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3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD)

Bank of America 2014 Global Technology Conference

June 3, 2014 05:50 PM ET

Executives

Hugh Evans - VP of Ventures and Business Development

Stacey Witten - IR Director

Analysts

Wamsi Mohan - BofA Merrill Lynch

Question-and-Answer Session

Wamsi Mohan - BofA Merrill Lynch

Thank you for joining us here today. For those of you who have not met, I’m Wamsi Mohan. I'm the technology supply chain analyst here at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Welcome, I am delighted to welcome 3D Systems here today at our conference. We have Hugh Evans who is the VP of Ventures and business development and we also have Stacey Witten from Investor Relations. The format is just going to be a fireside chat. I will lead off with some questions, and then open it up to the audience for questions. So thank you Hugh for joining us here today.

So Hugh, you have a really interesting background, I thought from a investor perspective it will be interesting for you to perhaps talk for two seconds about what you’re doing, what were your role prior to 3D Systems, what is it now, what attracted you to 3D Systems?

Hugh Evans

Okay, happy to do that. I was previously in your seat which is, for 22 years I was a portfolio manager at T. Rowe Price, and in a small cap group and also ran private equity sleeve with T. Rowe Price. And for the better part of 10 years T. Rowe Price was the largest shareholder of 3D Systems, owned 18% to 20% of the company, a very large shareholder. To cut this, the longer version of the story, the short version is that a couple of years ago I decided I liked 3-D printing more than I liked everything else in my portfolio and I wanted to be involved and so I did something, somewhat definitely unprecedented at T. Rowe Price, fairly unprecedented in the money-management industry, I went from ownership to management, and I’ve come to 3D Systems as the Corporate Development and Ventures head. Really three things drove me. One is it is an open ended economic opportunity in 3-D printing. Number two, I think it has great social utility. There is really a societal benefit to this trend. And number three it’s extremely intellectually stimulating, and I think we’re just still sorting through -- so those are the three things I’d talk about as to why I made the move.

Wamsi Mohan - BofA Merrill Lynch

Maybe you can first touch upon, since you have a long time covering the 3-D space if you could talk about from your perspective what has really changed, if you look across the last 10 years, maybe what has changed over 10, five and two year timeframe within the 3-D printing industry.

Hugh Evans

Well, over 10 years, it is almost like two different industries. 10 years ago the industry structure was totally different than it is today. The leading company which was the inventor of 3-D Systems sold $1 million machine that was relatively slow and there was a relatively narrow choice of materials that we could use. And if you fast forward to today, the prices of machines are much cheaper, they are orders of magnitude faster and the 25-ish number of materials that were available is now 200 materials in the industry. So you had this gigantic leap forward in the - the lower prices, faster speed, better materials in the industry. And synonymous with that there is a simultaneous Moore’s Law type of revolution going on in ideation which is that years ago you had to essentially own a expensive CAD license to ideate, to create a 3-D printable file and today that’s effectively not the case. You don’t need to be an expert in computer science to CAD, you can with handheld scanners you can ideate with just point and click or you can essentially pay like iTunes model, pay $0.99 for a CAD file from one of the many websites that’s where the designers put them on there. So the content has become generic and has proliferated. And then governments discovered 3-D printing and decided this was strategic to government, so they brought it. So that’s another thing that’s happened and then the press got on it. So between better technology, more content, media attention and then the governments have put a lot of focus on it. This is the sort of volatile cocktail that created what’s happening out there. That’s over 10 years.

Over the five years, I would say it’s -- five years ago we were in a financial crisis. It’s hard to believe that. But the one material thing that happened in five years ago for 3-D Systems was that we forward integrated and rolled up the service bureaus. And that was a very strategic and important move for the history of the industry because it was essentially correcting a 20-year mistake which is that the technology provider doesn’t want to have this layer of private small companies in between them and the end customer, the Boeings of the world. So as long as that was happening, the industry wasn’t properly aligned. So as 3-D Systems essentially forward integrated, created the services business that we call quick parts today and did how many, Stacy, how many acquisitions did we do.

Stacey Witten

In total we have done - about 15.

