Monday, 10 May 2021

Slow news day: More AstraZeneca inbound + IMF to wrap its latest review by the end of June



Good morning, wonderful people, and welcome to a shockingly slow news day. It’s slow enough, in fact, that it begs the question of whether the traditional pre-Eid news slowdown has started a day early.

THE BIG STORY here at home this morning? It’s a tie between two yawners: The IMF expects to wrap its latest review of our progress on economic reforms by the end of June, and we have another batch of AstraZeneca due in today. We have more on both stories in this morning’s news well, below.

Actually, isn’t that a sign of progress? The notion that the arrival of 1.7 mn doses of a covid jab — where not long ago we had zero — is a “yawner” is a sign that whatever kinks remain in the global vaccine distribution pipeline, Egypt is getting something right. Room for cautious optimism (to use the hoary old phrase) if nothing else.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD this morning is the ransomware attack on a US pipeline that carries almost half of the fuel consumed by the East coast of America. Officials there have declared a state of emergency “in a bid to keep fuel supply lines open as fears of shortages rose.” The story, which broke yesterday, still leads the front pages of the Financial Times, Reuters and Bloomberg.


It’s inflation day: Capmas and the Central Bank of Egypt should release inflation figures for April today.

The Arab League will meet in Cairo today or tomorrow to discuss the violence in Jerusalem. There are conflicting reports on whether the meeting is scheduled for today or Tuesday: Al Shorouk cites Palestine’s Assistant Foreign Minister Omar Awadallah as saying the meeting is happening today, while the Arab League’s Assistant Secretary-General Hossam Zaki said it’s slated for Tuesday, as we note in Last Night’s Talk Shows, below. The Arab foreign ministers will discuss Israeli forces’ aggression against Palestinians in Jerusalem, including at the Al Aqsa Mosque and in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. At least 269 Palestinian civilians were injured over the course of two days of violence. Egypt has also summoned Israel's ambassador to Cairo Amira Oron for talks.

Meanwhile, an Israeli Supreme Court hearing originally scheduled for today on the forced displacement of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah has been postponed amid the violent clashes and international outcry, Times of Israel reports. The date for the postponed hearing must be set within 30 days, the court decreed. Evictions are to stop in the meantime, it said.

***CATCH UP QUICK on the top stories from yesterday’s edition of EnterprisePM:

  • Private-sector involvement in Egypt’s railways: Three foreign companies are bidding to help manage our ailing railway network.
  • Expect more guests at Cairo + Sharm hotels this year: Colliers International has revised upwards its 2021 outlook for hotel occupancy in Cairo and Sharm El Sheikh.
  • Locally-made vaccines incoming this summer: State-owned Vacsera will locally manufacture 2 mn doses of China's Sinovac vaccine by end of June — and it will be available without charge.

** So, when do we eat? We sit down to eat at 6:38pm, and we’ll have until 3:26am to eat and hydrate.

WATCH THIS SPACE #1- Why rising inflation in the US could be bad news for us here in Egypt. There are signs that everything from “fresh fruit to freezers” is costing more in the United States, the Wall Street Journal warns. Consumers are having to “pay sharply higher prices for goods and services as the economy strains to rev back up and the pandemic wanes,” the newspaper notes. The news comes less than a week after US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen — a respected former chair of the US Federal Reserve — walked back earlier comments that suggested the US Fed might have to hike interest rates sooner than expected to “stop the economy from overheating as President Joe Biden’s spending plan boosts growth.”

So what’s the Egypt angle? Our central bank has been striking a careful balancing act since the pandemic began. On the one hand, it has signaled it would like to gradually lower rates to encourage companies to invest in growth — and to prompt consumers to put deposits to work in the economy. On the other hand, it wants to maintain our position as the world’s most attractive carry trade, which has been key to keeping the exchange rate in check as tourism has slumped thanks to the pandemic. If the Fed raises rates, it’s going to put pressure on Egypt to follow suit to protect the carry trade.

