. The party should be a place to celebrate, enjoy and relax in the company of colleagues.

That said: employees should be made explicitly aware in advance that the Christmas Party is an extension of the workplace. Any inappropriate conduct at the event will be treated in the same way as it would be had it have occurred in the office.

Send out a simple reminder by email ahead of the party reiterating the company policy explaining any inappropriate conduct such as sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying and acts of physical violence will be dealt with under the company’s disciplinary policy.

Your disciplinary policies must also make reference to Christmas/workplace parties.

Ensure that all employees are invited to the Christmas party, including those away from the business, for example, or those on maternity/paternity/adoption leave, and sick leave.

Post Party Sick Day

Whilst it may be unavoidable that embarrassed or even still intoxicated employees call in sick the morning after the work party, employers should remind employees in advance that the usual procedures and penalties apply.

5 Tips For A HR Headache-Free Festive Period:

1. Review your HR policies to ensure they are fit for purpose, the key ones relating to this issue being disciplinary, grievance, equal opportunities, anti-bullying, harassment, and sickness absence.
2. Implement policies to assist the business in dealing with the issues mentioned in this guide if they are not already in place.
3. Remind/inform employees where the policies can be found.
4. Offer refresher training to managers on the key issues and how to handle them.
5. Adhere to your policies should the issues mentioned in this guide or indeed any others arise.

The festive period should be one that everyone can enjoy and celebrate. However, issues during the festive period can result in the employer being liable for costly claims such as; discrimination, unfair dismissal and sexual harassment.
This guide is not intended to remove the fun and festivity of Christmas. However, by taking some simple steps, being pro-active and communicating well with employees, employers can reduce risk to the business and ensure a smoother ride for the management team.

Preparation Is Key

If you need practical advice on any aspect of HR or employment law ahead of the festivities, Simpson Millar are offering a fixed fee service to review your policies. This will ensure that your gifts will be the only costly thing for you and your business this Christmas.

If you would like to discuss any of the matters mentioned in this guide or further ways to protect your business ahead of the festive period, please call the Employment Law Team on: 0808 129 3320

Alternatively, you can visit our new HR Support Service for Business: HR ORACLE

Brought to you by Simpson Millar, a top national law firm with decades of experience in employment law and HR legal support, HR Oracle delivers our expertise direct to your business, whenever and wherever you need it.

For more HR Support from Simpson Millar, see their HR Oracle

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Landlords and the Restriction of Mortgage Interest Relief

Posted by Sara Reynolds

Assistant tax and forensic manager at DSG

Thu 26th, Nov

In July 2015 George Osborne announced that the Government will restrict relief on mortgage interest payments and other finance costs to the basic rate of income tax, 20%, for all individual landlords of residential property.

This restriction will be phased in over four years beginning from April 2017.
Currently, landlords can claim relief for all of their mortgage interest payments against their rental profits, and so can obtain relief at 40% or even 45%.

However, it is not only those landlords who currently pay tax at 40% or 45% that will be affected. Those who currently pay tax at the 20% basic rate may be pushed into the 40% higher rate as a result of the changes.

What can be done to lessen the impact?

As the restriction is being phased in from 2017, there is time for landlords to consider their options and to think about ways in which they can lessen the impact.
If you are a residential landlord and you think the restriction may affect you, some straightforward suggestions are:

  • Consider borrowing more against commercial property.
  • If you have a trading company that owes you money, draw down this money and borrow within the company. Another option is to lend monies from new borrowings back to the company as full tax relief may then be available.
  • Consider transferring ownership or part ownership of properties to spouses or family members who pay tax at the basic rate. There may be capital gains tax implications so advice will be needed.
  • Making pension contributions to increase the basic rate tax band available (although there are limits on the amount of pension contributions that can be paid.
  • Consider whether it is worthwhile incurring additional expenditure, for example repairs, to reduce higher rate tax liabilities.
  • Ensure that every possible tax deductible expense is being claimed.
  • Make sure that existing mortgages are at the best possible rate.

What about substantial property portfolios?

For substantial property portfolios more complex strategies are possible, for example:

  • Transferring property into a limited company - the new rules don’t apply to companies so full relief would still be obtained for mortgage interest costs. However without careful planning transferring the property into a company could trigger a capital gains tax charge and stamp duty land tax could be payable. Mortgage lenders would have to be informed of the transfer, and new mortgage terms agreed.
  • In some circumstances a management company could be used to charge a management fee for services provided which would reduce personal rental profits. Care would need to be taken regarding the set up and operation of the company, and there would be company running costs to consider.

