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Mon 7th Apr 2014 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Gerry Ford – I think we will end up with 30,000 pubs; criticised for paying no Corporation Tax since 2007: Caffe Nero founder Gerry Ford has predicted that the UK will end up with circa 30,000 pubs. Ford told The Sunday Telegraph: “I think the rate of decline of pubs will slow but it will probably bottom out at about 30,000 and coffee houses will continue to grow.” Ford argued that the coffee market is far from saturated. “The market research is suggesting 9 to 10% growth per year in the coffee shop market in the next five years.” Meanwhile, Ford said Caffe Nero would claim a premium market position in the US where it is about to open in Boston, Massachusetts. “I could imagine several hundred Caffe Nero branches in the US – it’s our single biggest opportunity.” A total of 90 Caffe Nero sites will open a year over the next five years, split between UK and international openings, he said. Meanwhile, the company, which has 566 UK outlets, was criticised in this morning’s Daily Mail for paying no Corporation Tax since 2007 – the company had sales of £1bn at that time. Labour MP John Mann, a member of the Treasury Select Committee, told the newspaper: “If other cafes around the country are paying proper British taxes why shouldn’t this company?” Caffe Nero Ebitda was £35m last year and will rise to £38.5m this year. Ford added: “We have a relatively high interest rate that we’re paying to UK banks that wipes out our profit. We’re profitable before we pay our debt bills. Our debt is just short of £250m.” The firm paid £21m in VAT and £13m in National Insurance contributions last year, he said. Last week, Caffe Nero announced it is planning to invest €20 million in Ireland over the next five years to open 40 stores and create up to 350 new jobs.
   

Industry News:

Study finds restaurant reviews linked to weather: A new study has found restaurant reviews are affected by the weather on the day they were written. The study, conducted by researchers Saeideh Bakhshi, Partha Kanuparthy and Eric Gilbert, looked at 840,000 restaurants and 1.1 million linked reviews between 2002 and 2011. “Weather conditions are significantly associated with ratings,” the authors found. “Reviews written on warm or cool days are more likely to be rated high than those written in cold or hot days. Reviews written on rainy or snowy days tend to have lower ratings than those written on days without rain or snow. Science has shown that weather impacts our mood, so a nice day can lead to a nice review. A rainy day can mean a miserable one.”
   
Cerberus buys entire Nama property portfolio: Nama, the Republic of Ireland’s state-controlled so-called “bad bank”, has sold its entire Northern Ireland property loan portfolio to sector investor Cerberus Capital Management in a deal thought to be worth more than £1bn. Nama’s properties include office blocks, shopping developments, pubs and hotels and development land. Nama (National Asset Management Agency) was set up to handle property loans made by the Republic of Ireland’s banks before the financial crash. The Irish state broadcaster, RTÉ, reported the deal was for more than £1.3bn. Nama had previously revealed that it paid around £1.1bn for the loans when it acquired them from the Irish banks – the loans originally had a value of £4.5bn. Michael Noonan, the Irish finance minister, said: “(The) announcement by Nama of the sale of their Northern Ireland loan book to Cerberus is very good news for the Irish taxpayer, Nama and the Northern Irish economy. This is the biggest loan sale that Nama have completed to date and highlights the progress the agency is making in generating a return on its assets for the Irish taxpayer.”
   
US-based Mexican restaurant chain bans Vladimir Putin: Mighty Taco, a fast-food chain of Mexican restaurants, has banned the Russian president Vladimir Putin from its branches until he stops “picking on people” – referring to his annexation of Crimea. The company, which has 23 sites in western New York, posted a message on its Facebook page last week forbidding the politician from entering any of their locations – “even the one in Delaware and Hertel!” “Normally at Mighty Taco, we don’t like to get political, but someone has to do something – and that someone is us!” said the firm’s Facebook statement.
   
The gastro-pub takes to the high seas: James Beard Award-winning Chef Michael Schwartz has designed a new pub concept for cruise ship company Royal Caribbean in his capacity as the company’s newest “experience advisor”. The pub, Michael’s Genuine Pub, will feature “Michael’s Genuine Home Brew” beer and will debut as what the company is calling the first-ever “gastropubs at sea”. “We are very much looking forward to continue working with Michael in his new role as a Quantum Experience Advisor, where he will help us deliver culinary ‘wows’ aboard Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, executive vice president of operations at Royal Caribbean International.
   

