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Monday, December 16 2019 @ 06:01 am UTC

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Durban-Pietermaritzburg river pollution is a microcosm of nationwide water pollution control failures.

Dead fish pile up on the banks of the Msunduzi River after the spill. Photo: Dusi Media Office
NATIONAL NEWS - Sometimes, a really bad dose of pollution news can have a silver lining.

On 13 August about 30,000 litres of edible cooking oil and caustic soda spilled from collapsed storage tanks at the Willowton Oil factory into a tributary of the Msunduzi River, scene of the historic Dusi Canoe Marathon between Pietermaritzburg and Durban.

Within a matter of days, fish, crabs and invertebrate life were all but wiped out from a 40km stretch of river.

The sticky liquid clogged the gills and breathing systems of fish and other water creatures – choking the life out of them, aquatic experts explained to delegates attending the annual Conservation Symposium near Howick last week.


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Over 40 000 workers could embark on a national strike on Friday to stop retrenchments in the industry.

Increased digitisation is not driven by banks but consumer behavior. Photo: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg
BUSINESS NEWS - Over 40 000 banking sector workers are expected to take to the streets on Friday, in a national bank strike led by finance union Sasbo. But this could prove futile if the underlying factors that have led to the changes in the banking industry are not dealt with.

There are three main demands that Sasbo has put forward, starting with a moratorium on job losses, the regulation of CEO and executive salaries and a just transition that focuses on reskilling and upskilling workers for the fourth industrial revolution.

Banking Association of South Africa (Basa) managing director Cas Coovadia says what needs to happen is for the banks and Sasbo to sit down and map out how they are going to address the underlying issues of low economic growth and the evolution of banking in an increasingly digitising economy.

“You can’t freeze retrenchments, because if you freeze the retrenchments of 100 people today, in six months’ time you are probably looking at the retrenchments of more people,” said Coovadia.

The banks, represented by Business Unity South Africa (Busa), have launched a court challenge to interdict the protests on technical terms, saying the strike notice that union federation Cosatu submitted was not valid for the strike to be protected. The matter will be heard on Wednesday.

Coovadia made it clear that business respects Sasbo’s right to strike, however this has to be done within the regulations and rules of the country.

Sasbo Secretary-General Joe Kokela told Moneyweb that the strike will go ahead as planned on Friday, saying it’s a lawful and protected action.

Retrenchments not an operational issue
Kokela described the potential retrenchments by the banks as “an act of corporate greed and nothing else”.

Standard Bank announced it would be closing 91 branches as part of its efforts to digitise its retail and business banking, placing 1 200 jobs at risk. Two months ago Nedbank confirmed that it was in talks with 1 500 employees over potential job cuts, while reports state that in excess of 800 jobs could be at risk at Absa, as the bank rolls out its restructuring model.

All three banks were contacted by Moneyweb and did not respond to questions as to whether they would accede to Sasbo’s demands on freezing the job cuts process, or indicate how many jobs had already been affected.

Absa said the restructuring process isn’t complete, thus it can’t provide final numbers on the number of jobs that have been affected. Absa together with Nedbank mentioned that they’re committed to engaging with Sasbo on its concerns.

Kokela said banks are hiding behind “operational requirements” to retrench workers through Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act, which is “wrong and misplaced”.

Kokela said digitisation, or the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, is not an operational requirement – especially when there are consumers who fall in the lower groups (one to four) of the Living Standards Measure.

“Those are people that are struggling with banking and when you look at what the banks are doing, it excludes poor people in the system,” said Kokela.

But Coovadia said banking models are not driven by banks but rather customer behaviour.

“Banks are responding to customer pressures that say we want banking services now, conveniently, cost-effectively and through different platforms,” said Coovadia, adding that this new reality of banking is a worldwide phenomenon.

Little to no disruption
Sasbo will give the banking sector seven days to respond to its demands, failing which Kokela said it will embark on another strike. “It will be for a longer period because we cannot allow this to happen.”

In the meantime, Basa has assured the public that its members are taking precautions to ensure that banking services are not disrupted on Friday.