 

Our overall advice to landlords is to consider the impact the changes will have on their tax position and to seek our advice if they would like to explore any of the above suggestions in more detail.

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Posted by Jenny Esau

Managing Director of Credit Management Group UK

Wed 25th, Nov

In an ideal world your business would be paid in full before any goods or services exchange hands, however, this is an unrealistic ideal for competitive businesses. Subsequently offering credit to your customers is an ideal to maintain a competitive advantage; there are, however, risks involved in offering credit and therefore we would highly recommend your implement Customer Credit Limits.

Why should you use customer credit limits within your business?

They are necessary for many trade credit insurers

Not so much a reason, but a requirement for many trade credit insurers is to set a credit limit, and often they may take some control over what the credit limit will be dependent on the financial standing of the customer and their ability to pay.

They encourage customers to pay quicker

A credit limit can act as a great form of leverage, for your customer to remain under their credit limit it will be necessary to make more frequent or higher value payments to bring them below their credit limit.

I must add that this only acts as a great form of leverage when you stick to your credit limit; if you highlight to your customers that you will allow them to go over their credit limit, they will not see this as a viable threat to encourage them to make payment.

They limit the amount of potential bad debt you could be exposed to

If you limit the amount of credit your customer can have without payment then you potentially limit the amount of money that can turn into bad debt. If no credit limit is set, then you could potentially find their credit rising and rising, without receiving payment, and subsequently the worst was to happen you are left with a much greater value of bad debt than you would if you had cut the credit off at a lower amount.

They enable you to implement a credit hold function for late payment or reaching credit limit

This must be in your terms and conditions, and you can indeed implement this without having credit limits, but in my opinion it is a much more effective form of leverage when credit limits are applied. Having a credit hold function in your terms allows you to stop any goods or services should there be issues of late payment, or if your customer reaches their credit limit without payment to bring it down.

The costs associated with offering credit

There are substantial costs involved in offering credit to your customers in interest, bank fees, staff costs of chasing outstanding debt, especially when late or non-payment occurs. By having a credit limit you potentially reduce these costs by using your credit limit as leverage and getting paid quicker.

There is a balance between giving a customer too little credit & too much. You don’t want to restrict sales but you should keep your exposure to bad debt to a minimum. Therefore it’s useful to have a documented methodology of setting credit limits that is adhered to. Business is about risk, but we strongly recommend risks should be known and evaluated.

Download our free guide on how much customer credit could be costing your business.

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Heard of ransomware? It’s important that you know about it, so read on…

Posted by Phil Bird

Managing Director - PC Support Group

Tue 24th, Nov

Ransomware is the term given to a type of virus that enters your computer(s) and encrypts all your data in such a way that you can no longer access any of it.  Until you pay a substantial fee (a ransom) to get it back.

There’s a new ransomware virus to be aware of; it’s called Power Worm but unfortunately no amount of ransom can get your data back for you.  Unfortunately, the not-so-clever hackers have made a big coding mistake this time and one variant of their virus destroys keys that could help recover the data it has scrambled – leaving you high and dry even if you are prepared to pay a ransom.

Power Worm infects Microsoft Word and Excel files in the main,  but the latest version goes after many more types of files it finds on your machine.

Malware Researcher Lawrence Abrams makes it clear that anyone hit by Power Worm should not pay the 2 bitcoin (about £500) ransom it asks for because they will not get any data back.  He said “There is unfortunately nothing that can be done for victims of this infection, If you have been affected by this ransomware, your only option is to restore from a back-up.”

The reality is that even when the hackers do have the key they are unlikely to release it even if you pay the ransom so regular reliable backups is the only realistic way to protect your data and your business from these attacks.

Did you know:

  • 34% of companies fail to test their backups, and of those that do, 77% have found back-up failures (Source: Home Office Computing Magazine)
  • 93% of companies that lost their data centre for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster. (Source: National Archives & Records Administration)

It’s worth noting that even if you avoid catching a computer virus, ALL disk drives eventually fail, regardless of brand or type and so backups are arguably the most essential aspect of any IT system.

Backup solutions can vary enormously and it is important to be aware of the consequences of choosing one solution over another. While all of our services provide excellent protection, some cover just data while others cover entire systems. Some enable faster recovery of your systems in the event of a major problem, while others ensure that your systems are safe from physical risks such as fires, floods or theft. We recognise that each business has unique requirements and so we talk to customers to diagnose their potential risks and vulnerabilities, understand what’s important to them and then design a specific BusinessCARE Backup system tailored for their situation.