Company News:

Barclays leisure analyst – Whitbread can double its market capitalisation in the next five years: Barclays leisure analyst Vicki Stern has argued that Whitbread can double its market capitalisation – currently £7.75 billion – over the next five years. She rated Whitbread the cheapest stock in the leisure sector and argued that the market currently values the international business as zero. Investors buying the shares today are buying a free option on a business that could be worth £2 billion in ten years of 560p a share, she said. Stern forecasts a doubling of earnings per share over the next five years on the back of a strong macro recovery alongside a return to outperformance by Premier Inn and international success for Costa. Whitbread shares rose 101p to 4301p in the wake of Stern’s note.
   
ETM looks at Ealing pub site: The gastro-operator ETM Group, led by Ed and Tom Martin, is reported to be looking at taking over a former Town and Country Pub Company outlet in West London, The Ealing Park Tavern. The pub, a substantial corner building built in 1885 which has been operating as a bar and restaurant/diner, is due to close on Sunday, 20 April, a year after the collapse into administration of Town and Country and six months after the pub, along with five other Town and Country pubs, was put up for sale by the property agent Colliers on the instructions of Town and Country’s administrator, O’Hara. A report on the Ealing Today website said that negotiations for a sale were understood to be underway with ETM, which runs gastro-pubs and restaurants around London including The Hat and Tun and One Canada Square.
   
Simon French issues a ‘Buy’ note on Prezzo ahead of full-year results: Panmure Gordon leisure analyst Simon French has issued a ‘Buy’ note, with a Target Price of 197p, on Prezzo shares ahead of full year results on Wednesday (9 April). He said: “We forecast £20.0m PBT (6.5p EPS); consensus forecasts are for £20.2m PBT (6.6p EPS). Prezzo is well-positioned to grow earnings strongly over the medium-term as it benefits from the rollout out its proven Prezzo and Chimichanga brands with additional growth through its fledgling Cleaver brand. In addition there is scope for improved profitability in the existing estate from like-for-like growth as the economic recovery picks up in the UK regions and margin improvement through less discounting and easing cost inflation.”
   
Philip Lay launches new venture called PHL: Philip Lay has launched a new consultancy called PHL (Pubs Hotels and Leisure) Ventures after stepping down from his post as retail director at SA Brain last week after 12 years. Lay oversaw the expansion of the Coffee #1 business at SA Brain, which has helped transform the revenue streams at the Cardiff-based business. Lay told last month’s Propel Multi Club conference that food sales have increased from 14.8% of sales in 2006 to 45.8% of sales in 2013, including the coffee business. Meanwhile, wet sales accounted for 83% of total sales at the company in 2006 and had reduced to 51% last year.
   
Enterprise Inns opens “pie and pint” pub in Gloucester: Enterprise ins has re-opened a “pie and pint” pub, The Northend Vaults, in Gloucester. New landlord David Thomason has opened with the help of a £20,000 Virgin business start up loan. The pub is set to become Gloucester’s first “pie and pint” pub, offering a range of ales brewed in the area and Pieminister pies. Simon Williams, regional manager for Enterprise Inns, told the local newspaper: “We were all a little nervous due to the level of investment from Enterprise, but I’m sure David’s enthusiasm and drive will help to make the Northend Vaults a huge success.”
   
Turtle Bay lines up first London opening in Walthamstow: Turtle Bay, the Caribbean restaurant chain backed by Piper Private Equity, will open its first London outlet in the Cleveland Place development in Walthamstow, alongside Nando’s and the Empire Cinema. Turtle Bay’s managing director Ajith Jayawickrema said: “Walthamstow is an exciting place to be right now, on its way up in every possible way. Walthamstow is the perfect place for Turtle Bay to bring our party to next, the area has a special vibe and the community is really fun.” The chain currently has restaurants in Leamington Spa, Leicester, Bristol, Nottingham, Southampton and Milton Keynes, with an outlet in Birmingham due to open this month. The Walthamstow outlet is due to open in November.
   