Hugh Evans

To about 15, so 15 acquisitions which equals about 15 factories around the world. And then we essentially entered into a very direct relationship with the biggest users, and the whole dynamic changed where rather being bottled up inside of a small private company, there is now a seamless transfer of technology from the technology developer, our company to the users, the GE’s, the Danaher’s and 3M’s of the world. So, I’d say with that five years a very strategic thing was that we forward integrated into the services, service bureaus.

Wamsi Mohan - BofA Merrill Lynch

Right. If you think about sort of the growth rates in the industry do you think that the growth rates are inflecting higher? Would you say that growth rate is sort of on a stable trajectory or decelerating and how would you characterize what the growth profile looks like over the next few years.

Hugh Evans

Well we’ve talked about our internal growth rates being 30% in this current phase and I don’t have any reason to -- could it be higher? Sure, it could be higher. The reality of how the industries work is that everybody wants to be the first to go second and so that when one lead customer adopts it in industry you see the rest of the industry adopt pretty quickly.

And so I think GE's been out in the press and has got a lot of press on their adoption of 3D printing in aircraft engines. Well you’re getting to the point where if you’re not 3D printing an aircraft engines you really, it’s going to be hard to compete with GE which is talking about 15% fuel savings for the lead engine. So that induces the others to come in and that’s happening sort of in vertical by vertical industry verticals. So steady state I think this is sort of a fact of getting fast followers as some of the new users talk about what they’re doing. It could go up but it’s hard to predict.

Wamsi Mohan - BofA Merrill Lynch

Sure. If you think about sort of the value creation, value generation growth rates look very attractive; the margin profiles of the closed eco-system at least look very attractive of printer and material sales that go with them. Sort of [logical vision] [ph] that there would be more competition that would want to step in into the space, we have heard talk of companies like HP and (inaudible) wanting to step in. So how do you think that plays out? (NYSE:A) Do you think that there is enough of patent [made] [ph] that sort of inhibits their entry into the space where you participated? And (NYSE:B) if there isn’t then how do you think the economics would change given the entry, potential entry of these companies?

Hugh Evans

So I have maybe two different thoughts, one being in filament extrusion consumer printing, the gates are open and there is hardly any barriers, 200 various forms of startups that are out there with a FDM or filament extrusion type of machine. So Kickstarter is creating these things, so there is no -- in that area I would say - keep that separate. In the industrial side it’s a really hard triumvirate of talent you have to bring to the table, it’s a really hard business to get right and we’ve been at it 31 years and you need software, you need hardware and you need material sciences, and you need chemistry. And then you also need a digital thread to tie that all together and you need a channel that talks to the users where they are which is out in machine shops, it’s not office environment, it’s manufacturing applications.

So by the time you put together those various pieces and all of them are important, the fact that you might have hardware gets you 20% of the way there. So it’s really, this is a tough business and it requires a broad cross-section of competencies that are hard to find. We take HP very seriously, you’re foolish - only the paranoid survive; you’re foolish not to think a big company like that could try to make an impact but presumably what they have is a jetting technology that they are going to try to commercialize and until I see a product we can’t really comment on it. But jetting is one of the seven print engines and just because you can jet ink doesn’t mean you can jet these other powders that are nylons and material sciences. So I think it’s a tough task for them to -- for new entrants in the industrial side to get traction.

Wamsi Mohan - BofA Merrill Lynch

You have mentioned Moore’s Law before, would you say that the printers themselves or the material development is sort of on a Moore’s Law trajectory? I mean are we seeing the pace of the speed of printing sort of double every how many years. Can you draw a parallel between Moore’s law and the development in the 3D industry?

Hugh Evans

Absolutely, the industry is on Moore’s law, the print speeds are doubling every two years. We introduced a product (inaudible) this year in SLA the ProX 950, it’s a 10 fold faster print speed, so you say how did you go from - and 30 years later how did you get 10x in print speed? And this is a print engine that a laser and fires down into a UV reactive resin bath, now we have two lasers. And so the lasers are working in combination with each other to make it and that’s how you do it - in that case.

But why we didn’t you do that years ago? Well, the laser prices were too expensive, laser costs have come down. Heck of a lot of software that goes into making the two lasers talk to each other and essentially work together. So the Moore’s Law roadmap is pretty well scripted. The engineering half is there for these machines to keep doubling in speed over a continuous period.

Material sciences is more [inaudible], it’s more - you discover it through - it’s not as problematic and it’s not as predictable.