Call The PC Support Group before it’s too late! You can reach us now on 03300 886116

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What steps can you take to become an anti-bullying organisation?

Posted by Lois Petty

Solicitor in the Employment, Pensions and Immigration Team of Weightmans LLP in Liverpool

Fri 20th, Nov

Today marks the close of Anti-Bullying Week, which has brought this pervasive issue back into focus. Occupational bullying costs UK businesses thousands each year in sickness absenteeism, high staff turnover and reduced productivity. So what steps can you take to become an anti-bullying organisation?

Recognise Bullying Behaviour

We know bullying when we see it, but there is no single legal definition. Intimidating behaviour, inter-personal conflict and misuse of managerial power are often involved. The related concept of harassmentis defined, in part, as ‘unwanted conduct’ which ‘has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity’ (Equality Act 2010). To be unlawful, harassment must be linked to a ‘protected characteristic’ such as sex, race or sexual orientation. Often ‘bullying’ is used as an umbrella term for both sets of behaviour. New ACAS Guidance sets out some ‘real-life’ examples.

Obviously there is an element of subjectivity involved. One person’s ‘bullying’ may be another’s ‘strong management’. Also, the factual picture is often complex. Allegations of bullying will often crop up in the context of employee ill-health or poor performance.

Is a policy enough?

A robust bullying and harassment policy with clear routes of redress is a great place to start and makes clear that you take the issue seriously. Including some examples of how bullying might look in your business may help set objective standards and encourage employees to understand what behaviour will be considered unacceptable.

Interestingly though, recent ACAS research suggests that placing the onus solely on individual grievance processes is an insufficient framework for the successful prevention of workplace bullying. It’s crucial to back up policy statements with other preventative action.

What else can we do?

Anti-bullying culture starts from the top down. Train your managers and make sure that they role-model positive behaviour.

Be proactive in identifying problems. As well as tackling formal complaints, seek informal feedback about employee experiences. Ask your leavers why they moved on. Was bullying a factor?

Prioritise timely intervention. Could you offer internal or external mediation to resolve conflict at an early stage? Even the small businesses can put in place some employee support structures such as access to confidential counselling.

Don’t be afraid to instigate disciplinary action against offenders for serious incidences of bullying or where behaviour does not improve.

Tackling bullying makes great business sense. Seek expert legal help to bolster your anti-bullying credentials. 

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Warrant Group provides some insight for first time exporters.

Posted by John Burnett

Trade Sales, Business Development Manager at Warrant Group

Fri 13th, Nov

Know your international market

You know what the price of your product is in the UK but what’s it worth overseas? Make sure you thoroughly research your market from its geography to price points. For example, UK food and drink is very marketable at the moment and attracts a high value especially in the Far East and East Asia. 

Also, are you selling into a country where the population is very port centric like Australia or do you have long inward transits to consider?

The  UK Trade & Industry and the International Chamber of Commerce are great sources of data for assessing whether a product is suitable for a specific market.

Costs: understanding incoterms

Incoterms are all about establishing with the buyer who is responsible for the transit costs. Getting your incoterms agreed is very important because these costs need to be covered within your unit cost.

While no one wants to pay the transit costs, everyone wants to be in control of them. If you, as the supplier, is in control of your supply chain and become a savvy exporter, then you can negotiate better prices which increases competitiveness, profits and the prospect of future orders.

Transport

What is the best way of getting the cargo to the customer? There’s a lot to consider here and it’s not just based on cost. Firstly consider your destination, how quickly the customer needs it and cash flow. If paying higher transportation costs means getting paid quicker then that might be important. Alternatively, don’t think that slow transit is negative; it actually offers a period of free storage which could be useful. And of course, think smartly and use a blend of the two.

Getting paid

Clearly establishing how and when you are paid is important – is it 50 per cent up front and 50 per cent on arrival? A Letter of Credit is a safe way of getting paid, enabling payment to be released through a third party once delivery has taken place.

Documentation

Seek professional expertise to ensure all the correct documentation is in place to avoid delays. As a new exporter, the chances of your consignment being checked is high.

Packing

It is the supplier’s responsibility to ensure goods are packed correctly and if not, they are likely to be returned. Many countries have special packing requirements, for example in Australia all pallets have to be heat treated and certified.

