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General Cable (NYSE:BGC)

Q2 2013 Earnings Call

August 01, 2013 8:30 am ET

Executives

Len Texter - Director of Investor Relations

Brian J. Robinson - Chief Financial Officer, Principal Accounting Officer, Executive Vice President and Treasurer

Gregory B. Kenny - Chief Executive Officer, President and Director

Analysts

Chris Dankert - Longbow Research LLC

Matthew Schon McCall - BB&T Capital Markets, Research Division

Brent Thielman - D.A. Davidson & Co., Research Division

Noelle C. Dilts - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

Shawn M. Harrison - Longbow Research LLC

Operator

Good morning. My name is Melissa, and I will be your conference facilitator. I would like to welcome everyone to General Cable Corporation's Second Quarter 2013 Earnings Conference Call. This conference call is being recorded at the request of General Cable. Should you have any objections, you may disconnect at this time. [Operator Instructions] Thank you. General Cable, you may begin your conference.

Len Texter

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to General Cable's second quarter 2013 earnings conference call. I'm Len Texter, Vice President Investor Relations at General Cable. Joining me this morning are Greg Kenny, our President and Chief Executive Officer; Brian Robinson, our Chief Financial Officer; and Bob Siverd, our General Counsel.

Many of you have already seen a copy of our press release issued last night. For those of you who have not, it is available on First Call and on our website at generalcable.com. Today's call will be accompanied by a slide presentation also available on our website. If you have not downloaded a copy, we recommend that you do so, as we will refer to the presentation throughout our prepared remarks today.

The format of today's call will first be an overview by Brian Robinson of our second quarter results. Secondly, Greg Kenny will provide comments on the company's third quarter and 2013 full year outlook and business trends, followed by a question-and-answer period.

Before we get started, I wanted to call your attention to our Safe Harbor provision regarding forward-looking statements and company-defined non-GAAP financial measures as defined on Slide #2, as we may refer to adjusted operating income and adjusted EBITDA in today's call. To begin, please turn to Slide #5, where we have included a reconciliation of our previously communicated outlook.

With that, I'll now turn the call over to Brian Robinson. Brian?

Brian J. Robinson

Thank you, Len. Good morning. We're pleased to report our second quarter adjusted operating income and adjusted EPS were above our expectations. Our businesses in Europe delivered a stronger performance, and pricing held up better than anticipated in North America and ROW, despite a persistently lower metal price environment. On the volume side, excluding acquisitions and aerial transmission projects in North America and Brazil, global unit volume improved 7% sequentially as seasonal demand for utility cables and construction activity increased.

Despite a sharp improvement and seasonal demand, unit volume was below expectations in some businesses in North America and ROW, as were metal-intensive aerial product shipments in North America. In Europe and Mediterranean, demand improved sequentially 8% in the second quarter of 2013, which was consistent with our expectations.

Next, on Slide 6, we provided a reconciliation of our reported to adjusted operating income for the second quarter. The company recorded $8.2 million of expenses related to its submarine cable business, which includes the write-off of $5.9 million of cable lengths that were determined to be unsellable during the quarter and $2.3 million in project settlement costs.

The company also incurred restatement and forensic investigation costs of $2.9 million related to last year's inventory theft in Brazil and further severance-related charges in Europe of $1.2 million.

Lastly, the company closed a small manufacturing facility in its electronics business in North America in the early part of the year and moved the production to other facilities within the region. This facility closure is expected to result in annual savings in the range of $500,000 to $1 million.

Moving to Slide 7. Net sales increased 12% on a metal-adjusted basis, principally due to increased seasonal demand and a greater mix of copper-based product shipments. Adjusted operating income for the second quarter of 2013 was up 83% compared to the first quarter. Other expense reflects mark-to-market losses on economic hedges of $19.9 million, principally due to declining metal prices, which was partially offset by foreign currency transactional gains of $4.3 million. The foreign currency transaction gains in the second quarter are principally the result of authorization received in Venezuela to purchase copper at a VEB 4.3 to each U.S. dollar exchange rate. The company received this authorization prior to the currency devaluation on February 13, 2013. The company expects to report a gain of approximately $4.5 million in the third quarter of 2013 for copper purchases in Venezuela that were approved prior to the devaluation.