WATCH THIS SPACE #2- Qatar is in the news today after the country announced the arrest of the country’s well-respected finance minister, Ali Sharif Al-Emadi, amid allegations he “misused public funds,” Bloomberg said, calling the move “unprecedented.” Qatar is also getting digital ink around the region this morning for its plan to lift covid measures in four phases starting 28 May and ending 30 July.


The virtual BIT Milano tourism expo kicked off yesterday and runs through this Friday, 14 May. Egypt’s Tourism and Antiquities Ministry is participating in the exhibition to talk with Italian tour operators in a bid to bring more Italian tourists to Egypt, according to a ministry statement.

Africa-based startups have until 26 May to sign up for France’s AFD Digital Challenge, an annual startup competition (pdf) by the French Development Agency (AFD). This year, the competition involves startups finding solutions to curb the carbon impact of economic activities or promote sustainable economic activity and the use of natural resources. The 10 startups chosen will receive an “acceleration pack,” a package of technical and financial support worth EUR 20k.

The IMF will complete by the end of June a second review of targets set under Egypt’s USD 5.2 bn standby loan. The loan was approved in June 2020.

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


*** It’s Blackboard day: We have our weekly look at the business of education in Egypt, from pre-K through the highest reaches of higher ed. Blackboard appears every Monday in Enterprise in the place of our traditional industry news roundups.

In today’s issue: The pandemic looks to have been great for executive education — a branch of education focused on training the next generation of business leaders and executives. But what is the market like in Egypt, and how it is being deployed?



It’s report card season

The IMF is expected to wrap its second and final review of its year-long USD 5.2 bn standby loan program by the end of June, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait told Bloomberg Asharq. A positive review would unlock the final USD 1.6 bn tranche; Egypt received an initial USD 2 bn in June 2020 and an additional USD 1.6 bn late last year.

How did we do on our first report card? The IMF’s first review last January saw the fund bump up our growth outlook for the year to 2.8% from 2%, with the fund praising Egypt’s fiscal and monetary responses to covid-19. The government’s push for green investments, as well as progress with its structural reform program also got a nod from the IMF. The fund noted a “marginal breach” as Egypt’s inflation fell short of the lower end of the Central Bank of Egypt’s inner target band of 6-12%, triggering a consultation requirement and prompting the CBE to lower and narrow its target range to 5-9%.

The IMF had approved the loan to help Egypt plug a balance of payments shortfall and finance its budget deficit amid covid-19, with the funds put towards supporting healthcare and social programs for the vulnerable, advancing structural reforms, and boosting private sector growth and job creation. Egypt had received a USD 2.8 bn rapid financing facility in May 2020 for targeted and temporary spending to help offset the economic effects of covid-19.

ALSO FROM THE FINANCE MINISTER- Exports this year are expected to outperform their 2020 figures, reducing Egypt’s external financing needs, Maait told Asharq. Egypt saw increased spending on export subsidies in FY2020-2021 — with EGP 1.7 bn spent on subsidies, up from EGP 900 mn, in 1Q2020-2021 which Maait says contributed to a weaker primary surplus.


AstraZeneca shipment coming today + Sputnik before end of May

We’re getting 1.7 mn doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine today as part of the Covax program, Health Ministry spokesperson Khaled Megahed told eXtra News. Minister Hala Zayed had said last week that this shipment will be followed by a separate batch of 1.7 mn doses of the jab coming before the month is out.

Also coming before the end of May: Our first shipment of the Sputnik V jab. Russia is expected to send an unspecified number of vaccine doses in the first batch we’re receiving under an agreement that will see Russia supplying Egypt with 10 mn doses of the vaccine, Megahed noted (watch, runtime: 8:47)

The Health Ministry reported 1,138 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 1,132 the day before. The ministry also reported 59 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 13,904. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 237,410 confirmed cases of covid-19.