Hazardous Cargo

Hazardous goods need to be pre-approved by the carrier so they can be stored safely in transit.

Warrant Group works with a variety of companies demonstrating how dynamic and flexible supply chains can boost business and increase competitiveness. It has pledged its support for Liverpool’s Spark Up business accelerator programme to help create local jobs and investment. UK Trade & Industry International Chamber of Commerce.

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Exporter Clarke Energy discuss the opportunities and challenges for energy security in developing nations

Posted by Alex Marshall

Group Marketing & Compliance Manager at Clarke Energy

Thu 12th, Nov

Many countries in developing nations created power generation networks based upon large centralised power generation stations with significant investment in power transmission and distribution networks. From the African context this has not happened yet there is a huge need to increase power generation capacity. The thought of addressing this through a small number of large gas, hydro, coal or nuclear-fuelled power stations seems attractive at first, however the goals of supplying power for all in Africa, could be better addressed with de-centralised distributed generation, lots of smaller localised power stations, addressing electrification needs quickly.

A challenge with large centralised power stations is how to maximise the energy content of the valuable fuels. Coal power stations may convert energy in the fuel to only 40% electricity. With the most modern efficiency gas-turbine power plants this may be increased to 60%. All of the remaining energy is lost through heat. In addition, further power losses occur through transmission lines, where moving electricity from point of generation to user, can be as much as 2%. The investment in this transmission infrastructure is also significant as well as time consuming and poses its own challenges.

Developing countries are now moving towards more decentralised power systems, producing power close to the site of use, reducing losses and improving energy efficiency. If it incorporates a combined heat and power plant total fuel efficiency may be as high as 90-95% by using both the electricity and waste heat created during the production of power and utilisation of the original fuel. The heat can be used to generate steam, hot water or can be used directly in a drier or industrial facility. It can also be converted to cooling, though an absorption chiller. Industrial plants in Nigeria are moving towards CHP and trigeneration technology. Diageo’s Guinness Ogba brewery was one of the African pioneers.

If there is no opportunity for the deployment of biogas in a given area, an alternative would be to use natural gas or diesel. Both of these are costly fuels and are not renewable sources of energy. Therefore if these are used, then a key requirement for the asset is the maximisation of fuel efficiency. GE’s new ‘616’ diesel generator is a 2.5MW engine, that requires only 184g/kWh of fuel, meaning significant fuel savings and reduced carbon emissions versus established technology. This is currently being deployed for the first time globally at a major flour mill in Nigeria.

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Posted by Camille Flores-Kilfoyle

Business Development Manager at PSL

Tue 10th, Nov

Powder Systems Limited (PSL) has been exporting internationally for 26 years. The secret of PSL’s success is a strong commitment to be a true international SME. The vision of the company has always been to treat every overseas markets like its home one. Understanding local markets and cultures is what has brought PSL to its leading position today.

Established in 1989 in Speke Liverpool, PSL’s first contract outside the UK was in Ireland in 1990, but true international trade started in 1992 with first contracts coming from Singapore. For 4 years, PSL mainly worked with UK, USA and sporadically other European countries, pushed by the demand in pharmaceutical process equipment.

PSL opened its first overseas office in 1997 in Boise Idaho (USA) followed by 4 more offices and more than 15 partners around the world, PSL live and breathe its international relationships. PSL’s team of multi-national professionals sustains a culture that values engineering innovation and excellence. With staff coming from different countries, PSL understand every market needs and is able to provide suitable solutions to its worldwide customer base.

With a record turnover this year, PSL accounted more than 95% of their orders coming from outside the UK and sold in 30 countries. These past three years, PSL accelerated its international expansion with the launch of innovative technologies and penetrated new markets such as South Korea or Brazil.

PSL has been honoured to be nominated to several awards for its export success in 2015 and the company is looking forward to the coming year with exciting new projects such as the establishment of a new office in Singapore and the launch of the C.O.P.E (Center Of Process Excellence) in the USA, to support its customers with process development consultancy and feasibility trials.

PSL is an international manufacturer of filtration, drying and complete containment solutions. We have been supporting pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, chemical, speciality chemical and laboratory industries since 1989. Our worldwide customer base contains industry leaders including Pfizer, GSK, BMS and Sanofi-Aventis.

PSL’s solutions enable clients to bring new generation drugs into the market place faster, using the latest technology in containment and production equipment.

Please click here for more information.

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