On the next 3 slides, we have outlined some of the key metrics for each of our reportable segments. First, in North America, on Slide 8, adjusted operating income in the base businesses improved sequentially 27% as pricing held up better than expected despite selling higher average cost inventory into a lower metal cost environment. Contributions from acquisitions were in the range of 7% operating margins, though volume for Alcan Cable North America declined sequentially, principally due to metal-intensive aerial transmission product shipments. Overall, unit volume in our base businesses was up 10% in the second quarter as compared to the first quarter.

On Slide 9, adjusted operating income in ROW improved $16.8 million to $27.3 million in the second quarter due to seasonal demand patterns throughout Latin America, as well as ongoing strength in Asia Pacific. In Venezuela, the political and economic uncertainty, as well as the extended statutory leave requirements that hampered activity throughout the country in early part of the year, subsided as construction and electrical infrastructure investment accelerated during the second quarter of 2013.

In Brazil, the next phase of aerial transmission projects began to ship in the latter part of the second quarter, as did products from the company startup specialty cable business. Demand remained stable in Asia Pacific, principally driven by construction activity in Thailand and the Philippines, as well as in the acquired Alcan Cable China business.

On Slide 10, in Europe and Mediterranean, adjusted operating income improved $20.2 [ph] million to $10.2 million in the second quarter of 2013. This improvement is principally due to the sequentially stronger results in Spain and the Germany submarine -- and the company's submarine power turnkey project business. Our submarine power turnkey project business improved due to increased seasonal installation activity and production, as well as the completion of 2 supply contracts for medium-voltage submarine power cables in the North Sea. In Spain, our ongoing cost-reduction initiatives helped facilitate a better result as demand improves sequentially.

Moving to Slide 11. Net debt was just under $1.1 billion at the end of the second quarter of 2013, an increase of $38 million from the end of the first quarter of 2013. The increase in net debt is principally the result of higher working capital requirements due to the normal seasonal trends, as well as funding used for share repurchases in the company's newly initiated dividend.

The company repurchased 1% of its common shares or $19 million during the second quarter under its $125 million share repurchase program authorization, which expires at the end of 2013. The company will continue to utilize its buyback authority in the context of economic conditions, as well as the then prevailing market price of the common stock of the company, regulatory requirements and alternative capital investment opportunities.

On June 28, 2013, the company paid a dividend of $0.18 a share or $8.9 million to all holders of the company's common stock of record as of June 10, 2013. The quarterly dividend is the first for the company since 2002. On Monday of this week, the company's Board of Directors declared a quarterly dividend of $0.18 per share, payable on September 6, 2013, to all holders of company's common stock of record at the close of business on August 19, 2013.

Before turning the call over to Greg to provide some comments on the company's 2013 full year outlook and business trends, I wanted to update you on our operating cash outlook for 2013. This information is summarized on Slide #12.

We have lowered our full year outlook for operating cash flow to $125 million at the midpoint. We now expect investments needed in working capital to support pockets of demand and strategies implemented to reduce financing costs to more than offset the benefit of lower average metal prices. We anticipate purchasing metals to supply our business in Venezuela and our submarine power turnkey project business in the latter part of 2013.

In Brazil and Chile, we expect an increased need for inventory in the latter part of the year and a higher level of receivables through the ongoing demand stability and project activity in the back half of this year. We estimate the impact of these items to be a cash use of approximately $100 million.

We also took steps to better utilize cash balances in order to reduce borrowing costs and utilize the most cost-effective working capital financing alternatives available in Thailand and Spain, which has the impact of reducing our operating cash flow by approximately $55 million for the year. The company continues to maintain adequate liquidity to fund operations, internal growth and continuing product and geographic expansion opportunities, as well as its stock repurchase program and quarterly dividend.

With those comments, I'll turn the call over to Greg. Greg?

Gregory B. Kenny

Good morning, and thank you, Brian. As you can see on Slides 14 through 17, we've provided our third quarter and 2013 full year outlook. Our overall business feels a bit more sluggish than previously anticipated. In addition, metal prices are falling materially over the last couple of months, perhaps causing some customers, particularly distributors, to work that inventory. We now expect global unit volume to improve around 8% in the second half of 2013 compared to the first half of 2013.