Egypt sent three military planes carrying medical aid to India yesterday to assist the country in combating its covid-19 outbreak, according to an Armed Forces statement.

As developing countries grapple with a vaccine supply crunch, there are some — many of them in Africa — that have no vaccines at all: Chad has not received a single dose under the Gavi / Covax scheme designed to ensure equal access to vaccines and is last in line on the continent to get its hands on the coming UN-backed rollout, the Associated Press reports. Burkina Faso, Burundi, Eritrea and Tanzania are next in line for covid shots among at least a dozen other African countries also lagging far behind the rest of the world in vaccinations, accounting for just 1% of shots administered worldwide.

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be produced in China: Shanghai Fosun Pharma Group has agreed to set up a 50-50 joint venture with BioNTech that will enable it to produce the German company’s mRNA covid-19 vaccine in Shanghai, according to a statement (pdf). Fosun will target production of 1 bn doses each year.

Vaccines are getting the job done in the UK, where covid-19 related deaths fell to just two individuals yesterday, after the country successfully vaccinated a third of its population, Bloomberg reports.


New ridesharing app to challenge Uber’s local monopoly?

UK-based ridesharing app UVA is preparing to launch its services in Egypt next month, Al Masry Al Youm reports. The app plans to start with 3k drivers in Cairo and Giza, the newspaper quotes a company official as having said. UVA will offer “competitive prices,” the official added.

The launch would bring a new entrant into Egypt’s ridesharing space, which has been largely dominated by Uber since its USD 3.1 bn acquisition of regional rival Careem last year, despite the Egyptian Competition Authority’s best efforts to keep the market competitive after the merger. Among other stipulations, the authority required Uber to provide potential competitors and new market entrants with access to its mapping data and data aggregated from trips, as well as customer and driver data.


Metito to pour mns of USD into Egypt operations: UAE-based water treatment company Metito has announced plans (pdf) to earmark 50% of the USD 20 mn loan it recently secured from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to its Egypt unit. The money will be used to support liquidity and provide additional working capital, rather than to make capital investments, it said.

The loan was disbursed as part of the IFC’s USD 8 bn covid financing facility, deployed to support businesses through the pandemic. Metito was the first MENA infrastructure company to get its hands on the funding, receiving it in March.


Corporate bonds could be on the menu for new EGX trading platform

Traders see corporate bonds added to the EGX’s new platform for trading government bonds if they wish to expand the platform’s scope, EGX boss Mohamed Farid told Hapi Journal. Traders would be required to make a formal request to the bourse, which would then explore the matter with the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA). Minimal amendments would need to be made to the system in order to adapt it for corporate bond trading, Farid said.

What’s this new platform? The new platform is expected to increase trading volumes of government bonds in secondary markets by making trading easier by opening up requests for quotations and using quotation screens to set prices when selling.

How likely are we to see this system implemented for corporate paper? EGX officials have been holding meetings with companies, asset managers and brokers who want to know more about how the new platform works and whether it could be of interest to folks floating (or investing in) corporate bonds. The FRA last month took a step toward that direction by requiring bond issuers tapping the secondary market to allocate at least 10% to retail investors.

It’s a chicken and egg thing: The platform could make the trading of corporate paper easier, but we need some corporate paper to trade for it to be of any interest to anyone…


Flunk a dope test and you’re out

A bill that would see civil servants automatically dismissed if they flunk dope tests was approved in principle during a House of Representatives plenary session yesterday, according to Ahram Gate. The bill would, if passed in a final vote, eliminate the need for employers to refer the employees to court before sacking them in these cases. The bill is designed for civil servants, but Youm7 suggests it could be expanded to cover all workers across the country — although the wording could be construed to mean that it covers all employees in state institutions. Employees can, however, request treatment for substance abuse, in which case the employee would have six months to come up with a clean test.



