Monday, 15 November 2021

PM — PPP Act gets the green light from parliament



It’s a busy day here in the local press, ladies and gentlemen, with key legislation getting approval from the House of Representatives and new funding lining up for edtech. Meanwhile, US-China relations dominated the conversation in the foreign press.

The government is not allowing unvaccinated civil servants into their offices as of today. Ministries and other public sector bodies are strictly implementing the cabinet directive barring employees from entering these buildings without proof of at least one dose of a covid-19 vaccine or a PCR test, according to statements from the finance, agriculture, irrigation, and local development ministries, among others.


#1- The House of Representatives gave final approval to the PPP Act today after a number of amendments were given the go-ahead in the plenary session, having received approval from the House Planning Committee in January, according to Masrawy. The act aims to streamline public-private partnership (PPP) contracts in fields including transport, energy, communications, and healthcare. It would also add provisions meant to ensure higher quality standards and simplify the tender process through which government contracts with private businesses. The bill will now move on to President Abdel Fattah El Sisi to be ratified into law.

#2- It’s a busy day in the world of edtech: Edventures is investing USD 200k in career advice startup Career 180, the VC firm said in a press release. The funding is set to help Career 180 build a new integrated job-search platform that integrates freelance gig site The Freelance Yard. It’s the second investment for Edventures in as many weeks, after the VC arm of Nahdet Misr for Publishing last week announced it would pump USD 400k to distance-learning platform OTO Courses.

…And one edtech startup is acquiring another: Tyro, which offers one-to-one and group distance-learning courses, is acquiring edu-content creator Nafham in a share swap transaction, according to a press release. Flat6Labs, and NXL Partners will invest in a kickoff fund for the merger of the two companies, which the release says will together form one of our biggest edtech firms. We hope to have more details on both of those edtech stories for tomorrow’s EnterpriseAM.

CORRECTION- We incorrectly reported net income figures in our coverage of e-Finance’s earnings this morning.

On a nine-month basis, net income rose 35% y-o-y to EGP 374.8 mn during 9M2021 while revenues rose 59% y-o-y to reach EGP 1.3 bn, according to their maiden earnings release (pdf) as a publicly-listed company. We’ve updated the story on our website.

Executive Chairman and CEO Ibrahim Sarhan emphasized in a call with us this afternoon that the company’s spending in 3Q2021 rose as e-Finance continued to invest in its growth strategy. Sarhan noted that costs associated with the rollout of that strategy hit the income statement “primarily during the third quarter” as opex rose through new subsidiaries on the back of “new hires and the development of new infrastructure and solutions to roll out new lines of business” including offerings in tourism (among them for the nation’s museums) and transport. The company announced new e-card transportation solutions at TransMea last week and expects the solution to be launched and operational at the start of 1Q2022. “This is all a clear investment in our strategy and in our growth — and revenues will ramp up to more than cover the uptick in expenses,” Sarhan noted.

** CATCH UP QUICK on the top stories from today’s EnterpriseAM:

  • The jury is out on the tax + fee incentives on the EGX: Market watchers want specifics on a basket of EGX-centric tax incentives and fee cuts unveiled last week, with several traders and parliamentarians still clamoring for the capital gains tax to be scrapped entirely out of concern that the tax will discourage trading volumes.
  • Al Gioshy Steel is considering an IPO on the EGX and wants to list on the bourse as soon as market indicators improve after the steel manufacturer said back in June 2019 that it was looking to offer up to 25% of its shares in 2020.
  • Clinical trials have started on an Egyptian-made covid jab: Our locally made Covi Vax has made it through the laboratory testing and is currently in clinical trials, which will begin with tens of participants before they’re expanded to include hundreds and thousands of people.


US President Joe Biden’s contentious virtual meeting later today with Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping is capturing the attention of most of the foreign press, with speculations over how successful the talks will be at easing heightened tensions between the two world superpowers. Among the topics set to be discussed are disagreements over trade policies, nuclear power upgrades, human rights abuses, and China’s increased aggression towards Taiwan.