JP Morgan Cazenove lifts Mitchells & Butlers share recommendation: JP Morgan Cazenove has lifted its recommendation for Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) from ‘neutral’ to ‘overweight’, saying that it is taking a more positive view on the UK pubs and restaurants sector. The Asda tracker of UK discretionary income was up 3% in February, representing the strongest growth for over a year, the bank highlighted. “Combined with strong Christmas trading updates and the easy comps ahead, this gives us cause for optimism on the trading outlook for the UK pub and restaurant stocks,” JP Morgan said. This benefit is expected to be seen across the sector, despite current consensus forecasts not factoring in any acceleration in like-for-like sales growth. As for M&B, the bank said “upcoming catalysts” could drive a re-rating of the stock to the sector-average on a price-to-earnings basis, having traded at a 20% discount to peers for last three years. These catalysts include: a reversing of its trading underperformance against the sector; a resolution to ongoing pension renegotiations; and a reinstated dividend “in time”. The target price for the stock has been raised from 460p to 530p.
   
Buffet restaurant Mimosa signs for 14,500 square foot site: Mimosa, the all-you-can-eat Asian buffet restaurant brand, has signed to occupy a 14,500 square foot site at Cordwell Property Group’s Littleton Centre in Walsall. The new site will have 370 covers and offer more than 60 options from Malaysia, Thailand, India and China. Mimosa is also lining up openings in Southwater in Telford, Baxter Gate in Loughborough. Its existing sites are in Aldershot and Camberley.
   
JD Wetherspoon – our chicken is pre-cooked and we’re in the clear over food poisoning claim: A JD Wetherspoon investigation into a diner’s claim that she suffered food poisoning after eating at its Truro pub has concluded the meal served was safe. Claire Wilkins was taken to the Royal Cornwall Hospital after she and her husband suffered suspected food poisoning at JD Wetherspoon’s Try Dowr in Truro. The couple had double chicken burger meals and said the chicken breasts weren’t properly cooked. A report from SAI Global, an independent health consultancy instructed by Wetherspoon, concluded it was “unable to find any evidence to ascertain the root cause of (the) illness”. Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “SAI Global have confirmed to us that the food poisoning was not as a result of the food served in the Wetherspoon pub. The product is a pre-cooked chicken product and is subject to rigorous controls with our suppliers. Campylobacter [bacterium] occurs in raw chicken products but the product is not handled in a raw state in our kitchens. Furthermore, the incident report states that the chicken ‘looked uncooked’. The product is a cooked item and we sell in excess of 210,000 units (and a couple of hundred at this pub) per week and there have been no other reported food poisoning issues.”
   
McDonald’s closes its three sites in the Crimea: The three McDonald’s restaurants in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia, have been closed. The Ukrainian branch of McDonald’s, based in Kiev, said that they had been closed for technical reasons. McDonald’s said the closure was temporary, but has offered to move employees to other jobs in mainland Ukraine and give them a three-month rent payment.
   
KFC bids for Scarborough outlet: KFC has lodged a planning application with Scarborough Council to open its first branch in the town in an empty sporting goods shop in Huntriss Row. Scarborough residents had previously put together a petition with 5,000 signatures asking the fast food chain to open in the town. The chairman of Scarborough’s chamber of trade, Janet Jefferson, told the local newspaper it was “great news for the town”. She said: “It’s going to be a big boost for the economy and it will bring people into Huntriss Row. It can only add to the footfall, and I think competition is good for the town, bringing added trade to already established businesses.” The planned restaurant is yards from a McDonald’s outlet.
   
Greenock Burger King plan dropped: A proposal to build a £700,000 Burger King drive-through in the centre of Greenock, near Glasgow, has been withdrawn. The scheme, submitted by Oak Mall shopping centre to build the restaurant on a pay and display car park in Hunter Place, was already in trouble after council planning officials raised concerns about road and pedestrian safety at the new restaurant and a lack of parking spaces for the shopping centre, which a report said fails to meet current standards. There were also fears about delivery vehicles reversing onto the busy main road, while planning officers said the drive-through design would fail to make a “positive contribution” to the town centre. However, councillors have now been told that the proposal has been withdrawn. Burger King already has a restaurant in nearby West Blackhall Street, Greenock.
   