The ongoing violence against Palestinians in Jerusalem reigned supreme on the airwaves last night ahead of a planned Arab League meeting on the subject scheduled for tomorrow, Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi noted (watch, runtime: 3:58). Tunisia, meanwhile, is pushing the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on the violence, Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa said (watch, runtime: 1:50).

If it smells like ethnic cleansing, and sounds like ethnic cleansing… Israel is trying to impose de facto control over the entirety of East Jerusalem by forcefully removing Palestinian residents from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, Assistant Secretary-General of the Arab League Hossam Zaki told Moussa (watch, runtime: 3:24). The move could be designed to put Israel in a position of even greater power if the Biden administration pushes Israel and Palestine to return to the negotiating tables, El Hadidi said. The host also suggested that this is also a tactic from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to rally political support from the far-right as he struggles to form a government (watch, runtime: 2:14).

Meanwhile, Lamees called on Egyptians to get their covid-19 vaccinations, reminding her viewers that reaching a certain level of vaccine coverage is the only way to safely return to life as normal (watch, runtime: 0:44). Egypt is already lagging behind many countries in rolling out the vaccines and all jabs being administered here have already been administered en masse elsewhere in the world, meaning we have a pretty clear picture of their effects, manager of Vacsera’s allergy center Amgad El Haddad told Lamees (watch, runtime: 6:38).


It’s a beautifully quiet Monday morning for Egypt in the foreign press. Among the stories making the rounds are the execution of one of two monks found guilty for murdering the bishop of his monastery at the St. Macarius Monastery in 2018 (Reuters) and a look at our limited historical knowledge of Queen Nefertiti (HistoryExtra).


Ibnsina Pharma will digitialize health services offered by the General Authority of Healthcare in hospitals that serve the country’s universal healthcare system under an agreement signed on Thursday, Ibnsina said in a statement (pdf). The contract will see Ibnsina digitize the authority’s supply chain and develop applications that offer virtual medical consultations.

Bechtel wants in on more of Egypt’s megaprojects: US infrastructure giant Bechtel is looking to expand its business in Egypt, with an eye to get in on more of the country’s megaprojects, including managing new cities, President of Bechtel’s infrastructure global business unit Shaun Kenny told Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly during a meeting yesterday, according to a cabinet statement. Bechtel is expected to lead the planned construction of Cairo Metro Line 6, Transport Minister Kamel El Wazir previously said.


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Gasoline prices may reach USD 3 per gallon, their highest in seven years, off of a supply crisis following the cyberattack on the US’ Colonial Pipeline on Friday that forced the pipeline’s closure, Bloomberg reports. Oil traders are scrambling to find alternatives to the pipeline — which delivers 45% of the East Coast’s fuel supply — turning to ships for delivery and tankers for short-term storage. The crisis could cause a spike in fuel prices and overall inflation just as demand in the US economy is beginning to recover, and could spur “domestic policy interventions” if prices continue climbing, said ClearView Energy Partners in a research note.




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The EGX30 rose 0.5% yesterday on turnover of EGP 776 mn (38% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 1.9% YTD.

In the green: Oriental Weavers (+4.4%), Ibnsina Pharma (+2.9%) and ElSewedy Electric (+2.6%).

In the red: Cleopatra Hospital (-2.0%), Orascom Investment (-1.8%) and GB Auto (-1.8%).

It’s shaping up to be a good day for global markets: Asian shares are largely in the green (Shanghai is the sole exception), while futures suggest major indices in Europe, Wall Street and Bay Street should open in the green later today.


K-12 and university students have struggled to juggle in-person and online learning since the pandemic broke out, but executive education is booming. Programs that teach leadership and management skills to aspiring managers and execs have seen a burst of popularity even as the pandemic brings with it new uncertainties. Conversations about digital transformation, automation and upskilling that have accelerated due to covid’s impact on the world of work seemingly have executives looking to adapt, perhaps making these courses more important than ever before.