Nobody’s expecting these two to kiss and make up — but it would be nice if they could avoid a more serious conflict. “Both leaders are dissatisfied with the state of the relationship,” one official told the Wall Street Journal. “They are both very mindful that some type of incident could occur that would create a problem that neither can afford right now.”(BBC | Financial Times | Reuters).


The two-day Africa Fintech summit kicks off tomorrow: The summit looks at innovation in the fintech ecosystem, venture capital and other forms of investing, and will also discuss the rise of healthtech.


The International Finance Corporation is hosting an invite-only forum in Cairo on Wednesday with a focus on sustainable finance in Africa. Egyptian speakers include Central Bank of Egypt First Sub-Governor May Abulnaga, the Financial Regulatory Authority’s Sina Hbous and CIB’s Dalia Abdel Kader.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will be in Cairo on Thursday and Friday (18-19 November). Charles will meet with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Al Azhar’s Grand Imam, Ahmed El Tayyeb, among other government officials. Expect climate change to be high on the prince’s agenda given his personal interest in the topic and Egypt’s selection as host of COP27 next year.

Comesa summit next week in Sharm: Egypt will host the 2021 Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) summit on 23 November in Sharm El Sheikh.

KfW is launching a call for projects contributing to sustainable job creation: Companies and public bodies working on projects related to the green economy transformation will be able to submit proposals to the KfW Development Bank’s Investing for Employment facility, which will see co-financing grants ranging from 1 mn to 10 mn EUR awarded to to each project, the German development bank said in a press release (pdf). The facility will award grants to projects that contribute towards job creation. You can find out more about the facility and the application process here.

Check out our full calendar on the web for a comprehensive listing of upcoming news events, national holidays and news triggers.

☀️ TOMORROW’S WEATHER- Expect a daytime high of 26°C in this unusually warm November, with the mercury dropping to 18°C at night, our favorite weather app tells us. There will also be intermittent light showers in some parts of Cairo between 10pm tomorrow and early Wednesday morning, according to the Egyptian Meteorological Authority.


Despite net-zero promises, oil and gas is going nowhere: Oil and gas will be part of the global energy mix for the foreseeable future despite decarbonization ambitions from governments and major energy firms, according to the CEO of oil giant (and major global polluter, according to Bloomberg’s David Fickling and Elaine He) BP. “It may not be popular to say that oil and gas is going to be in the energy system for decades to come but that is the reality,” Bernard Looney told CNBC today, adding that the focus should be on “driving emissions down” rather than “ideological positions.” BP and other energy firms have been pushing hydrogen as a greener alternative to traditional fossil fuels — in what some say is a tactic meant to delay the inevitable death of carbon-emitting energy sources.

“Phase-out” vs. “phase-down”: The call from BP for a gentler transition to zero-carbon energy was echoed by plenty of major energy consumers and exporters at the recent COP26 summit. China and India successfully lobbied to water down a target to abolish coal use into one to reduce it in the final agreement signed off at the summit ‘s close on Saturday, while the energy minister of oil-exporter Saudi Arabia told delegates in Glasgow, “it is imperative that we recognise the diversity of climate solutions, and the importance of emissions … without any bias towards or against any particular source of energy.”

SMART POLICY- Portuguese managers are required by law to leave employees alone after working hours: Companies in Portugal will be forbidden from contacting employees outside of working hours after a law regulating remote working is due to come into force in the coming weeks after it was approved by parliament, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on Twitter. Under the new regulations, employers who fail to “abstain from contacting” workers outside working hours will be in breach of the labor law, but it is unclear what the consequences will entail. Companies will also be required to pay for extra energy and communications costs incurred by their at-home employees while any type of monitoring is prohibited. The laws are all in place to ensure that remote workers are taken care of and don’t feel isolated, with companies expected to organise regular face-to-face meetings to ensure this. However, the specifics of the regulation are still a bit hazy, including how costs at home will be calculated, says the Financial Times.