Brighton Bier Company opens first tied outlet: The Brighton Bier Company, which began brewing in 2012 by sharing the kit of the Kemp Town Brewery, is opening its first tied house in a joint venture with the Late Knights brewery of Penge, South East London. The Brighton Beer Dispensary, at the former Prince Arthur pub in Dean Street, Brighton, will have four ales and four ciders on the bar hand-pulls, three keg beers and up to a further six ales available which will be “gravity dispensed” direct from the cask racked on stillage racks next to the bar. Since Brighton Bier Company’s formation two years ago, it has grown steadily, merging with the Bexhill-based Franklins Brewery and the wholesaler and distributor With Soul. Director Stephen Whitehurst, who runs the firm with fellow directors Ollie Fisher, Gary Sillence and Steven Medniuk, said he hoped that the pub could offer customers “something a bit different”.
   
Hogshead pub site in King’s Lynn closed for six years to re-open: Work has started converting King’s Lynn’s former Hogshead pub, which has stood empty since it closed in 2008, into Eros, a bar selling Mediterranean food. New owner Erdal Uzun said bar will be serving Spanish, Italian, French and Turkish food. He added: “We are going to offer Lynn something different. I don’t think there is anywhere selling Mediterranean food.”
   
Microbrewery in the loo planned for St Ives: Plans for a microbrewery in a disused public toilet block in St Ives are due to be discussed by Cornwall Council today (Monday). If the application is passed, the Trenwith Burrows public conveniences would be transformed and extended to create a microbrewery, a new cafe and a gift shop. The plans also include replacing the roof with a flat surface to create a roof terrace for the cafe. Marco Amura, owner of St Ives Brewery, the man behind the plans, said as well as creating jobs the scheme will bring back a public convenience to the site, which has been closed. Amura said: “The development of a small microbrewery on the Trenwith site will enable a growing business to reach a larger audience and create eight full-time jobs. In addition to the creation of much-needed jobs in the town, St Ives Brewery will be funding the opening of the site’s now closed public toilets, a much-needed service for tourism in St Ives.”
   
Convenience store chain owner reopens pub: The owner of six convenience stores is converting a closed pub into a family bar and restaurant. Kishor Patel, who owns six Nisa Local stores in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, has bought the former Dog and Duck in Parkside Drive, Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire, which closed in 2011, and is giving it a refurbishment that will take about 26 weeks. Patel said: “There was a general feeling in the area that we didn’t want to lose this pub, so I decided to do something about it. Through our investment, not only are we bringing employment to the area but we’re also creating a pub with an offering that’s relevant to the local community and ensuring its survival for generations to come. The support from the community for our Nisa Local stores has been tremendous over the years and now we hope to add more value to the community of Houghton Regis.”
   
Business Improvement District launches own beer for local bars: Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter Business Improvement District has teamed up with its local Two Towers brewery to develop a unique beer that will be stocked exclusively in bars throughout the Jewellery Quarter. Local people are being asked to taste, choose the recipe and name the beer at a special event being held on 13 April. One lucky person will see their suggested name printed on the bottle and have their own case of the beer to celebrate with. Luke Crane, manager of the Jewellery Quarter BID, said: “With so many real ale pubs and bars in the Jewellery Quarter, we thought it was about time that the BID launched its own beer, which represented the area and was chosen by the people that will drink it. We want a name that truly represents the Quarter. It is a quirky, vibrant and surprising place with so much to offer visitors and residents and I am excited to see what people come up with. We will be officially launching the beer at the Birmingham Beer and Cider Festival which will run from 29 November.” Mark Arnott-Job, owner of Two Towers Brewery, said: “It is a great privilege to have the opportunity of developing an ale alongside the Jewellery Quarter BID and to have the involvement of the people of the Jewellery Quarter. I am confident the quarter will have a beer they can be proud of and they should all be able to smell it brewing once we get it going.”
   
Work begins on Wetherspoon hotel in Scotland: Scaffolding and sheeting has been erected over the former Saltoun Arms at Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire, and workers are on site getting the building ready for its transformation into a JD Wetherspoon hotel. The company is converting the second and third floors of the building, which already had planning permission from the council, into ten guest bedrooms. Meanwhile The Crown Inn in Knaresborough, Yorkshire is set to reopen this week after a makeover by Wetherspoon costing £1.35m. The company is creating 55 jobs with the reopening of the pub, which has been in existence since at least 1769.
   