This anticipated increase principally reflects improvements in aerial transmission and specialty product shipments in Brazil, a growing construction products business in North America and increased project activity in Thailand. At July 30 metal prices, adjusted operating income is expected to be in the range of $280 million for the full year of 2013. Despite a challenging operating environment, burdened by declining metal prices and planned seasonal inventory reductions, adjusted operating income is expected to improve approximately 14% in the second half of 2013 as compared to the first half of the year. We continue to expect Europe and the Mediterranean region to contribute 3% to 6% of consolidated adjusted operating income in 2013.

In addition to daily execution of working capital management, we are focused on getting a positive return on our recent capital investments such as subsea cable and greenfields in the developing world. At the same time, we are making excellent progress integrating our recent acquisitions and continue to identify synergies in the areas of manufacturing, logistics and purchasing.

The operating leverage in our business remains intact and has been further enhanced through our continuous cost reduction efforts, as well as the acquisition of Alcan Cable North America, which shares a similar historical earnings profile to that of General Cable's construction-driven business.

Overall, our view of the intermediate and long-term demand growth drivers in the company's key end markets in North America and ROW is unchanged. We're well positioned to benefit from the growth trends, energy and infrastructure-related investments and construction activity in these markets around the world.

That concludes our prepared remarks. I'll now turn the call back over to the operator, who will assist us in taking your questions. Operator?

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Your first question is from the line of Shawn Harrison from Longbow Research.

Chris Dankert - Longbow Research LLC

This is Chris Dankert, filling in for Shawn quick. First off, can you guys give us a little bit of granularity on how the decline in volume guidance has broken out by region and company a little bit? And then the Alcan North America results, I think I caught in the beginning, that was driven by weaker aerial product shipments. Was that just weaker nonresidential than you were expecting, or can you break that out? And I've got a quick follow-up.

Gregory B. Kenny

Our North America and Chinese acquisitions, which are Alcan and Prestolite, are doing quite well and are at or above our business case for them. The second quarter was a bit weaker for Alcan in terms of both -- some of the OEM products they make. The aerial transmission, as you know, is lumpy and moves around. And then there's obviously the orders that move in and out, depending on what our customers are doing, particularly in the OEM side. So I wouldn't say -- I would say, generally, the residential world is just waking up and it impacts, as you know, our utility business as well. So we're seeing some of that occurring, some better demand in Florida and Arizona. But I would say, generally, we haven't really felt the full impact of housing starts, single family, beginning to return to the kind of equilibrium level that we've seen over the last 15 or 20 years. The non-resi, as you know, has been lackluster with some puts and takes, with mining a bit down and government down and then some up in some other sectors. So net-net, Alcan was weaker in the second quarter than the first, which is unusual. But we feel very, very good about the business, and we're starting to see that ramp back up in the third quarter. I don't have a breakout between how much was housing and not. We really don't do that, that finely. But the sector of Alcan, including building wire, augmented building wire, was relatively weaker than the first quarter.

Brian J. Robinson

Chris, I would just add that the -- so from a 3-region perspective, the reductions of volumes pretty much are in the North America and the ROW regions. And the Europe and Med region actually has been -- it's pretty much consistent with the previous outlook in terms of the volume, so there's -- so that's a very positive development.

Gregory B. Kenny

Stepping up more broadly, I would say, as we look forward to the second half, I would say utility spending is okay, but a bit weaker than we thought. We are seeing the wind orders come back and we are likely to have a one of the best years in transmission, even though it's lumpy in the last 20 years, maybe second only to last year or around last year's level. The U.S. industrial specialty OEM is okay, but isn't accelerating. And we see some choppiness and of course, some of our channel partners and other people that serve the same markets, I think, in their calls, have seen some of the same things, so that is happening generally. Latin America is okay, it's going to be stronger in the second half than the first half. And Asia Pacific is still paced primarily by our performance in China, Thailand and the Philippines.

Chris Dankert - Longbow Research LLC

And then I guess, looking at the lower operating cash flow guidance, I mean, you said you're keeping the buyback on the table. What's the likelihood of that, I guess, given the lower cash flow? And I guess, I might have missed it, but I didn't see a release on what the operating cash flow was for the first half?