RIP Lebanese-American poet and writer Etel Adnan + Watch The Shrink Next Door


(all times CLT)

Apple TV+’s new series The Shrink Next Door explores an abusive relationship between a psychotherapist and his client: The show is actually based on a podcast of the same name where business journalist Joe Nocera details his own experience with a therapist that affected his life for years to come. Recently-orphaned Marty Markowitz (played by Will Ferrell) seeks help from psychotherapist Dr. Ike who is brought to life by a very convincing Paul Rudd. Hence begins an emotional journey where the therapist swiftly takes control of the client’s life as effortlessly as a puppeteer with his puppet, manipulating Marty until he is isolated from friends and family alike. Viewers get a voyeuristic feeling while watching this show, with the director Michael Showalter making sure to add scenes that feel claustrophobic and dramatic, yet still detached and passive.

The Wall Street Journal is out with a great rundown of the show, but we have to warn you, it’s riddled with spoilers. Also we have to point out that this is not a comedy and CNN is all over how streaming platforms have given actors a chance at exploring new on-screen personas characters, and the combination of Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell being serious is a huge example of that.

Egypt is playing against Gabon tomorrow at 3pm for the World Cup Qualifiers. Egypt currently tops Group F with 11 points, already ensuring that it will qualify for the next round of knockout matches against a team that is still to be decided.

Meanwhile Europe is also battling it out with qualifier matches: Northern Ireland hosts Italy at 9:45pm, while Switzerland will be going at it with Bulgaria at the same time. This is the final round of qualifiers, and Italy currently leads the group with two goals over Switzerland. The group leader qualifies directly to the World Cup, while the second player has to go to the playoffs. Also topping their group, England have an easy task when they leave to face San Marino at 9:45pm. A tie is enough for the English to ensure their official qualification to the World Cup, a result that seems inevitable considering San Marino occupying the bottom of the group with zero points while they have let 36 balls slide through their goal in the nine matches they’ve played.


(all times CLT)

Afro house DJ O. Ezzo is celebrating his birthday at Cairo Jazz Club tonight, taking to the stage with his turntable at 8pm. Also performing are Amira and The Disc Jockeys — who have recently reunited as a house tunes duo.

The Breaking Walls Dance Film Festival kicks off today, screening Dance Films from Italy, Switzerland, Japan, Denmark, Netherlands, France and Argentina. You can attend the festival at in Downtown at 7pm.


Lebanese-American poet, author, journalist, and painter Etel Adnan died yesterday at age 96. Born in Beirut in 1925, Adnan’s writings in diverse mediums and across languages have been celebrated as a documentation of the Lebanese experience and diaspora as she moved between the US, Syria, and France. Though she had been better known as a writer throughout her life after the success of her novel on the Lebanese civil war Sitt Marie-Rose, Adnan shot to surprising fame as a painter when she was in her 80s, and became famous for her small, geometric renderings of landscapes, executed in bright, mostly primary colors. She has published several poetry collections which have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Adnan’s body of work is notable for the variety of its mediums, with the artist having famously said, “it seems to me I write what I see, paint what I am.”

“I say that I’m not afraid/ of dying because I haven’t/ yet had the experience/ of death,” she wrote in the opening poem of the collection Time. An exhibition of her work is currently on at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, till January 2022. ArabLit is out with an obituary, as is the NYT.

Egyptian playwright and theater professor Mahmoud El Lozy also passed away earlier today, according to Ahram Online. El Lozy, who was a theater professor at AUC for 30 years, is known for having written the We That Are Young trilogy, and appeared in popular TV series El Gamaa and Haret El Yahoud.


Earnings season still going strong: Ezz Steel, ODE, AMOC, Prime Holding, RCC, and B Investments report results

Ezz Steel posted a net income of EGP 1.4 bn in 3Q2021, after seeing a loss of EGP 1.3 bn in the third quarter of last year, according to the company’s consolidated financials (pdf). Revenues also rose to EGP 18.6 bn in the third quarter, compared with EGP 8.6 bn in the same period a year before. The results see the company continue a profitmaking streak that began in 1H2021, after being in the red for most of the previous decade.

The company’s outlook for this year and next is good so far for the company, as “global steel consumption continues to increase annually,” Ezz Steel said in its earnings disclosure to the LSE. Domestic consumption is also expected to pick up next year, on the back of “unrealized latent demand that resulted from the suspension of the issuance of building permits in 2020, and then the implementation of the new building regulations.”