Whitbread sees off fifth attempt to stop Chichester Premier Inn: Whitbread can finally start to build an 85-room Premier Inn on the site of a former Royal Mail depot in St Peter’s Street, Chichester, Sussex after a campaigner ran out of legal recourse. The company was given planning permission to build a three-and-a-half-storey hotel on the site in September 2012. But a series of legal challenges by ward councillor Jo Hayes, a barrister, on the grounds that planners had not been told Whitbread had been offered an alternative hotel location in Queen Street, which was higher up a list of the council’s preferred sites, prevented work starting. Now, after Hayes’s fifth attempt to get permission from first the Administrative Court of London and then the Court of Appeal for a full judicial hearing was rejected, she has exhausted all legal avenues to stop the development beginning. Work will start this summer, creating 30 jobs.
   
McDonald’s to take place of cafe: McDonald’s is due to open a 24-hour drive-through restaurant on the A21 in the village of Matfield, near Tunbridge Wells, Kent. It will take the place of a cafe called The Blue Boys, which is housed in a building that will be demolished, together with an oasthouse alongside, to make way for the McDonald’s development. Villagers organised a 2,000-signature petition to try to save the landmark building. However, a spokesman for McDonald’s said: “A new McDonald’s restaurant in Matfield would employ over 65 people in both full and part-time roles. All staff would also have access to training and qualification programmes including our nationally recognised apprenticeship scheme.”
   
Coca-Cola appoints Manchester agency for trade PR: Coca-Cola Enterprises has appointed Citypress, a PR agency with its headquarters in Manchester, to manage its trade public relations, with a focus on Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of this summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Citypress, which also has offices in London, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Bristol, will help Coca-Cola Enterprises communicate its range of in-store and on-premise promotional activity to British pubs and bar operators, supermarkets and convenience stores. It will also support major campaigns for the branded products Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) products made on behalf of the Coca-Cola Company in the UK. CCE produces and sells more than four billion bottles and cans of soft drinks in Britain every year.
   
Shepherd Neame loses homes bid: The Kentish brewer and pub owner Shepherd Neame has had a bid to build 63 houses on agricultural land on the edge of Faversham rejected before it even reached the planning committee. Swale Council’s head of planning, James Freeman, said the proposed development, off Brogdale Road, Faversham, breached 14 different policies within the Swale Local Plan and the Bearing Fruits scheme, violated six different paragraphs of the National Planning Policy Framework, did not represent sustainable development and failed to consider, recognise or support Faversham’s role and character which is “derived from its compact urban form and historic development”. John Humphreys, a spokesman for Shepherd Neame, said: “We are currently considering our position.”
   
Revolution vodka bar operator reports scale of profit drop in 2013: Revolution vodka bar operator Inventive Leisure, now renamed New Inventive Bar Company and led by former Barracuda Pub Company chief executive Mark McQuater, has reported the scale of the first profit drop since it went private in 2006 – pre-tax profit dropped to £1,629,000 in the year to 30 June 2013 compared to £6,196,000 the year before. Turnover from the 70-site brand rose to £111,619,000 from £106,090,000 the year before – new sites opened in Bournemouth, Macclesfield, Derby and Manchester in the year. The company reported a successful refinance involving a £15.5m loan and a £2.5m revolving credit facility in December 2013. Last month, New Inventive announced sales were up by 5% to £59.0 million in the first half to 31 December 2013. Company Ebitda over this period was up 41% from £4.7 million to £6.7 million. The company has undergone a series of significant changes since March 2013 when the new chief executive Mark McQuater was appointed. Since that time a number of new directors have been appointed to key strategic areas of the business including operations, property, catering and drinks procurement. McQuater said at the time: “Catering sales grew strongly in the half year by 13%. The performance in the first half of the current financial year, which has continued into the second half, follows a tougher trading period in the previous fiscal year, which saw profits decline for the first time since the company was taken private in 2006.” Last month, the business also re-organised its bars into three operating companies: Revolution Bars Limited, Revolución De Cuba Limited and Nightjar Bars Limited. Nightjar Bars operates 11 Revolution Bars, which will be de-branded over time and operate under a local non-branded format. Carl Anderson joined the group as operations director to run the Nightjar business. Anderson was previously with the Rank Group, Luminar and Yellowhammer.
   
