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Wed 28th Feb 2018 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Burger van owner sees off legal threat from McDonald’s over branding and name: The owner of a burger van from Norwich has seen off a legal threat from McDonald’s after he was accused of infringing the company’s trademark. Matthew Coldham was hand-delivered an eight-page letter from solicitors acting on behalf of McDonald’s over the van he runs from Meteor Close on Norwich Airport Industrial Estate. The solicitors claimed Coldham’s logo for Matty C’s Burger Shack was “a play” on the McDonald’s nickname of Maccy D’s. They also said the golden M of Matty was similar to McDonald’s famous golden arches and the closeness of the M next to the C was also considered an infringement. When Coldham, who has had the burger van for only a couple of months, called the solicitors, they told him McDonald’s would cover £500 of the costs for him to rebrand. However, he was determined to stick with his logo, which had been designed by a friend. He told the Eastern Daily Press: “I feel I haven’t done anything wrong. Matty C is my name and it was red and yellow just because I wanted it to stand out. I’m in a van on an industrial estate. I really don’t think I’m a threat to McDonald’s.” McDonald’s has now told Coldham it will not take the matter further for now, although the company said it would “monitor” his branding to ensure it did not change to become more associated with its trademarks. A McDonald’s spokesman said: “It’s important we protect our intellectual property and brand. However, we have been in conversation with Mr Coldham and have already communicated to him that we currently have no plans to take this matter any further.”

Industry News:

More than 160 sector companies book for Propel Multi Club Conference: More than 160 sector companies have booked to attend the first Propel Multi Club Conference of 2018. The full-day event takes place on Wednesday, 7 March at the Grange Hotel in St Paul’s, London. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at anne.steele@propelinfo.com. Speakers include Tim Barrett, travel and leisure analyst at Numis; Ian Edward, who is leisure advisor to Canaccord Genuity and sits on the boards of Brasserie Blanc; Seafood Pub Company and Hippo Inns; Jon Collins, former chief executive of CGA Group, who has returned to the UK after living in Chicago for two years; Sarah Bridge, former Mail on Sunday leisure correspondent and founder of the aLadyofLeisure.com hospitality website; Iqbal Wahhab, founder of Cinnamon Club and Roast; Max Hilton Jenvey, global head of franchise for Chopstix; Alex Salussolia, managing director of Glendola Leisure; Paul Wells, chairman of Charles Wells; Bob Ivell, chairman of Mitchells & Butlers; Nick Taplin, chief executive of Black and White Hospitality; and Yasha Estraikh, of Piper.

UK hotel industry sets January performance records in positive month for Europe: The UK hotel industry recorded the highest numbers for any January in STR’s database, with rises in each of the three key performance values in what was a positive month for the European sector as a whole. UK occupancy levels increased 0.6% year-on-year to 63.9%, despite a 1.1% decrease in London, while the average daily rate rose 1.0% to £81.14. Revpar increased 1.6% to £51.88, compared with January 2017. STR analysts noted the surge in domestic and international tourism following the Brexit vote pushed occupancy and average daily rates to peak levels in 2017. As that impact continued to fade, STR said, so would the potential for year-on-year growth in comparison to previously high performance values. Overall occupancy rates in Europe increased 3.4% to 58.6%, while average daily rate rose 2.2% to €97.89. Revpar increased 5.7% to €57.39. Highlights in mainland Europe included an 8.6% increase in average daily rate in Greece to €93.81, the country’s best level for a January since 2009. Athens, one of the region’s top markets for performance growth in 2017, opened the year with a 13.5% jump in revpar, driven mostly by a 10.4% increase in average daily rate. Romania, meanwhile, saw its occupancy levels increase 3.5% to 51.4%, its highest level for a January since 2007. Earlier this month, European banks ranked the UK as their most preferred hotel lending market in Europe.