Brian J. Robinson

Yes. Chris, I would say the -- I won't comment specifically on our plans around the buyback. But I would say, when we look at the operating cash flow and the capital structure, we look at it over time. So as you know, we've talked a lot about our liquidity over time. So we feel very good and we feel very good around our ability to continue to deploy capital in all the areas that we've talked about, whether it's supporting organic growth, working capital volatility, opportunities that we see to grow the company and the dividend and the buyback. We did not comment on the year-to-date operating cash flow, Chris, because if -- you will notice in the press release, we have in this release just shown the current period numbers as we stated in the release, because we're going through this process to resolve some outstanding comments with the SEC on our amended filings. So we did not comment on the OCF through the first 6 months.

Operator

Your next question is from the line of Matt McCall from BB&T Capital Markets.

Matthew Schon McCall - BB&T Capital Markets, Research Division

So in the release, you said that in the outlook, you're using $3.04 copper. We're seeing copper now move to $3.17. And if I do some math, it appears that the guidance for both Q3 and Q4, if I extrapolate out the Q4 outlook, it seems to point to a gross profit per pound step down in both quarters, in Q3 and then again in Q4. So can you talk -- is my math right? And if so, what are you -- what's driving that deterioration of your gross profit per pound? And then I guess the second part of the question is, if we hold at $3.17, what does that do to your guidance holding all of the things unchanged?

Gregory B. Kenny

Well, Matt, a lot of things move around. We held the price better in a falling copper market, which led to that and other things and outperformance in the second quarter. But we've seen metals worked down has come up, you're absolutely right, in the last 2 days. And this morning's call, it's $3.1725. And as you know, a fair amount of our business, perhaps half, has some type of mechanism around it. But in general, the -- I would say, the fall in copper was in our thinking as we were selling inventory in the $3.30-plus range into a market that, 2 days ago, looked to be at $3.04. And again, our distributor customers particularly are watching trends in copper, not just daily set points. So copper has been quite weak since March and has been falling continually, where in March, it peaked -- or I should say February, $3.66 and she ran all the way down to just about $3, including stepping down another $0.03 or $0.04 on average in the month of July versus June and then materially stepping down before that. So long and then short math, we're -- this hopefully will push -- if this holds and we see some upward movement, we might see distributors replenish, which would be -- not every distributor's model works that way. Some of them are just looking for velocity, some of them are watching the market. To some extent, it's a mixture. But we might see some orders come in just because things are bottoming, and that would give us a little -- if it would hold here, that would give us some enhanced confidence going forward and it would be a good thing.

Matthew Schon McCall - BB&T Capital Markets, Research Division

Is there...

Brian J. Robinson

This is Brian. Sorry, there's a couple of items I think -- just when you think about -- on a gross profit per pound basis as we move through the -- from the first to the second half. Couple of the other items that I think factor into it would be some combination around the mix of the products. So the aluminum versus the copper, we have significant pounds in the second half in transmission, for example, in Brazil. The inventory movement -- so I -- in big buckets, in the first half, we added about $100 million of inventory, of which we believe we'll take out in the second half, so that causes some -- on a relative half-over-half perspective compression on the margin in terms of the lost absorption, let's say. And then lastly, as we said, we expected -- while we have had a very nice contribution from Venezuela in the second quarter, we expected that to ease down a bit in the second half, and that also impacts -- it impacted the profit per pound analysis.

Gregory B. Kenny

Matt, be mindful that the U.S. is down and we're watching inventory very closely, as our volume assumption is down in some parts of the world for the second half. So we had July shutdowns in the U.S. and as well as we got shutdowns in Europe in August. And then we'll look at the whole portfolio again in December to see where we are. So that's obviously lost absorption at the factory level if you have a shutdown.

Matthew Schon McCall - BB&T Capital Markets, Research Division

What's the assumed pressure -- or I guess, was there pressure in Q2 from distributors holding off on ordering, Tritton [ph] on copper, and what's the assumed pressure in Q3?