The good news for us is that many, many of the biggest material sciences companies of the world, the chemical companies and nanotech companies, are all pitching in and saying we want to be part of this industry and we’re dedicating resources to help discover new materials. So, whereas three years ago some of the big chemical companies wouldn’t even answer our phone calls, today they really excited to work with us and get process going.

Wamsi Mohan - BofA Merrill Lynch

If you sort of think about the ecosystem, used to be an open ecosystem where you could use anybody’s sort of materials within these printers the industry made a more conscious move towards making this a closed ecosystem, more manageable, more repeatable, more predictable results, so all the good things that go with keeping the ecosystem closed. Is there a large enough installed base of machines out there for these companies to really put a lot of R&D resources to innovate in materials or do you think you need a much larger installed base of machines for there to be a lot more active development commitment from the material manufacturers and these chemical companies that are already [inaudible]?

Hugh Evans

Well, we’ve got their attention and by evidence of their willingness to put real resources to there I think they view it as advanced manufacturing is a 10 to 20 year run and call it the first and then what you are going to call it, that they want to be involved. So, I think they will put more resources on it with the install base as they grow. But the press has helped us on this.

Wamsi Mohan - BofA Merrill Lynch

Great, here if you just think about the recent show offering the 3D Systems that you already had $300 million or so in cash it’s not that much that you really need from operations’ perspective. What’s the rationale for going out to the equity markets right now and raising more money?

Hugh Evans

Yes, I have to lean on my colleague Stacey to answer that.

Stacey Witten

Sure. So we have about $300 million in cash. We (inaudible) those one didn’t require us to go out. But with the pipeline of acquisitions and the activity that’s out there we’ve been pretty public about saying we’re trying to continue M&A. And with the horizon opportunities and where some of those are right now, we felt that now as the times that we have the cash to strategically and deliberately execute and close those deals as they come together. So, we don’t want to wait until we had to do something but take kind of the opportunity to have that and then we can close and execute and have that cash later. And as far as where the opportunities are probably less on the hardware side more on the materials in quick parts expansion into geographies and expertise that we are looking to enhance and more on the digital/software side.

Hugh Evans

And more in medical.

Wamsi Mohan - BofA Merrill Lynch

When you talked about materials or you are talking about sort of investing more R&D dollars towards materials’ development or are you talking about acquiring certain assets that have the expertise and very specific materials that you’re interested?

Stacey Witten

With the -- on this could be M&A with the Xerox acquisition we acquired chemists, materials scientists and engineers. So, they are more than they’re working on print engines and material sciences and there could be other opportunities that would add to our materials capabilities.

Hugh Evans

I think they’re going to be both.

Stacey Witten

But there will be both, right.

Wamsi Mohan - BofA Merrill Lynch

Can you talk a little bit about some of the partnerships that you think are the most exciting most promising here within the next couple of years that you have been spending your time on?

Wamsi Mohan - BofA Merrill Lynch

Sure. Well, three that come in mind are Google, Intel and Hershey. And so the Hershey just to take from that order Hershey is help lead us into the food printing business and that’s a very exciting whole separate topic that I will put to the side. Intel has launched RealSense, which is a 3D sensor chip that competes with the PrimeSense which Apple bought and so we’ll see what happens when the new iPhone comes out but there is a reasonable bet that Apple will put a 3D scanner into the next iPhone, there is speculation to that effect. Intel is working hard on launching their own chip with RealSense and into some of the consumer electronic devices. So we’re excited to work with them as the software engine to help them get this 3D [camera] chip into a broad cross section of consumer device or CE devices.

The Google project is super exciting, it’s hard to predict whether modular cellphones will bring into the hardware side the innovation you see on the software app side that’s Google’s intent. It’s hard to know exactly how fast modular cellphones will be adopted just having to that. But within the confines of the project that we’re working on, we are doing three pretty new and unique things that we would do anyway. It’s just great fortuitousness that Google showed up and said we want to do it with you but we will break some speed records on the speed of this system that we’ve developed, be a very fast system, it will be hybrid systems. So we will employ additive manufacturing and subtractive methods in the same carousel structure, part starts here and has multiple things that happen to it by the time it ends up and we will do embedded conductive printing, electronics printing. All those are fairly new, I think material and so we are excited to work with Google on creating what -- it is Chuck Hull, who has designed the system, is talking about this being a significant achievement in his lifespan. So we are excited about this. We need to make some system like this anyway. So, we envision that it is going to be very relevant to the [Ara] phone, but it is going to be very relevant to 100s of other applications over time too. So that’s a particularly exciting project as I think.