Executive education in Egypt has been making business (and gov’t) sense: When it comes to executive education in Egypt, we found that beyond being succession plays and getting senior management ready, executives tell us programs here have actually had an impact on how leading companies do business. The government appears to also have recognized its importance and hopes to put its most talented through it. Today, we look at what executive education is, its main players in Egypt, and how it can help transform large local companies in terms of production capacity, internal innovation, employee retention, and succession planning.

What is executive education? Executive education refers to academic, post-graduate programs that enable executives, business leaders or professionals to enhance their business acumen and skill set. Usually, these programs mesh practice and theory based on different sectors or professional areas to help individuals improve their employability, and companies retain and develop human resources. The ultimate aim is to transform industries and sectors through research-based education, by working with the individuals within them.

Why do people do it? For an individual, executive education is an investment to improve one’s employability, Associate Dean of Executive Education at AUC Ghada Howaidy says. For companies, executive education is usually about succession planning, talent retention, but most crucially, internal innovation, according to representatives from Ezz Steel and Amoun Pharma.

Executive education here is offered by a few educational institutions. These include the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, which set up shop in El Gouna, in partnership with the Sawiris Foundation for Social Development, and is offering programs in 2022. The Sawiris Foundation had awarded the school USD 6 mn in 2019, which was part of a USD 24.1 mn grant to the university to improve education in Egypt. ESLSCA Business School offers European business certificates in Egypt through executive education professional programs (as opposed to sectoral).

Arguably the the most established program is at the AUC School of Business. The Executive Education arm was founded in 1977 and boasts over 25 programs with 4k graduates. It is ranked 67th in the Financial Times Executive Education Open Enrollment listing in 2020, up from 74th in 2019 — the Arab world’s sole entry. Its open enrollment programs include diplomas in sectors, such as in healthcare and real estate development, as well as professional tracks, such as banking and finance, marketing, and people management, Howaidy tells us. Enrolled participants range from junior to C-level executives, with a majority from middle and senior management. Individuals can apply for the AUC’s programs, based on their needs and level of experience. Companies, on the other hand, can partner with the school to create a customized program for their employees.

Talent retention and succession planning were major takeaways for Ezz Steel: One company that partnered with AUC for tailored executive education programs was Ezz Steel. The partnership dates back to 2003 and has had over 500 participants so far, in a bid to enhance business acumen among employees. This has tremendously helped with succession planning across managerial levels and talent retention, corporate HR and organizational development director Karim Hamdy tells us. Today, the company’s turnover rate stands at 1% among 10k employees. Ezz Steel is currently also working with the Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology (E-JUST) for a technical education program, in which 25 people are enlisted.

Amoun Pharma saw a 35% increase in productivity, thanks to a graduation project: Amoun Pharmaceuticals partnered with AUC for a two-year program, which ends with a graduation project presented to the company by the participants. One of those projects helped increase equipment efficiency, which increased productivity by 35% during covid, director of HR talent at Amoun Pharmal George Youssef tells us. While only 60% of Amoun’s workers were able to work during the pandemic due to safety restrictions, one of the participants of the executive education programs came up with an idea on how to optimize the equipment efficiency during production periods. Thanks to that, Amoun was able to increase its monthly medication packs production to 20 mn from 18 mn, with only 60% of the human workforce.

Government is also turning to executive education for the next crop of civil servants: The AUC School of Business Executive Education arm has been partnering with ministries on projects to upskill and develop human capital. “We partnered with the Planning Ministry and King's College in the UK to offer a training program for government employees who will be moving to the New Administrative Capital,” Howaidy says. The “Leadership for Government Excellence” project had 120 participants. Another project with the ministry focused on mastering business skills for entrepreneurs with 100 participants.

Your top education stories for the week:

  • Exams: Non-essential exams for non Edadiya / Thanaweya Amma students, who attend grades 4-8 and 10-11, can be taken from home.
  • University rankings: Some 31 Egyptian universities made it to Times Higher Education’s Impact Rankings, with Cairo University being among the world’s top 100 universities for the first time.
  • Medical education investment: Nile Misr Healthcare, a USD 380 mn fund, is looking for portfolio companies in Egypt in fields such as medical education.