Innventure passes £500,000 pre-tax profit mark: Innventure, the six-strong pub operator led by former Mitchells & Butlers executive Chris Gerard, has reported pre-tax profit of £525,720 in the year to 29 June 2013, up from £237,889 the year before. Turnover rose to £6,739,452 from £5,282,532 the year before. The company stated: “Performance going forward is forecast to be strong with an anticipated Ebitda of £1m for the year 2013 to 2014. The company’s cash position is expected to be in excess of £2m by 30 June 2014. From the customer’s perspective the business continues to work on food that is delicious, service that is personal and individual with a drink and accommodation offer that is distinctive. The business is now set up strongly with billing services provided by Pelican and Indicater providing profit and loss reportage to sub-department levels. The move to Indicater is showing strategic and commercial benefits with a notable improvement in gross margins. The combination of the Indicater solution with internal design and operating skills are opening up an opportunity to consider franchising the Innventure model to third parties.” In February, a new £1.3m joint venture between Bedford brewer and retailer Charles Wells and Gerard opened De Parys Hotel in Bedford. The 14-bedroom boutique hotel is run by a new vehicle called Apostrophe Pubs. D’Parys is described as an ‘all fresh food restaurant, a distinctive city bar, a coffee and tuck shop offering nostalgic sweets with handmade cakes and gelato with 14 bedrooms’.
   
Davy’s reports 14% like-for-like growth in most recent financial year: London-based wine bar and restaurant company Davy’s, led by fifth generation chairman James Davy, have reported 14% like-for- like sales growth year on year up to March 2014 in their wine bars and dining rooms. Noel Ramsden, finance director for the group, said: “Following the best Christmas to date with sales growth of 17%, we were thrilled with the end of year results. By concentrating on our customer service and standards, through a structured operational training program, we have managed to significantly grow our customer numbers.” Launching the Premier Cru Wine Rewards Program in 2013 Davy’s has further built the loyal customer base, with over 50% of purchases using the swipe card mechanic. Customers collect points through spend in the wine bars and are rewarded via Davy’s wine merchants with wines for home delivery. Davy added: “It’s been a good year however our 2014 plans are well and truly in motion for a further surge forward.” The company did not provide details on profit but the positive sales growth in the most recent year follows a rise in pre-tax profit to £684,500 in the year to 30 March 2013, from £133,500 the previous year. There was a drop in turnover to £11.79m, down 6.5% from £12.6m the year before after weaker sites were closed.
   
Olive Garden restaurants to roll out online ordering, test tabletop tablets: The US fast-casual dining giant Darden Restaurants is to start offering online ordering at its Olive Garden chain of Italian restaurants from this month. The nationwide roll-out to all 830 Olive Garden restaurants in the United States should be completed by August the company said. Darden is also going to test web-based reservations and tabletop tablets this summer at its 453-restaurant LongHorn Steakhouse chain, and start testing tabletop tablets at Olive Garden later this year. The rollout of online ordering at Olive Garden is based on a test last year in Orlando, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel, which included car-side delivery of orders. However, the car-side service is not expected to be included in the expanded rollout. LongHorn Steakhouse will begin the web-based reservations test in June. Customers will be able to see waiting times at individual restaurants and add their names to a list. After checking in with a host at the restaurant, they will be sent text messages when a table is open. Tablets with at-table payment options will also be tested at some LongHorn restaurants. A number of other US restaurant chains are pushing out tablet-based ordering systems: Applebee’s said in December it would roll out touch-screen tablets to its 1,865 US restaurants this year, Buffalo Wild Wings said in March that it would have tablet computers in 500 locations by the end of this year and in all of its more than 1,000 restaurants in North America by late 2015, and Chili’s Grill & Bar, owned by Brinker International, said last September that it would complete a rollout of tabletop tablets to all 823 US company-owned restaurants by the middle of this year.

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