Consumers have been encouraged to use digital banking platforms. Absa has also encouraged its corporate clients to consider scheduling their payments, transactions and other services to earlier dates.

Similarly, the South African Revenue Services has encouraged taxpayers to submit their payments or conduct other tax-related transactions two business days in advance.


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- IN GENERALGenerally, when South Africans are down we tend to bounce back quite well and we play our best cricket under pressure, says Harris.

Protea's captain, Faf du Plessis.

CRICKET NEWS - Although they believe the national team can bounce back and reach the play-offs, sweeping changes will be required for the Proteas to regain their best form, according to some of the country’s former cricket greats.

After falling in crushing defeats to hosts England and Bangladesh, the SA team were gearing up to face giants India in Southampton tomorrow in their third game of the Cricket World Cup. Former Proteas’ spin bowler Paul Harris felt the players could recover if they increased their intensity.

“They’ve put themselves under enormous pressure, considering they play India in their third game, but if they get the intensity right and start stringing some partnerships together with the bat, they can come back,” Harris said.

“Generally, when South Africans are down we tend to bounce back quite well and we play our best cricket under pressure, which we are under now.”

Although the squad had been dealt multiple injury blows, with key players being sidelined, former top-order batsman Jimmy Cook was confident of their chances. But he, too, admitted tomorrow’s match would be crucial.

“They’ve had injury problems, but that’s why you take a full squad. They need to make do with what they’ve got,” Cook said.

“I think they can still turn it around, but they will need to beat India. That game is a must-win now.”

Admitting he was disappointed with the results produced by the Proteas so far, retired spin bowler Pat Symcox felt long-term changes were required in order to lift the domestic standard of cricket. He believed a winning culture had to be injected into the game across the board for the national side to achieve their full potential.

“We can have a go at the team and the players, but they are probably the best we’ve got at the moment, and they’re only products of the system,” Symcox said.

“I have no confidence in the system, or the production line, any more and this can’t be turned around by one or two players.”

With the Proteas proving expensive with the ball in the early stages of the tournament, former fast bowler Fanie de Villiers insisted the fitness level of the players was below par and the coaches needed to be reassessed.

“We’ve got a system that can’t keep bowlers fit. They’ve got problems with their weight and their size,” he said.

“We need to make sure these guys are fit and strong and if the system isn’t good enough to keep them fit, then they must fire whoever is in charge of that.”

If they did not turn things around tomorrow, De Villiers believed the national team’s lengthy drought would continue, with the global title remaining elusive.

“There’s a helluva big problem with our bowling,” De Villiers said, “and we need to sort it out sooner, rather than later, or we’re probably going to endure the worst World Cup we’ve ever had.”


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Source Chas Everitt International

Fourie says tenants will usually not have to worry about the upkeep of ST unit exteriors or common areas
PROPERTY NEWS - One of South Africa's biggest apartment developers has just set up a subsidiary company that will acquire and rent out many of the units it is building, and if more follow suit, there is a possibility that whole blocks of flats will once again be owned and run by single corporate owners - a very rare occurrence since the introduction of Sectional Title (ST)back in the 1970s.

For the time being, however, most tenants in ST apartment blocks or townhouse complexes will still have to deal with the individual owners of specific units (or their letting agents), which means that the terms of their leases will continue to vary from owner to owner and complex to complex, says Tobie Fourie, national rentals manager of the Chas Everitt International property group.

"And this lack of standardisation can be very confusing, so tenants do need to be absolutely clear about who is responsible for what, and what their rent actually covers, before they sign any lease agreement."

Maintenance and repairs
For example, he says, they need to check what is required regarding maintenance and repairs. "In ST schemes, the legal position is that the individual unit owner - the landlord - is responsible for the upkeep of the interior of the unit, and the rent being charged should allow for this. However, the lease agreement might pass on the responsibility for some maintenance and minor repairs to the tenant in return for a reduced rental, and in that case the agreement must also spell out specifically what tenants will be expected to do."

Fourie says tenants will usually not have to worry about the upkeep of ST unit exteriors or common areas. "This is the responsibility of the body corporate and its elected trustees, and it is funded not by rentals but by the monthly levies that the unit owners pay."