Merseyside pub saved from closure named CAMRA pub of the year: A Merseyside pub saved from closure has been named pub of the year by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). The Cricketers Arms in St Helens has won the title only five years after owners Andy and Denise Evans took over running the pub, which was boarded up and hadn’t served cask ale since the 1980s. The pub is now a well-established community pub with 13 locally sourced cask ales and up to 20 ciders in the summer and offers a new whiskey and gin bar. The Evans also plan to open a micro-brewery in the next few months. Paul Ainsworth, CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year co-ordinator, said: “In less than five years, Andy and Denise have converted a boarded up pub into a destination pub for beer-lovers. What impressed me most is The Cricketers is a genuine community pub, where people from all walks of life come together to socialise. It is a shining example of how a pub that seems destined for closure can have its fortunes turned around when in the right hands.”

Scotland agrees 50p minimum unit price: Ministers in the Scottish parliament have agreed minimum unit pricing (MUP) will be 50p when it is introduced later this year. This will raise the cheapest price for a four-pack of beer from £1 to £1.78, a three-litre bottle of cider from £3.59 to £11.22, a 70cl bottle of vodka from £9.97 to £13.11, scotch from £11 to £14 and a bottle of wine from £3.09 to £4.98. Scotland health secretary Shona Robison said: “With alcohol on sale today in some places at just 16p per unit, we have to tackle the scourge of cheap, high-strength drink that causes so much damage to so many families. This move will save thousands of lives.” Scotland first proposed MUP in 2011 but the move was challenged by the Scotch Whisky Association, which argued it breached European competition laws. After a lengthy court battle, the Supreme Court last year ruled MUP could go ahead. The drinks trade has warned the introduction of MUP risks the creation of a new “black market” for alcohol. The Wine and Spirit Trade Association said: “There is real concern the implementation of a minimum unit price provides a significant incentive to trade alcohol illicitly. Minimum unit pricing will create a price differential between the production cost of a product and its retail price well in excess of the retailer margin. This therefore creates an incentive to sell products that will be available at wholesale in Scotland, or from other parts of the UK where the regulations do not apply, outside legitimate retailing channels to profit while still undercutting legitimate retailers.”

Casual Dining show reports record turnout as it prepares to move to new home: Casual Dining 2018 has reported a record turnout as the show prepares to move to Excel London next year. The event at the Business Design Centre (BDC) in Islington showcased the best new products, solutions, insights and innovations of the year. Now in its fifth year, the event saw 4,803 attendees visit 200 exhibitors, with senior executives from the UK’s largest restaurant, pub and bar groups alongside thousands of independent operators, hotels, wholesalers, distributors, attractions and contract caterers. The larger Excel London will accommodate more exhibitors, feature two keynote theatres and enable easier navigation for visitors around one show floor. Event manager Eva Ellis said: “A big thank you must go to the whole industry for supporting the show from the beginning and helping to make Casual Dining the amazing show it is today. We look forward to seeing it continue to get even bigger and better at its new home.” More than three-quarters (76%) of exhibitors at this year’s event have rebooked for the 2019 show, which will take place on 27 and 28 February.

Company News:

London Cocktail Club reports turnover boost: London Cocktail Club has reported turnover increased to £4,155,755 for the year ending 30 June 2017, compared with £3,724,885 the previous year. Pre-tax profit was down to £239,578 compared with £254,585 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. London Cocktail Club, which is owned by bartending entrepreneur JJ Goodman and James Hopkins, was founded in 2008. Among its directors are former Dragons’ Den star Sarah Willingham and chef restaurateur Raymond Blanc. It currently operates nine sites in the capital having opened its latest in Liverpool Street in November. The number of employees at the end of the period had increased to 60 from 50 the previous year.  

Pret A Manger chief asks for feedback on proposed plastic bottle scheme: Pret A Manger chief executive Clive Schlee has requested customer feedback on whether the company should introduce a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles. Pret would like to trial its own initiative in its Brighton stores in April. Schlee posted on his blog: “The idea is we would add 10p to all plastic bottles and return 10p for each Pret bottle given back to our teams to recycle. The aim is to understand how many bottles are returned and see if it encourages more customers to opt for a re-usable bottle. We will, of course, reinvest any unclaimed deposits in future sustainability work. It will take time to eliminate unnecessary plastic but I hope this sort of initiative will bring that day forward by drawing attention to the issue and stimulating new ideas. We’d like to trial a deposit scheme this April in Brighton. We’ve chosen Brighton because we have three busy shops there and we know the local people are highly attuned to the environment. If it is successful, we could extend the scheme across the country during the autumn.”