9-14 May (Sunday-Friday): BIT Milano tourism expo (virtual).

12-16 May (Wednesday-Sunday): Eid El Fitr.

16-19 May (Sunday-Wednesday): The Arabian Travel Market (ATM) takes place in Dubai.

20-28 May (Thursday-Friday): Gouna International Squash Open 2021.

26 May (Wednesday): Final day for Africa-based startups to apply for the French government-sponsored AFD Digital Challenge (pdf).

27-29 May (Thursday-Saturday): Informa Markets’ Nextmove real estate exhibition, Cairo International Convention Center, Nasr City.

30 May (Sunday): Al Mal GTM is organizing the Portfolio Egypt conference under the theme ‘Growth under the weight of the pandemic.’

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

17-20 June (Thursday-Sunday) : The International Exhibition of Materials and Technologies for Finishing and Construction (Turnkey Expo), Cairo International Conference Center.

22-27 June (Tuesday-Sunday): The CIB PSA World Tour Finals for 2020-2021 will take place in Cairo.

24 June (Thursday): End of the 2020-2021 academic year (public schools).

26-29 June (Saturday-Tuesday): The Big 5 Construct Egypt, Cairo International Convention Center, Cairo, Egypt.

30 June (Wednesday): The IMF will complete a second review of targets set under the USD 5.2 bn standby loan approved in June 2020 (proposed date).

30 June (Wednesday): 30 June Revolution Day.

30 June- 15 July: National Book Fair.

July + August: Thanaweya Amma exams take place.

1 July: (Thursday): National holiday in observance of 30 June Revolution.

1 July (Thursday): Large taxpayers that have not yet signed on on to the e-invoicing platform will suffer a host of penalties, including removal from large taxpayer classification, losing access to government services and business, and losing subsidies.

15 June (Saturday): EGX-listed will have to complete filing their financial disclosures for the period ended 31 March.

19 July (Monday): Arafat Day (national holiday).

20-23 July (Tuesday-Friday): Eid Al Adha (national holiday).

23 July (Friday): Revolution Day (national holiday).

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

9 August (Monday): Islamic New Year.

12 August (Thursday): National holiday in observance of the Islamic New Year.

17-20 August (Tuesday-Friday): The World Economic Forum annual meeting, Singapore.

12-15 September (Sunday-Wednesday): Sahara Expo: the 33rd International Agricultural Exhibition for Africa and the Middle East.

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

30 September-2 October (Thursday-Saturday): Egypt Projects 2021 expo, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

30 September-8 October (Thursday-Friday): The Cairo International Fair, Cairo International Conference Center, Cairo, Egypt.

1 October (Friday): Expo 2020 Dubai opens.

6 October (Wednesday): Armed Forces Day.

7 October (Thursday): National holiday in observance of Armed Forces Day.

12-14 October (Tuesday-Thursday): Mediterranean Offshore Conference, Alexandria, Egypt.

18 October (Monday): Prophet’s Birthday.

21 October (Thursday): National holiday in observance of the Prophet’s Birthday.

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

1-3 November (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Energy exhibition on power and renewable energy, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

1-12 November (Monday-Friday): 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), Glasgow, United Kingdom.

29 November-2 December (Monday-Thursday): Egypt Defense Expo.

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

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

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

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

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

**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.

Enterprise is a daily publication of Enterprise Ventures LLC, an Egyptian limited liability company (commercial register 83594), and a subsidiary of Inktank Communications. Summaries are intended for guidance only and are provided on an as-is basis; kindly refer to the source article in its original language prior to undertaking any action. Neither Enterprise Ventures nor its staff assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, whether in the form of summaries or analysis. © 2022 Enterprise Ventures LLC.

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