Levies and increase
"This does not mean, though, that prospective tenants can forget about levies. They should ask if their landlord plans to increase their rent whenever there is a levy increase - or if they can expect an increase should the body corporate decide to impose a special levy to cover an unexpected expense in the running of the scheme."

Sectional title management
Following on from that, he says, it is vital for tenants to look beyond an individual flat or townhouse and ensure that the ST scheme where they plan to rent is well-managed and in a good financial position overall.

"Otherwise there is the possibility they will end up living very uncomfortably in a complex that cannot be properly maintained for lack of funds, or where the units are about to be attached and sold in execution to meet body corporate arrears."

Municipal services
Tenants need to find out how they will be billed for municipal services. "These days many rental units have prepaid water and electricity meters but if they do not, tenants need to establish whether each unit has separate sub-meters for municipal services, so that they will only be paying for what they actually consume. Alternatively, it is acceptable to rent in schemes where the electricity metres are separate so the tenant pays for his/her electricity usage, but there is only one main water meter and the charges for water are included in the owners' levies according to the participation quotas of the scheme."

Management and conduct rules
Finally, tenants need to check the management and conduct rules that will apply to them. The standard rules contained in ST legislation can be changed by the owners in individual schemes, so prospective tenants should insist on seeing a copy of the specific rules that apply to the scheme before they sign a lease.

These rules generally cover common nuisances such as loud music, noisy parties and littering, but they could also contain provisions that would make a particular scheme unsuitable for certain tenants, such as a prohibition on pets, or a ban on visitors parking inside the security perimeter, or restrictions on when children may use a playground or pool.


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Over 200 patients have been treated for snakebites in the past four months in KZN. Photo: Zululand Observer.
NATIONAL NEWS - If you live in a country with venomous snakes, or are travelling to one, here are a few tips to avoid being bitten.

Do not provoke
Snakes usually will not attack unless they feel threatened. In the bush, wear sturdy leather shoes and stomp heavily when walking, striking with a stick on the ground in front of you to warn any reptiles you are coming — they will most likely just slither away.

Most strikes occur when snakes feel cornered or under threat, or when people accidentally step on them.

Be alert and prepared
Outside, have a good look around you for snakes that may hang from tree branches or swim in water, and be careful when turning over rocks or other objects. And remember: snakes are evolved to be well-camouflaged in their environment, whether it be the desert, forest or bush.

Thick, protective gloves are recommended for gardening and farming.

Carry a lamp at night.

Birds can help too: Many species possess an alarm cry to alert others of hidden danger.

Inside, check your bed and dark corners — snakes can enter homes in pursuit of prey, heat or water.

The neater your home, the more likely you will spot an out-of-place snake. A mosquito net around your bed can be an effective snake repellent.

Once bitten
If you or someone else is bitten, try and remember the colour and shape of the snake, and seek immediately medical care at a clinic or hospital.

Remove any bracelets, rings or watches that may hamper blood flow in case of swelling.

Do NOT try and catch the snake, apply a tourniquet, cut the wound, suck out the venom, or drink alcohol or coffee.

Also do not seek to inject your own antivenom, which can induce a violent allergic reaction and needs to be administered in a professional environment with adrenaline and oxygen on hand.

Sources: Doctors Without Borders, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Action International, Bio-Ken research centre.

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- IN GENERALNo immediate risk but it will be difficult to grow client numbers in the long run, portfolio manager says. What the digital onslaught means for SA’s big banks

Nedbank Group CEO Mike Brown. Photo: Moneyweb

BUSINESS NEWS - As new banks with radically different cost structures enter the market in an economic environment that is unlikely to provide much support for top-line growth, the question is whether South Africa’s large banks are well placed to respond to the digital onslaught.

African Rainbow Capital’s TymeBank officially entered the market in February, with Discovery Bank and BankZero expected to follow soon.