Wamsi Mohan - BofA Merrill Lynch

If you think about the applications that you are alluding to outside of the [Ara] phone; could you talk about a few of the other applications that could be used with the technology that you are developing, some of the high speed, some of the multi-material, maybe capability or printing this conductive electronics, what are some of the other end markets that you think would have demand for the speed and the customization that you can bring forth with the innovation we are talking about.

Hugh Evans

Yes. I mean, I certainly think in fact in certain areas of fashion and things that people wear on their bodies and have in their bodies that could come into play. I mean that can quick set up the system. But you specifically have said that -- I have specifically said that the conductive printing has arrived and we can essentially do this now and so that roadmap is where is your line going to take you because we can lay down a circuit? This is the satellite phone of today, but in terms of specification but, the integrated circuit in some form fashion to (inaudible) is not out of reach anymore and so that on its own could end up being just a sort of a vertical sleeve that goes somewhere.

Wamsi Mohan - BofA Merrill Lynch

Are you talking about this at a board level or multi-layer PCBs potentially being printed this way or are you talking about it at the chip level.

Hugh Evans

I am -- it’s too early to declare which level. But the ability to do it at all is here.

Wamsi Mohan - BofA Merrill Lynch

Would you say that when you look at project Ara specifically, what is it that generates, I mean I understand the strategic value beyond project Ara is compelling as well, but within the confines of project Ara, would you say that -- what sort of volume levels would be needed for you to get a return on this investment that you are making, or is that a wrong way to think about it because the outcome of Ara is not so material for your financials it’s more of an outcome of what’s happening beyond that.

Stacy Witten

It’s more of an outcome of what’s happening beyond that whether the modular phone takes off or not, this has a lot of applications beyond that. So, we are not looking at what we can we tell only to Google, we are working at what can we sell as far as printers and materials to others and how can we be a service provider with these printers and materials. It doesn’t, and (inaudible).

Wamsi Mohan - BofA Merrill Lynch

When you think about the broader install base that is out there, the business model is sort of razor/razor blade in some way, I mean the razors are making money here too, but when you think about the materials margin, do you think that the materials margins are sustainable over the long run, call it five, seven or ten years, in the foreseeable future or is the margin structure such that it is going to inevitably force much more increased competition, you’re going to have the open systems up, do you think that the industry is headed that way at all ?

Hugh Evans

No, I think the industry does not headed towards open source. We were open source and it did not work and then we were integrated. And the company is pushing fast into advanced manufacturing and product factories for production installments. The rationale for using off-spec material is to minimum and it is actually dangerous. So within extrusion filament printing where you are making toys, [chess] pieces, we think the spec of the material is not important really to the outcome of that. And when you are making aircraft engine parts and cell phones and automotive parts, the integrity of that material, the supply chain certainty, in the powders of sort of uniform, it’s spherically uniform that’s what they talk about is crucial to the print job, the ability to replicate it, the ability to document that with replication - so really the big industry users are not looking to use off-spec material.

Wamsi Mohan - BofA Merrill Lynch

If you think about actually taking that one step further, would you expect there to be a level of standardization that the supply chain has to come to for the adoption of, let’s say metal powders with same spherical uniformity, people where they are sourcing it from, the processing that’s done post the actual process by which these parts are ultimately manufactured?

Hugh Evans

Yes, there is no standardization right now.

NIST, National Institute Standards and Technology has a project to put out those working groups, and that’s something I think will unfold overtime.

Wamsi Mohan - BofA Merrill Lynch

Do you think that that is something that needs to be in place for metal-based manufacturing to really take off or do you think that, I mean obviously GE is already committing resources for its LEAP engine, but do you think that for a broader base of manufacturing to take off on the metals space, you need that standardization in place?

Hugh Evans

I don’t think so.

Stacey Witten

I mean that could, I guess, depend on certain applications or industries, but I mean we’re using a lot of manufacturing applications without that.

Hugh Evans

Let me see if there are any questions here in the audience.