Gregory B. Kenny

Well, Matt, we assumed that copper -- we're still working down. So we were in a $3.14 average market in July. We were -- when we prepared this release, it's at $3.04, and then looked forward to the second half. So we would have assumed that their -- that the market was working down to $3.04 and then would hold in the pressure. Then if you're looking at that forward, you'd assume, within a couple of weeks, that is the level. And so I don't have a formula to do that, other than to say that we saw the market continuing to soften, and we would've seen that impact demand in the first weeks as that level was established. As you pointed -- someone pointed out, it's moved up in the last 2 days or 1.5 days.

Matthew Schon McCall - BB&T Capital Markets, Research Division

Right. And then finally, you kind of hit on some of the end markets, Greg, already. But at the Analyst Day, I remember the words snapping back, where you used to describe what was happening in the construction arena kind of globally. Can you give an update there? And as we look out, even beyond Q3, Q4, in the next year, what's your gut telling you that non-res environment is going to look like?

Gregory B. Kenny

Well, we were talking about, I think, a snap back in resi, which you can see in the data, still below long-term trends, but was substantially improved and then of course, multi-family homes. So we're below the trend line, but we're getting closer. And the trend line, as you know, we were operating at less than half of historical averages. But even -- we don't anticipate getting back to '07. The non-resi, which is a very big driver for this company, as you can see in the public data, is even to down slightly. It's -- if you look at the forward forecast, it's all around no change, with some puts and takes by sector, with coal mining down and other things up. But broadly, Matt, the housing should pull well for us in the U.S. and to the extent that it's bottoming elsewhere. We talked before about really the housing bubble only occurring in some markets, not all markets, so we watched the U.S. closely. But I will say the non-resi feels sloppy, OEM production feels sloppy. The residential is beginning to have some impact, but it's -- you've got to create the house, wire it, et cetera, you see people building out existing developments that were sort of stopped. But we -- as I said earlier, we have seen some -- on the utility, we have seen some positive things now happening in Arizona and Florida. And I would expect that, that would be good for our low-voltage and medium-voltage businesses, as well as cables used on the job site, aluminum building wire that has residential application, et cetera.

Operator

Your next question is from the line of Brent Thielman from D.A. Davidson.

Brent Thielman - D.A. Davidson & Co., Research Division

I guess just to ask some previous questions a different way. Just given the step down in full year guidance from where you started and then -- but you seem to be seeing things get a little bit weaker here from a demand perspective and then you layer on this fall to a copper environment on top of that. Can you give us some specific factors that can get us comfortable, your implied 2H operating income guidance is conservative enough and that we'll see that growth that you're looking for?

Gregory B. Kenny

Well, I can -- all I can do is tell you what I think with the facts I have today. But obviously, the headlines are changing daily from the fed worried about this inflation as today's headline to relatively sober forward-looking statements from people in and around our sector. We -- based on where we are today, this is what we see, but I -- all we can do is keep taking cost out, get these greenfields and brownfields turned, manage as well as we can and keep getting better at project execution. But I can't tell you other than -- you can look at what economists say about metal pricing and where it could be. And with aluminum selling below cost of production from some people and copper $0.30 above and you can look at the FW Dodge or other forecast, I would say the non-resi is just an OEM production generally are sort of flatlined. So I don't see particularly see it getting worse in terms of kind of what we're seeing at incoming order rates, but it's choppy.

Operator

Your next question is from the line of Noelle Dilts from Stifel.

Noelle C. Dilts - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

First, I just wanted to start with -- I'm trying to understand this inventory issue because you didn't release the balance sheet in the quarter. Did you build inventory here in the second quarter? I'm just trying to get a sense of what the trend was.

Gregory B. Kenny

It is -- it was really, the build -- no, I was really in the -- mostly in the first quarter.

Noelle C. Dilts - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

Okay. So a typical...

Gregory B. Kenny

The second quarter was sort of at a plus or minus $5 million or $10 million.

Noelle C. Dilts - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

Okay. All right. And then could you just go into more detail on these cash investments that you're undertaking to reduce the financing costs? So talk a little bit about what you're doing here in Thailand and Spain.