While it was widely known that TymeBank would have no bricks and mortar infrastructure of its own (it operates through kiosks and till points at Pick n Pay and Boxer stores), arguably the most standout number from its recent investor presentation is that it runs with 125 full-time employees and that the number probably won’t change much at scale. It had 80 000 clients at the end of February. Breakeven point is projected for 2022 with around two million customers.

What do these changes in cost structures mean for traditional banks? Are the big four in a good position to respond to the digital onslaught?

Broadly speaking, roughly 20% of clients are responsible for about 80% of profits at South Africa’s big banks, says Jan Meintjes, portfolio manager at Denker Capital. The most profitable clients have several products at the same bank, which probably include a home loan, car loans, a current account and insurance. It is highly unlikely that these clients would cut ties with one of the traditional banks to save around R40 in costs on an entry-level transactional account.

More newcomers likely
Yet this doesn’t mean that the big four can rest easy, as newcomers will likely follow in Capitec’s footsteps and may attract price-sensitive clients on the transactional side.

“The entry level banks are not an immediate risk for established banks, but at the margin, they will have an impact on the growth of client numbers in the long run.”

At the same time, the benefit of a significant capital base at established banks shouldn’t be underestimated, Meintjes says. New entrants must lure clients and establish themselves, while traditional banks won’t be sitting still.

“By offering product and service bundles, traditional banks can entice clients to stay.”

Nedbank is in a “very good position” to compete with digital entrants, its chief executive Mike Brown said after the release of its annual results on Tuesday.

With eight million customers and three million primary client customers, incumbents like Nedbank have a huge advantage, he added. Nedbank reported full year headline earnings growth of 14.5% to R13.5 billion. The improvement was boosted by the turnaround at Ecobank.

Continuous tech investments
Brown says the bank has been careful to invest an appropriate portion of profits in its technology platforms, including R2 billion a year in new technologies over the last three years, and it will be difficult for some of the new competitors to offer a significantly better customer value proposition.

The Nedbank Money app, which was relaunched about 18 months ago, has been downloaded 1.5 million times and has added approximately one new service per week since launch.

About five years ago, Nedbank realised that it was simply too hard for customers to sign up with traditional banks.

“You go into a branch, there is too much paper,” says Brown. “We sign everybody up by product, so every time you want a new product, it feels like you are starting again.”

To address this, Nedbank will be launching a new customer ‘onboarding platform’ in the first half of 2019 where customers only sign up once, with new products offered as a drop-down set. Its new loyalty and rewards programme will be launched during the second half of the year.

Nedbank Group revenue grew 6% to R54.8 billion. Its total assets surpassed the R1 trillion mark for the first time in 2018. It declared a final dividend of 720 cents, taking its full year dividend to 1 415 cents, an increase of 10.1%.

Its share price closed 0.22% higher at R272.


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Financial burden could still await SA’s poor

In total, levies on petrol and diesel will increase by 29 cents and 30 cents per litre respectively. Image: AA South Africa
BUSINESS NEWS - While it seems as though South Africa’s low income earners have been given some relief in the new Budget, there may still be one more development in the pipeline that could weigh heavily on the poor.

This is according to Tertius Troost, a tax manager at Mazars, who explains that if one particular proposal related to paraffin, contained in the 2019 Budget Speech is brought to pass, the country’s poor could find their cost of living increasing significantly.

“The potential bad news for the country’s poor is that Treasury is looking at the viability of imposing a fuel levy on illuminating paraffin, which has not been subject to the fuel levy to date.”

In total, levies on petrol and diesel will increase by 29 cents and 30 cents per litre respectively.

The general fuel levy accounts for a 15 cents per litre increase, the Road Accident Fund (RAF) levy increases by five cents per litre from 3 April, and the new carbon fuel levy will amount to nine cents per litre for petrol and 10 cents per litre for diesel, applicable from 5 June.

“This in itself already poses a problem for the lower income tiers, since both personal and public transport will become more expensive. By adding the extra cost of the fuel levies to illuminating paraffin, which is used extensively in low income households, the cost of living for South Africa’s poor could increase significantly,” says Troost.

Treasury’s rationale behind imposing this added levy is somewhat unclear.