Unidentified Analyst

Question on materials, do you manufacture all of the materials that your printers use yourself or do you outsource some of that manufacturing? And then, what percent of your customers today use third-party materials, and over time is there a way to just limit that? I mean can you really make a closed system or eventually do you think third party materials will get to the point where they will be use more by your customers?

Stacey Witten

So, we manufacture our materials primarily in-house in Rock Hill and in Marly, Switzerland, and its proprietary formulations that are part of the patent portfolio that we have, and the material science is a big part of our R&D. Second part was, do you think that the third party material level will get to the levels of open sourcing, and we’re not seeing customers trying to go around the system, and you know, we have RFID chips in our cartridges, and a lot of benefits come with that material and printer development that comes together. Because it’s not just the printers that have increased in speed, it’s how materials and the printers work together. Some of the materials may have the same end-use characteristics and performance abilities, but they run through the printer twice as fast, so you can print faster.

In some cases, we have had customers that come and ask for specific types of material or qualifications done, and we work with them to do that in some cases. So, I think way down the road maybe different, but we don’t see anything that has to change to go to open sources today.

We have some legacy printers still out there, printers are running for 15 years to 20 years in such a way (inaudible) and so some of those customers who have those are still running some third party materials I think, but we’re not finding people that are buying the new technologies trying to go around it.

Unidentified Analyst

Hugh, you had spoken briefly about consumers. When you think about the consumer opportunity, it seems like it could go one of many different ways, but in particular, how do you think about more broad based sort of consumer adoption of the lower end printers. Is that something that you think will happen as it becomes more plug and play, the software sort of gets better, the hardware gets cheaper, so that’s one way in which there could be broader consumer adoption, the other way could be that you actually aggregate demand, something like a Snapfish equivalent, which I mean there are already plenty of these sites that could aggregate the demand in printer [terms] may be more industrial printers doing much more larger volumes, how do you think the business model was (Multiple Speakers)--?

Hugh Evans

Cloud printing, so in consumer, I’d say the education sector is moving very, very fast to adopt printers into classrooms all the way down to the fourth grade, and so -- and really in, I’d call steam, it’s steam because the designers have a real impact on these, the technology, but you can’t really have a certifiable steam curriculum without this technology now, and so the kids are using the printers at school and they are going home and say, look what I made at school mom and dad and they show them, and mom and dad say that’s sort of interesting what you’re doing at school. Once you put them in the schools, the kids get so fast, really it’s wonderful.

So there is a little bit of reverse knowledge transfer which starts at the school, kids come home and I think what’s a real tipping point in consumer – to me a tipping point would be a 3D scanner chip within your cellphone, so you can just point and click and make -- ideate to point and click, it’s super easy to ideate, and then the price of the home units is down to 500 bucks, it’s under the Xbox, and all of a sudden mom and dad look at each other and it’s time for Christmas present, and an Xbox is $600, but 3D printer is $500, you’ve got your scanner in your phone already, and Johnny (inaudible) is doing it at the school, sort of I think that’s where you go millions of units a year, that my vision.

Any more questions in the audience?

Unidentified Analyst

Can you talk about how your go-to-market strategy has changed over the years? And specifically, how many channel partners do you have, and if you can talk something about pricing, I mean is there any way to increase pricing? Do you see that happening this year or next year?

Stacey Witten

So we have historically had a direct sales team and a reseller channel, and for several years we had targets to grow that reseller channel. Today, we’re well over 500 resellers and some of those are distributor-type master resellers that have sub-retailers under them, and it’s become a different type of business that’s is (inaudible) to 3D Systems, and some are vertically focused, some are geographically focused, and it has become a much easier sale, and so as that has happened and the technology has advanced, awareness has advanced and less of an expert user type of technology, we have actually shifted more through that reseller channel, Q1 of this year, we actually went fully to the reseller model where we integrated the direct sales team into that channel management role, so the expertise is still there when it’s needed for a sale, but we reach a lot more customers and there is more feet on the street by putting all of those through the reseller channel.

And so, we started with -- you have to qualify (inaudible) higher price printers because prior to this, resellers we’re typically selling $150,000 printer a month. So we’re going through that and doing training and giving them [rent] on those technologies, and we’ll continue to do that. It may not be every single reseller that sells the whole channel, the whole product portfolio, but our products will all go through this channel.