Deltic Group shuts Stourbridge venue after 3,500 people sign petition calling for its closure: Deltic Group, the 57-strong operator of premium late-night bars and clubs, has shut its Chicago’s site in Stourbridge with immediate effect after 3,500 people signed a petition calling for its closure. The move comes six months after aspiring footballer Ryan Passey was stabbed to death, leading to a campaign against it. However, Deltic Group chief executive Peter Marks denied the club was at fault. He told the Express & Star: “We are not the heartless business we have been portrayed to be. Chicago’s never had a chance to defend itself due to the legal case and was consistently misrepresented by many. Until that tragic night, the club had an unblemished licensing record. As a responsible operator running a business in a generally safe town, at no point did we break any laws or breach our licence conditions set by the police and local authority, which required us to search a proportion of our customers entering the premises, which we did on the night in question. Putting the blame on a single venue is not the answer. Society has a growing problem with knife crime and the lives it takes and ruins. It is hard to comprehend why anyone would want to carry a knife on a night out when such actions can have such devastating outcomes. As a wider community, we need to educate young people on the dangers of carrying knives. We also need to make sure there is a clear deterrent. The truth is that for every knife we confiscate, the police rarely make an arrest. Attitudes and the law need to change so carrying a knife is not only socially unacceptable but there are serious consequences for possession. Making a difference would be a positive legacy in the wake of such tragedy.” Kobe Murray, of The Broadway, Dudley, denied murdering 24-year-old Passey and was cleared of murder and manslaughter by a jury at Birmingham Crown Court. Murray told the court he had a knife in his hand and “pushed out” to fend off an attack – accidentally stabbing Mr Passey.

Starwood Capital Group acquires seven Hilton hotels for £135m: Starwood Capital Group has acquired seven Hilton hotels in the UK from Park Hotels & Resorts for £135m. The deal incorporates more than 1,300 bedrooms and Starwood Capital Group plans to refurbish a number of hotels, with the portfolio managed by Kew Green under franchise agreements with Hilton Worldwide. The deal is the second that Starwood and Kew Green have partnered on following an acquisition of the 298-bedroom Holiday Inn Manchester in April last year. Starwood Capital Group vice-president Jon Asumendi told Insider Media: “We are acquiring this well-located portfolio at a substantial discount to replacement cost and with significant upside potential still to be realised. We look forward to investing in these properties alongside Kew Green and leveraging Starwood Capital Group’s hospitality expertise to maximise portfolio performance and investment returns.” Kew Green Group executive chairman Jamie Lamb added: “Adding seven high-quality Hilton-branded assets to our management platform is an exciting step. We are also pleased to be partnering with Starwood Capital Group for a second time to unlock opportunities in the portfolio, where we can create value together.”

Coyote Ugly sets April date for Manchester launch and third UK site: Coyote Ugly, the rowdy, western-themed bar that celebrates the wild side of American culture, has announced it will open its Manchester venue on Wednesday, 11 April. Tickets for the first night are already on sale as Manchester prepares to become the third UK city to welcome a Coyote Ugly after Cardiff and Liverpool. Work is well under way to transform Arch 2, a private room in Whitworth Street West in Deansgate that belonged to Revolution Bars Group, into a nightspot offering “dancing on the bar, American-style barbecue food and a wild atmosphere”. The hit 2000 film Coyote Ugly was based on a bar in New York. Steve Lewis opened the brand’s first UK branch in Cardiff in 2016. Last October, he signed a franchise agreement with Coyote Ugly to open 12 bars in major cities in the UK and Ireland in the next five years. He opened his second site, in Liverpool in December. Lewis told Manchester Evening News: “Customers have been travelling to us from all over the UK, Ireland and throughout Europe.” Coyote Ugly currently has 26 sites in seven countries – the US, Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Japan, UK and Kyrgyzstan.