In the Budget Review document Treasury stated that “at present, fossil fuels such as mineral ethanol, illuminating paraffin, aviation kerosene, liquefied petroleum gas, compressed natural gas and biofuels are not subject to RAF levies. Yet they are used as transport fuels. This creates a discrepancy: claims can be made to the RAF for damages arising from accidents involving motor vehicles operating on fossil fuel sources, but these fuels are not subject to the RAF”.

In response Troost states: “Even though I agree that biofuels may be used as transport fuels, I am yet to hear of a vehicle running on illuminating paraffin.”

In addition, if Eskom’s current challenges persist, and South Africa experiences more rolling blackouts, many more South Africans are likely to experience the effect that the proposed levies could have on the price of paraffin, first hand.

“In terms of time lines, Treasury has not yet given any deadline for its decision regarding the matter, but it is expected that Treasury will review the scope and definition of fuel levy goods in the Customs and Excise Act. For now, we will just have to look out for future announcements,” Troost concludes.


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Remember, if a fire breaks out, it will cost so much more if you are underinsured.

PROPERTY NEWS - Countless household goods contain flammable chemicals, while those containing non-flammable chemicals can come in combustible packaging. There are several examples of common chemical-laden products you’ll find in your home. Each carry the risk of fire if not properly handled or stored, and we often forget how dangerous some of these items can be.

We’ve outlined some potentially flammable situations to be aware of, to keep your safety and your insurance in check.

First things first: get certified
Remember that any gas installations on your property must have a compliance certificate, proving alignment with the applicable South African National Standard (SANS) codes and that the installation was done by a registered, competent person.

Spray it safely
Non-stick cooking spray is a common staple in many kitchens. Turn yours over to see the warning label reading: ‘extremely flammable aerosol, do not spray near open flame’ or similar. This should be warning enough. It may seem logical not to spray onto an open flame, but accidents do happen. While some products might not reveal the type of propellent present, it is often the highly flammable DME (dimethyl ether). If you consider how often you spray a pan when your gas stove is already lit, the risk is obvious. On the upside, fires caused by negligent cooking methods can very easily be avoided.

Ever use spray-on deodorant? This product comes with even more warnings on the packaging. Look out for descriptors such as: ‘extremely flammable aerosol’, ‘pressurised container’ or ‘may burst if heated’.

You will also be advised to ‘keep away from heat, hot surfaces, sparks, open flames and other ignition sources’ and will be cautioned not to smoke near the product or spray it on an open flame. Flammable ingredients in deodorant can include alcohol, propane, butane and isobutane, so it’s wise to make sure you store and use yours safely.

Therein lies the rub
Furniture polish is another common product found at home. This too requires caution when it comes to where you keep it. Note warnings on these products stating: ‘flammable’ or ‘pressurised container’. You might find that there is no specific propellant mentioned, but take care to store your polish responsibly to avoid a fire that could destroy your furniture altogether.

Stocked up for summer
The garage shelf often houses some of the products needed for outside maintenance. Chemicals for swimming pools are another common safety hazard. These may serve as oxidisers when in contact with other hydro-carbons or tins of paint you might be storing.

Keep in mind that paint cleaning materials such as thinners as well as paraffin and gas cylinders pose large fire risks as well. Many of us store spare gas supply or keep petrol for lawnmowers or power generators in the garage, along with wood.

All of these are risky – even more so if you also store chemicals, such as those for your pool, close by. If your pool products are housed under a thatched roof structure, risks are heightened even further, as thatch is highly flammable. Make sure that any thatched structures are specified to your insurer.

Sparks may fly
As we head into the thick of summer, warmer weather unfortunately brings with it more mosquitos and flies. For many, bug repellent spray is a summer-survival staple. More descriptive warning labels around the flammable, pressurised contents may come standard with this type of product. However, flammable ingredients are not usually revealed on insect sprays, despite the dangers.

Removing insects is often frustrating, but due to the nature of repellents it’s best to be cautious when doing so.

Keep it all in mind
All of this highlights the scary reality of how easily an accident can happen, as these are products many of us use on any given day. It is in your best interest to stay safe at home and to keep your insurance policy up to date. Remember, if a fire breaks out, it will cost so much more if you are underinsured.