Orascom Development Egypt (ODE) reported a 148% increase in its bottom line to hit EGP 468.8 mn in 3Q2021, according to the company’s latest earnings release (pdf). ODE reported EGP 1.9 bn in revenues for the quarter, a 42% y-o-y increase.

Alexandria Mineral Oils Company reverses losses: AMOC’s bottom line climbed to EGP 229.7 mn in 3Q2021, up from a loss of EGP 32 mn during the same period last year, according to the company’s quarterly financials (pdf). Net revenues were up 85% y-o-y to EGP 3.7 bn in the third quarter.

Prime Holding’s losses widened to EGP 12.9 mn in 3Q2021, from EGP 3.4 mn during the same period last year, according to their latest earnings report (pdf). The investment bank’s consolidated revenues went up 5% y-o-y to EGP 26 mn.

Raya Contact Center’s bottom line was up 22% to EGP 10.3 mn in 3Q2021, according to the company’s latest financial results (pdf). Revenues also increased slightly, coming in at EGP 184.8 mn compared with EGP 179.5 mn in the same period in 2020.

B Investments’ net income plunged to EGP 418k in 3Q2021, down from EGP 30.6 mn in the same quarter last year, according to the company’s quarterly income statement (pdf). Revenues fell to EGP 13.2 mn during the quarter, down from EGP 42.3 mn in 3Q2020.


The EGX30 fell 1.4% at today’s close on turnover of EGP 1.02 bn (31% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is up 6.0% YTD.

In the green: Rameda (+5.5%), CIRA (+1.5%) and Speed Medical (+0.8%).

In the red: Fawry (-5.8%), Aspire Capital (-4.3%) and Palm Hills Development (-4.3%).


MMA (mixed martial arts) has been growing in Egypt over the past decade, but remains largely uncharted, with small-scale tournaments played to audiences in the hundreds. Although MMA is one of the world’s fastest growing sports, in Egypt, the sport has grown underground and in niche circles, with no media sponsorship, federations or corporate sponsors backing it.

For the uninitiated: MMA is a full-contact sport integrating techniques from different martial arts and combat sports, combining kickboxing, boxing, muay thai, jiu-jitsu and wrestling moves. Fundamentally, it allows martial artists from different disciplines to fight under a more relaxed set of rules. Much like boxing, fighters triumph by knocking out or forcing their opponent to submit. MMA gained popularity in the US in the 1990s, with some sources attributing its introduction to North America to the Brazilian jiu-jitsu Gracie family, although others trace its origins to Japan’s Daidojuku and Shooto. Ultimately, it was UFC 1 or Ultimate Fighting Championship that became the forefront of MMA promotion worldwide.

MMA = Jiu-jitsu + kickboxing meets pro wrestling. Sort of. Freelance programmer and jiu-jitsu coach Sharaf Eldin founded Egypt’s Atom Jiu-Jitsu, which is affiliated with Sao Paulo-based Cicero Costha, one of the biggest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) schools in the world, in January. He explains that MMA players traditionally train in striking (usually with a boxing or kickboxing coach) and in jiu-jitsu for grappling. Sharaf Eldin trains some of Egypt’s top fighters, including Omar El-Dafrawy. While MMA borrows a lot of swagger from pro wrestling (including trash talking), it is an authentic sport with real fights and real art. BJJ black belt and co-founder of the Roberto Cyborg-affiliated Anubis Martial Arts Mohamed Omar explains that storytelling has been key to the growth of the game internationally — an aspect that is still lacking in Egyptian MMA.

MMA first made an appearance in Egypt sometime around 2005, according to capoeira trainer Muhammad Bassyouny. Coach Mohamed Abdel Hamid, one of the most prominent names in Egyptian MMA, is credited with being on the forefront of MMA in Egypt in the early 2010s. He and his brother / business partner Khaled Abdel Hamid started their martial arts journey with Kung Fu before moving on to kickboxing and later MMA.