Gregory B. Kenny

Sure. Sure. Part of it is just -- there is 2 pieces to it, and one is just applying -- actually just using the cash that we have on hand in Asia to reduce some of the way that we finance the working capital there. So there's a couple of hundred basis points benefit of what I'll call using the cash more efficiently. And then in the Spanish business, it would be a similar theme, but more around just how we choose to finance the working capital, meaning versus whether we use long-dated payables where we pay interest or we use bank facilities. And that causes that reclass in the operating cash flow. But the 2 -- or the impact to the operating cash flow. So the 2 together, about $55 million. I would say, the net interest savings are in the range of $1.5 million to $2 million on a per annum basis.

Noelle C. Dilts - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

Okay. All right. And then going back to the lower results, sequential results of Alcan in the quarter, how much of that sequential decline came from transmission and how much came from OEM? And then I'm curious to know if there were any project pushouts in the quarter or anything that surprised you on the transmission side. And then also if you could just walk through just your expectations for that business as we move here into the back half.

Brian J. Robinson

I'm heading to really start taking Alcan apart on a call and -- I would say transmission was weaker, the aluminum building wire was weaker and the OEM products were all weaker. We expect that to pick up. It was still very accretive, very profitable, and there's been a lot of good industrial synergies. We saw a bit of a lull in the second quarter with aerial transmission. It actually fell for the company, with Alcan being the largest part. And part of the reason it's hard to answer to your question is Alcan is fairly intermixed with General Cable, particularly on transmission today, as well as it has an aluminum rod mill, which actually can supply General Cable or supply the OEM markets, so -- but transmission fell in the second quarter from the first quarter, which was quite strong and -- but nevertheless, it was well above -- our data is in our mix, but it was well above what the company did on its own the prior year, but of course, you'd expect that. But Alcan is contributing. Second quarter was a bit slower. We're seeing a pick up in the transmission side. We're also seeing the OEM business tick up and I'm also pleased with the pick up in the building wire side. So net-net, Alcan is going to be, in our belief today, is that it will be well above our business case, with also strong contribution from Alcan China. But it's getting harder and harder to track it because they make many of the same products that General Cable does, so we may put the order on one factory or another, et cetera. So we probably can't answer it with a precision you'd like. But it was a weaker quarter from an operating profit standpoint to the best we can track it than the first quarter.

Noelle C. Dilts - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

Okay. One last housekeeping question. You're looking at now a 45% tax rate for the year. What -- which geographies have to become profitable for you to be able to utilize those, essentially the tax NOLs?

Brian J. Robinson

Yes. Well, Noelle, I'd take a step back. I think part of the higher tax rate as well is the, I'll call it the amount of earnings that come from, say the U.S. and -- a couple of specific countries like the U.S. and Venezuela. So I think the part of recipe is to get the more broad-based earnings, which will help, and then specifically around the countries that are -- that have created the pressure on the -- from a tax laws perspective, it will be -- and I believe we have this in the financial slides, but it would be Germany, Spain, Peru, India. So a couple of -- just back to what we're saying earlier is really getting these greenfields consistently profitable and getting a broader diversification of earnings will help that tax rate a great deal.

Operator

Your next question is from the line of Shawn Harrison from Longbow Research.

Shawn M. Harrison - Longbow Research LLC

I know you said that you're taking metal prices from July 30 to average so far. Just to be crystal clear, that's $3.18 on copper and $0.83 on aluminum, and your split is still about 50-50?

Gregory B. Kenny

No. It would be $3.04 on copper and...

Brian J. Robinson

$0.91 on aluminum. Those are the spot -- our current metals on July 30.

Shawn M. Harrison - Longbow Research LLC

All right. And then your adjusted gross margin, did you provide a percentage?

Brian J. Robinson

We did not, but we can give that to you.

Gregory B. Kenny

While he's looking, we are approximately 50-50 by metal pounds in a given year, obviously, wiggled by transmission or rod shipments out of Alcan and Brazil, but that's about right.

Gregory B. Kenny

And Shawn, you asked about the adjusted operating margins, about 5% for the second quarter.

Shawn M. Harrison - Longbow Research LLC

Are these the adjusted gross margins you said?

Brian J. Robinson

No, it's the operating margin.

Gregory B. Kenny

Operating margin.

Operator

There are no further questions at this time. General Cable, I'll turn the call back over to you.

Len Texter

Thank you for joining us this morning. That concludes our conference call. A replay of this call will be available on our website later today. We appreciate your continued interest in General Cable.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes today's conference call. You may now disconnect.

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