Starbucks opens first Reserve store: Starbucks has opened its first Reserve store, a new format from the company’s Siren Retail business dedicated to its premium Reserve brand. The store has opened at the company’s headquarters in Seattle and offers a Reserve Roastery, Starbucks Reserve bar and Princi Italian bakery. Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz said: “We have taken everything we have learned from our highly successful Roasteries and the overwhelming reception of freshly baked Princi food to an environment that will redefine customer connection and continue to serve as a halo to the rest of the business.” Liz Muller, senior vice-president, creative, global design and innovation, added: “While our Roasteries are designed to be bold, educational environments, our Reserve store takes the best of coffee craft as well as artisan baking and layers in a marketplace-style customer experience creating a space that has both energy and moments of intimacy.” Princi also has a site in Wardour Street, London, which it opened in partnership with Wagamama founder Alan Yau.

Nando’s adds two vegetarian dishes to UK menu: Nando’s has added two vegetarian items to the menu at its UK restaurants – a halloumi fries starter and a dish based on traditional Portuguese stew. Halloumi fries will be served with a side of chilli jam – the popularity of the cheese has soared in recent years, with Brits now consuming more halloumi than any other European country. The second dish is a take on a classic Portuguese stew usually made with chorizo and seafood, iNews reports. Veggie Cataplana consists of chargrilled vegetables, chickpeas and beans in a spicy tomato and coconut sauce. 

Venezuelan restaurant concept Arepa & Co to start expansion next month with second London site: Venezuelan restaurant concept Arepa & Co is to start expansion by opening a second site in London at the end of March. Husband and wife Gus and Kathe Salguero opened the first Arepa & Co in Haggerston in 2014, offering the vibrant flavours of their native country. Now they will open a restaurant in Paradise Row, Bethnal Green, with new dishes rooted in Venezuelan cuisine but influenced by the wider South American region. The restaurant will open up to a large terrace, with bi-fold doors, a bare brick interior, an open kitchen and stools for counter dining at the bar. A private dining area will be available on a mezzanine level alongside a new selection of cocktails. Arepas are made from ground maize dough or cooked flour and the Bethnal Green menu will feature a new selection of fillings as well as small pastelitos (puff pastry parcels) and hallaquitas (steamed corn dough balls). Main dishes will focus on pabellón, a traditional dish of shredded beef with black beans, fried plantain, rice and cheese. Gus Salguero said: “I want to show Venezuelan cooking can be really creative, not just bound by traditional recipes. The new restaurant will be packed with influences from around the world, taking inspiration from our roots and creating something new and exciting.”

New World Trading Company launches The Florist in Bristol: Graphite Capital-backed pub restaurant group New World Trading Company (NWTC) has launched new concept The Florist in Bristol. The venue has opened in a grade II-listed building in Park Street that was formerly occupied by cafe, champagne bar and rooftop restaurant Goldbrick House. The three-storey space features an “abundance of flowers” and rustic textures. The concept offers a cocktail menu inspired by three styles of floristry alongside 60 beers. The food menu features deli, rotisserie and grilled dishes, while The Florist will also host masterclasses and live music. The venue is also the sixth NWTC site to offer Budweiser Budvar’s Tankové Pivo unpasteurised lager. NWTC beer guru Kieran Hartley said: “For the bars it’s in, Budvar accounts for nearly half (between 45% and 49%) of all like-for-like beer sales across the group – and we’re looking forward to more launches this year.” NWTC is looking to open a second site for The Florist, in Liverpool. Last week, the company was named seventh on the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For list, a record position for a food and beverage operator, which chief executive Chris Hill told Propel was a validation of how New World Trading Company had approached staff engagement “from the start”. 

London-based restaurateurs to open second Tabanco site, in Cambridge: London-based restaurateurs Tim Luther and Nigel Howell are to open a second site for their Andalucian tapas and wine bar concept Tabanco, in Cambridge. The duo will open the venue on Friday (2 March) in Green Street on a site previously occupied by restaurant Salt Pig. The 44-cover venue will feature a host of Spanish delicacies, including cheese and charcuterie. Other items will include jamon Iberico, octopus, smoked anchovies, squid, pork cheek, suckling lamb leg, home-cured sea bream plus a drinks menu of wine, artisan beer and gin. It will also serve Hot Numbers coffee, grand cru hot chocolate and churros. Its sister restaurant, Drakes Tabanco in London, has a 4.5 rating on TripAdvisor. Luther told the Cambridge News: “Our desire to open Tabanco in Cambridge came from our undeterred passion for the ways and food of Spain and its people. Following the success of Drakes, this seemed a natural progression.”