What if you have to rebuild your home and replace all of your contents? Don’t let an unnecessary fire burn your budget or spoil your summer plans – chat to your adviser and ‘fireproof’ your insurance cover.


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KPMG apologises over scandals, PIC inquiry to look into Steinhoff BEE deal, ex-Necsa board to challenge removal. Eskom still a concern, rand update.

KMPG is looking to start 2019 on a clean slate. Photo: Moneyweb

1. KPMG apologises for scandals
KPMG is looking to start 2019 on a new note. The auditor is apologising for its misdeeds and scandals it was involved in and is asking for a second chance to reestablish its brand. A number of companies have dropped KPMG as its auditor after reports and probes revealed that the firm did work with the infamous Gupta family and after a probe found that it released a misleading report on the South African Revenue Service. The firm’s chairman is seeking to win South Africa’s trust back.

2. PIC inquiry to look into Steinhoff BEE deal
The inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation is going beyond the fund manager and will be investigating a BEE deal which concerns fallen retailer, Steinhoff. The inquiry is seeking to look into the PIC’s R9 billion loan to Lancaster 101. The Business Day is reporting that this is one of nine investigations that the inquiry is looking into.

3. Ex-Necsa board to challenge removal in courts
Members of the axed Necsa board are not taking their removal by energy minister, Jeff Radebe lightly. According to the Business Report, the members of the ex-board are planning to take the matter to the High Court in hopes of the minister reversing his decision. Last week, Radebe removed the board over concerns regarding governing issues.

4. Load shedding on pause – for now
The case of Eskom remains a concern to South Africa, but in the latest, the parastatal announced a temporary cancellation of load shedding after two of its generating systems came online. The temporary cancellation holds no long-term promise as Eskom is still fighting to maintain its stockpiles and to find ways to fund its debt.

Public enterprises minister, Pravin Gordhan expects to halt load shedding completely, ahead of the festive season.

5. Rand update
The holiday period is upon us, and it’s time for giving, receiving and rejoicing. There is hope that the rand also joins into the festive spirit by lifting gains, but for now, it’s not quite there. At 7:58, the rand was at R14.19 to the dollar.


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- IN GENERAL Why Eskom can’t keep the lights

NATIONAL NEWS - Delays in procurement processes to get new coal contracts are behind the latest bout of nationwide load shedding by state power producer Eskom.

The utility’s spokeperson, Khulu Phasiwe, said several power stations were suffering supply shortages as a result of the cancellation of Eskom’s controversial contract with the Gupta-Zuma owned entity Tegeta.

Yesterday, the utility announced stage 1 load shedding as of midday to preserve emergency resources.

“Customers are advised to keep checking their load shedding schedules on the Eskom and their municipal website, and to plan on the assumption that load shedding will take place. We continue to appeal to residents and businesses to use electricity sparingly during this period.

“Please switch off geysers as well as all non-essential lighting and electricity appliances to assist in reducing demand.”

The announcement came after an energy analyst predicted the event, warning that Eskom’s stockpiles had declined significantly and the utility was headed towards a supply crisis.

This was despite the fact that the under-construction Medupi Power Station was sitting with a surplus stockpile, which is currently being used to supplement other stations, according to Phasiwe.

“We don’t have a coal problem at Medupi; the problem is at the other stations that were previously supplied by Tegeta.

“There are plans in place to sign 14 new coal contracts and, to date, we have signed 27 contracts in total.

“Hopefully all of these things will be alleviated by then and we are looking at stockpile levels improving by the end of March next year,” Phasiwe said.

Meanwhile, the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) was receiving public submissions after the cash-strapped utility applied for a 15% tariff increase in October, which would last for the next three years.

The utility also applied for retroactive shortfall funding via a regulatory clearing account (RCA) application of R21.6 billion for the fifth year (2017/18) of the MYPD 3 period.

The Nersa MYPD (multi-year price determination) methodology requires Eskom, after financial year end, to submit its RCA application to Nersa, based on efficient and prudent costs reflected.


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