And product pricing, the retailers have a standard discount, and we self-limit that price, it’s pretty set across the board. If they buy demo units for the showroom or something, there is little bit more of a discount, but though they’re not buying tens, though they are buying fewer or few in a showroom, and our transactions with the resellers record that discounted revenue.

Unidentified Analyst

How do you think that will impact the service bureau business overtime?

Hugh Evans

The service bureaus are unlikely to be able to keep up with what’s happening in printers and materials, it’s a bit too fast, so we don’t expect that services will keep up, but the two go together and the reality is that big users do both, so we could picture a big customer that comes and says, you know we like to 3D print text, and then it’s a little bit of a scramble, so what materials can we create that mimics exactly what we need for this part, though, and a lot of that is done within the service bureau network. We move it around the different centers of excellence, and as I sort of say -- and then they order dozen hundreds even up to thousands on an on-demand basis. So you get started on some of your new applications in the services there, and eventually the big guy says, hey we’re making 10,000 of these per month. I am just going to buy the machine and put it in my footwall to do it. So it’s really a total lead generation of that where a lot of the sort of R&D work occurs in the services group, it creates volumes, and then it’s like contract manufacturing in the pharma industry, right. Once, the volumes get a certain size, the big pharma companies bring it in house, and that happens here. So, really the big guys, the Boeings of the world do both. They give you orders for your service network and they buy bunch of machines inside their [footwall] and they two go together.

Unidentified Analyst

My question is where is the big opportunity for innovation in industrial part of the market? What are the breakthroughs that are really going to make this even a much bigger industry, you talked about content, making it much easier to create content, talked about speed that’s an obvious one, but what are the limitations that are preventing the customers from using this technology even a lot more?

Hugh Evans

There are basically, as I see it, there are four major use cases; one is customization, anything that needs to be customized. In 3D printing, it’s done in the software mode. So it’s effectively free customization, it’s design freedom, so complex shapes and complex parts that turn in on themselves and if complex, it’s perfect for that. It is a digital warehousing or on-demand, so you can move stuff around to fiber optics and print it in a local location, it’s the third; and the fourth escapes [digital] right now. But the biggest -- the fourth is reverse engineering or essentially you can make stuff we can’t find, because you can scan and then print something that didn’t exist, we’ve printed the dinosaur that’s going to be Paleospace Museum and scan the fossils and printed -- -- literally can’t do it. So, a lot of manufacturers who can’t find these old parts of these old spares, and so we can just reverse engineer them and create for them. Those are the major four use cases. I think it’s instructive to know about the LEAP engine for GE, because GE has announced it’s a 15% fuel savings on the LEAP engine versus their previous generation of aircraft engine in a business where 1% is gigantic, so they have and they have been very vocal and talked about how they’re using 3D printing. They’re doing three parts that they’ve talked about, fuel nozzles, the brackets, and the blades. Now, fundamentally if you understand 3D printing, you’d be able to redesign parts, you can take weight out almost every time. So you can go into these engines essentially, take weight out of everything. And so, GE has talked about 3D printing, a high proportion of the components of their jet engines over the long term, over 10 to 15 years. There’s 25,000 parts inside of a jet engine, and the logic holds in cars and trains and boats, anything that moves you can take weight off through 3D printing through redesign. And so, transportation sector is a very exciting heavy industry sector for us, where the sort of redesign that’s allowed for this technology is a 10 to 20-year horizon that can make this business a much bigger business.

Unidentified analyst

[Question Inaudible]

Hugh Evans

Qualifications, usually it’s the designers are on it, the designers are designing and they’re making parts, and then – but every part has a qualification process, a lot of engineering that goes into testing, a lot that goes into certification, if it’s going on the aircraft, on the car, on the helicopter etc., there’s a lot of flight hours demanded to, hence but they (inaudible) so, it’s any of these new methods require a lot of testing and that’s a little bit of what we’re getting at.

Unidentified analyst

[Question Inaudible]

Hugh Evans

Technology’s there.

Wamsi Mohan - BofA Merrill Lynch

Think we’re just about out of time. So thank you very much for joining us here today, it’s been a pleasure, thank you.

Hugh Evans

Thank you.

Wamsi Mohan - BofA Merrill Lynch

Thank you, good to see you.

Hugh Evans

Thank you.

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