Social Climbing to make UK debut with Leicester site: Indoor climbing operator Social Climbing is to make its UK debut at the Highcross shopping centre in Leicester. The company has agreed a deal with the centre’s owner, Hammerson, to open a 6,800 square foot space this summer. It will include a head-to-head wall in which climbers can challenge one another, a “leap of faith” descent, and monthly movie nights. As well as a climbing area and workout area, the centre will also include a cafe and living room space. Hammerson UK commercial director Iain Mitchell said: “Social Climbing is an exciting addition to Highcross, bringing visitors an activity that is a new twist on traditional exercise. When it launches later this year, I have no doubt the brand’s first space in the UK will be extremely popular by appealing to a wide-ranging demographic.” Social Climbing added: “We couldn’t have dreamt up a more exciting first location than Highcross. It’s right in the heart of the city and we’re hoping the convenience factor will attract more climbing newbies into our centre.”

Plans for Lincoln waterside restaurant rejected: Plans to build a waterside restaurant overlooking the Brayford in Lincoln have been rejected. The scheme triggered complaints from residents worried about the impact it would have on views across the city. Investors In Lincoln and Brayford Trust failed to gain planning permission to build the restaurant last year. The plan was to lease the restaurant to a national operator and use the income to keep Brayford Pool serviceable for boats. Even though the project eventually won planning permission, the council still had the final say as the Brayford’s landlord and senior councillors decided not to grant consent. Cllr Fay Smith told Lincolnshire Live: “It’s very sad it had to get to the stage of going through all this planning. We wish the Brayford Trust had come to us sooner. We want to protect the Brayford as an open space.” The Brayford Trust is a registered charity that operates on a not-for-profit basis to maintain Brayford Pool, which it leases from the council. Investors In Lincoln is a public/private partnership company set up by the council 25 years ago.

Hull-based operator Shoot The Bull launches street food stall and bakery for third site: Hull-based operator Shoot The Bull has launched a street food stall and bakery in the city’s revamped Trinity Market. The company, which operates the Old House pub and Riverhouse Coffee House, both in Scale Lane, said the stall and bakery was a permanent setting for its regular street food pop-ups, including popular menu items such as steak sandwiches, poutine and chicken wings. The bakery will also support other areas of the business. Shoot The Bull owner Chris Harrison told the Hull Daily Mail: “We wanted to open this large unit so we could sell hot street food and use half of it as a bakery to stock other parts of the business. We are baking bread here to sell at the cafe and pub and we’re working to supply other businesses as well. We are looking at growing the coffee shop business and opening a new one in the area – but not in Hull itself. We want to carry on this momentum.”

Japanese restaurant Jidori opens second London site, in Covent Garden: London-based Japanese restaurant Jidori has opened its second site in the capital, in Covent Garden. Owners Natalie Lee-Joe and Brett Redman have launched the venue in Catherine Street. The restaurant is on the ground and first floors seating about 50 diners, while the lower ground floor features a private dining karaoke room for 12. Head chef Shunta Matsubara has moved from the debut Jidori site in Dalston, which opened in 2015, to man the bespoke yakitori grill. The Covent Garden menu has been extended with small and large plates sitting beside traditional yakitori such as tsukune (minced chicken with egg yolk). The Covent Garden venue also offers an extended drinks menu of artisan sake, craft beer and classic cocktails. Lee-Joe said: “The space in Covent Garden allows us to bring the fun back into dining with our own karaoke room. Our little spot in Dalston will always be our home but moving into central London allows us to build something more exciting.”

Borders brewer to expand following £395,000 investment: Borders brewer Broughton Ales is to ramp up production and build a shop and visitors’ centre after securing £395,000 investment. New fermenting and conditioning facilities, including tanks and temperature control equipment, will also be installed. Broughton Ales co-owner and director John Hunt told the Border Telegraph: “Since the new management team came on board at the end of 2015, our aim has been to build a stronger presence in a growing market for authentic beer with real provenance. We plan to make our products more accessible to markets around the world, in particular Europe and the US. I am confident the funding package will go a long way to help us achieve our growth ambitions. It will help us increase the quality and capacity of our key brands and accelerate plans to build a local visitor and tourist attraction at the brewery.” The finance package was allocated from HSBC’s £10bn SME fund. Susan Rowand, head of business banking for HSBC in Scotland, said: “Broughton Ales has exciting and ambitious growth plans, a reflection of the increasing demand for Scottish food and drink in overseas markets.”