But it really took off in 2011, with former MMA players and coaches all recalling a pivotal tournament at Cairo University organized by Khaled Abdel Hamid’s Evolution Fighting Championship (EFC). Now 37, Abdel Hamid founded EFC in an attempt to formalize the sport, but the sport never seems to have recovered from the setbacks of its early years, namely that it was perceived as a violent sport being played on the sidelines of the January Revolution. He tells us that well-established TV networks showed avid interest in the game in its early years, but the hype fizzled out. Abdel Hamid continues to head EFC and has represented Egypt at the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation since 2015. He also heads a local MMA committee and sees a local MMA federation on the horizon.

EFC and The Arabic Ultimate Fighting Championship (AUFC) are the biggest MMA leagues in Egypt. EFC holds competitions in Cairo, Alexandria, Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh, with its 61st event later this month. The region’s biggest regional MMA promotions are Bahraini Brave Combat Federation, which was founded in 2016 and UAE Warriors, and both now act as feeder leagues for international leagues like the UFC and Bellator MMA, says 29-year-old MMA aficionado Ziad El Sharkawy.

So far, Egypt has one woman MMA champion: Aya Saeid “Sheklesa.” From an underprivileged background, Saeid has pushed back against social stereotypes and is the only woman on Mohamed Abdel Hamid’s Egyptian Top Team, one of the country’s top competitive MMA teams. (Middle East Eye has a short doc on Saeid.)

Of Egypt’s six medals earned at this year’s Tokyo Olympics, five were for martial arts, so it’s no surprise that the sport picked up fast in Egypt. Sharkawy points out that combat sports have long been popular in Egypt, but, as Abdel Hamid notes, sports like taekwondo, karate and kung fu have the advantage of being backed by local federations, which legitimize them and their players.

Not having a federation means that the sport suffers lack of funding and negative PR, with many venue organizers perceiving it as a violent game for “fetewat” rather than a legitimate sport, according to Abdel Hamid. Sponsors offer services and in-kind support rather than funding, and there’s a general lack of corporate sponsors, Abdel Hamid and Coach Sharaf say.

Amateurs looking to make a name for themselves often pay to compete, says Anubis’ Mohamed Omar. Ironic, considering MMA star Conor McGregor was ranked the highest paid athlete of 2021 by Forbes, raking in USD 180 mn this year alone — mostly from endorsements. Abdel Hamid explains that the average game in Egypt attracts 400-500 fans and that, without media outreach, the audience continues to be small.

Alexandria, Mansoura, Damietta, Port Said and Kafr El Sheikh all have MMA scenes, according to Abdel Hamid, who tells us that a scene is also emerging in Sharm El Sheikh. But if sponsorship and coverage in Cairo are scant, they are practically non-existent in the governorates.

It’s not a huge community, but its fans are super hardcore. While mainstream fans tune into big international UFC fights headlined by the likes of McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov, locally, coaches, fighters and fans are all part of a tight-knit community that, while growing rapidly, continues to operate primarily through word-of-mouth. Abdel Hamid suggests Egypt’s MMA fanbase is around 30-40k, while Anubis’ Omar puts the number of practitioners and players close to 5k, although no concrete numbers exist.

So, where can you do MMA in Cairo? If you want to get your MMA game on, Anubis Martial Arts (El Sawy Culture Wheel, Palm Hills Club in 6 October and Walk of Cairo) and Atom Jiu-Jitsu (New Cairo) are pretty serious dojos. Other dojos and fitness centers that offer MMA classes for all ages include The Lab and The Grid in Maadi, AUFC Academy and Fight Club in Heliopolis, UFC Gym in Sheikh Zayed and The Fight Zone in New Cairo.


November: The French-Egyptian Business Forum is set to take place in the Suez Canal Economic Zone.

November: Egypt will host another round of talks to reach a potential Egyptian-Eurasian trade agreement, which can significantly contribute to increasing the volume of Egyptian exports to the Russia-led bloc that includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

15 November (Monday): Unvaccinated public sector workers won’t be allowed into their workplaces.

15 November (Monday): Car dealerships must comply with new consumer protection rules requiring price stickers to be attached to vehicles.

15-21 November (Monday-Sunday): Intra-African Trade Fair 2021, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

16-17 November (Tuesday-Wednesday): Africa fintech summit, Cairo.

17 November (Wednesday): The International Finance Corporation hosts the Sustainable Finance Forum.

18-19 November (Thursday-Friday): British royal family members Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visit Cairo.

23 November: 2021 Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) summit in Sharm El Sheikh.

25 November (Thursday): Rameda Pharma’s annual general meeting (pdf), at which it will decide on the sale of a 5% stake in the company from an individual shareholder to an unnamed institutional investor.

25 November (Thursday): Ibnsina Pharma’s extraordinary general assembly meeting (pdf) to discuss the company’s planned capital increase to EGP 280 mn through a share issuance.

25-27 November (Thursday-Saturday): RiseUp Summit, Cairo, Egypt.

26 November-5 December (Friday-Sunday): The 43rd Cairo International Film Festival.

29 November-2 December (Monday-Thursday): Egypt Defense Expo, Egypt International Exhibition Centre.

30 November (Tuesday): Launch of open call by KfW for green project proposals in Egypt as part of their Investing for Employment facility (pdf).

End of November: El Nasr Automotive expects to have found a replacement for Dongfeng as its partner for its local EV assembly plans.

1 December (Wednesday): Unvaccinated members of the public will be banned from government buildings from this date; unvaccinated students will be prevented from accessing university campuses.

1 December (Wednesday): Government departments will begin moving to offices in the new capital.

7-8 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): North Africa Trade Finance Summit.

8-10 December (Wednesday-Thursday): Global Forum for Higher Education and Scientific Research (GFHS), Cairo, Egypt.

12-14 December (Sunday-Tuesday): Food Africa Cairo trade exhibition, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

13-17 December: United Nations Convention against Corruption, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

14-19 December (Tuesday-Sunday): The Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theater.

14-15 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): The Federal Reserve meets to review interest rates.

15 December (Wednesday): Deadline for joint stock companies and investment companies in Cairo to join e-invoicing platform.

16 December (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

1Q2022: Launch of the Egyptian Commodities Exchange.

10-13 January 2022 (Monday-Thursday): The fourth edition of the World Youth Forum will take place in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt under the auspices of President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.

7 January 2022 (Friday): Coptic Christmas.

27 January 2022 (Tuesday): National holiday in observance of 25 January revolution anniversary / Police Day.

11 February 2022 (Friday): Deadline for Anghami SPAC merger.

14-16 February 2022 (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Petroleum Show, Egypt International Exhibition Center, New Cairo, Egypt.

19 February 2022 (Saturday): Public universities begin the second term of the 2021-2022 academic year.

1H2022: The World Economic Forum annual meeting, location TBD.

2 April 2022 (Saturday): First day of Ramadan (TBC).

22-24 April 2022 (Friday-Sunday): World Bank-IMF spring meeting, Washington D.C.

24 April 2022 (Sunday): Coptic Easter Sunday (holiday for Coptic Christians).

25 April 2022 (Monday): Sham El Nessim.

25 April 2022 (Monday): Sinai Liberation Day.

May 2022: Investment in Logistics Conference, Cairo, Egypt.

2 May 2022 (Monday): Eid El Fitr (TBC).

16 June 2022 (Thursday): End of 2021-2022 academic year for public schools.

27 June-3 July 2022 (Monday-Sunday): World University Squash Championships, New Giza.

30 June 2022 (Thursday): June 30 Revolution Day, national holiday.

2H2022: IEF-IGU Ministerial Gas Forum, Egypt. Date + location TBA.

8 July (Friday): Arafat Day.

9-13 July (Saturday-Wednesday): Eid Al Adha, national holiday.

30 July (Saturday): Islamic New Year.

6 October (Thursday): Armed Forces Day, national holiday.

8 October (Saturday): Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.

18-20 October 2022 (Tuesday-Thursday): Mediterranean Offshore Conference, Alexandria, Egypt.

**Note to readers: Some national holidays may appear twice above. Since 2020, Egypt has observed most mid-week holidays on Thursdays regardless of the day on which they fall and may also move those days to Sundays. We distinguish below between the actual holiday and its observance.

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