Nine Group opens £30m Heathrow hotel for company’s largest site: Watford-based investment company Nine Group has opened its largest hotel, in the former headquarters of the British Airports Authority in Heathrow. The 166-bedroom Novotel London Heathrow Airport in Bath Road can also host functions and meetings, with the main suite accommodating up to 250 delegates. Nine Group founder Vivek Chadha, who went to school in nearby Hounslow, told Insider Media: “It’s a privilege to open Novotel London Heathrow given its close proximity to the area in which I grew up. This will be a flagship hotel for Nine Group. It is in the perfect location for connections to Heathrow airport and I look forward to seeing our guests make the most of our premium facilities.” In September, Nine Group bought Chequers Hotel in Horley, near Gatwick airport. The company’s portfolio includes the Mercure St Albans Noke Hotel, Holiday Inn London Watford Junction, and Trafford Park hotel in central Manchester.

Lancashire-based operator to open second site for Italian restaurant concept, third in total: Lancashire-based operator Chris Maughan is to open a second site for his Italian restaurant concept A Mano, in Preston. Maughan is launching the site – his third in total – in Guildhall Street on the former site of Italian restaurant Tiggis. Maughan, who also runs Theatre Street Bar and Grill in the city, launched A Mano in Cathedral Walk, Blackburn, in October. The menu features pizza and pasta alongside steak and seafood, reports the Lancashire Post.

Goodbody – Dalata in ‘very good shape’ with full-year results as ‘good as expected’: Goodbody leisure analyst Gavin Kelleher has said Irish hotel group Dalata is in “very good shape” with its full-year results as “good as expected”. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares, Kelleher said: “Group revenue was €348.5m, +20% year-on-year (Goodbody: €347m) and Ebitda was €104.9m (Goodbody: €103m). The beat to our forecasts is driven by a circa €2m rental credit from two Dublin hotels, excluding this Ebitda is in line with our forecasts. Group level revpar was +10.4% to €88.51, driven by occupancy growth of 100 basis points to 83.1% and average room rate +9.1% to €106.48. On current trading the group said it is trading marginally ahead of expectations in the first quarter of 2018 and the outlook remains positive for markets it operates in. Overall this is a good release from Dalata. The positives include the fact the group has started the year well (marginally ahead of expectations), the commencement of a dividend payment this year, the pipeline appears on track, and the solid balance sheet. Management deserves credit for delivering on its clear strategy. In terms of our FY18 forecasts we are likely to leave these unchanged at the Ebitda level, currently €115m, following the results. The business is in very good shape but we believe the valuation is broadly up with events.”

M&B to open debut All Bar One site in Aberdeen next month: Mitchells & Butlers is to open a first site in Aberdeen next month for its All Bar One brand. The venue will launch at the £107m redevelopment of former city council headquarters in Marischal Square, with the All Bar One opening creating 40 jobs. The venue will also feature an outside area and will be the fourth All Bar One in Scotland, with two in Edinburgh and one in Glasgow. It will open daily from 10am to 1am. The Marischal Square development is anchored by a Marriott hotel alongside operators such as Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee, Prezzo and ice cream company Mackie’s first parlour. An All Bar One spokesman told the Evening Express: “We’re excited to be opening Aberdeen’s All Bar One next month. We have some exciting things planned.”

Whitbread opens Premier Inn featuring Cookhouse And Pub site in Rhyl: Whitbread has opened a Premier Inn featuring a Cookhouse And Pub restaurant on Rhyl seafront in North Wales. The company has opened the 70-bedroom hotel on the site of the former Honey Club in West Rhyl, creating 50 jobs. It was originally going to feature a Brewers Fayre restaurant but last year Whitbread decided to change it to its latest brand, Cookhouse And Pub. Whitbread is developing two further Premier Inn sites in the region. It is building a hotel at the former Tudno Castle site in Llandudno and at Parc Cybi, outside Holyhead, reports the Daily Post.

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