General Cable (BGC) Mike McDonnell on Q1 2016 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

| About: General Cable (BGC)

General Cable Corporation (NYSE:BGC)

Q1 2016 Earnings Conference Call

April 28, 2016 08:30 AM ET

Executives

Len Texter - SVP, Finance IR

Mike McDonnell - President & CEO

Brian Robinson - CFO & EVP

Analysts

Gausia Chowdhury - Longbow Research

Brent Thielman - D. A. Davidson

Noelle Dilts - Stifel, Nicolaus

Operator

Good morning. My name is Sheryl, and I will be your conference facilitator. I would like to welcome everyone to General Cable Corporation's First Quarter 2016 Conference Call. This conference is being recorded at the request of General Cable. Should you have any objections, you may disconnect at this time. All participants have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise. There will be a question-and-answer session after the speakers' remarks. [Operator Instructions] Thank you. General Cable, you may begin your conference.

Len Texter

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to General Cable's first quarter 2016 earnings conference call. I'm Len Texter, Senior Vice President Finance,-Investor Relations. Joining me this morning are Mike McDonnell, our President Chief Executive Officer; and Brian Robinson, our Chief Financial Officer.

Today's call will be accompanied by a slide presentation, which is available on our Web site at generalcable.com. If you've not downloaded a copy, we recommend that you do so as we will refer to the presentation throughout our prepared remarks today. On today's call, Mike will provide an overview of our progress on our strategic roadmap our first quarter performance and second quarter outlook. Brian will then provide some additional details on our first quarter results and financial position.

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 Number 2, as we will be making forward-looking statements and referring to adjusted results in today's call.

To begin, please turn to Slide Number 5. I will now turn the call over to Mike McDonnell, Mike?

Mike McDonnell

Thanks, Len. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us on the call today. First I'd like to thank all of those who attended our Investor Day in March. It was a real pleasure to meet you all and I am very encouraged by the feedback we have received since then regarding our strategic roadmap. If you didn’t manage to attend I’d encourage you to review our materials which are available on our Web site. As those who attended know, we explained why we believe we have substantial opportunity for value creation. We set out some clear targets that we believe will deliver a significant value to shareholders over the coming years. And importantly we also laid out a clear and detailed roadmap for getting there.

I want to be very clear that although our targets are ambitious and they should be. Our very strong belief is that they are realistic, achievable and that the mechanisms to achieve them are absolutely within our control. We are not depending on a strengthening global economy we are not assuming that our competitors will stand still. And we will have to work very hard, but the hard work involves doing many things that we have already demonstrated, we can do successfully, and now on a larger scale, at a faster pace and with the full engagement of our talented, committed and hardworking team members.

General Cable has many strengths and competitive advantages. We have global scale with substantial opportunity to optimize it for cost reduction and efficiency. We have breadth of product lines, which is very important to our customers and our channels and important to our operating scale. We have long standing channels to market, with opportunity to do more in these channels. We have innovation capability in technology and in service to help our customers differentiate their businesses. And now we have a plan that will capitalize on these strengths and build them out further as we become a focused efficient innovator with substantial operating scale. We have the right vision and the right roadmap to get us there.

With the roadmap we now have line of sight to our goals of 7% adjusted operating margin and 12% return on invested capital. Our goal for adjusted operating income is $160 million of improvement over three years, and every dollar of this improvement is backed by very clear initiatives. Our roadmap is self funded from current cash flows and we intend to reduce our outstanding borrowings further, while continuing to support the annual dividend at the correct level. We are not relying on a lot of market growth to do this in fact we have built the roadmap with the kind of market growth we have been experiencing in the recent past. Now I believe we have strategy that will unleash our competitive advantages and enable us to compete more strongly and effectively.

As I have discussed before the roadmap has four elements. First is focusing and optimizing our portfolio of businesses. Second is developing an industry leading cost and efficiency position. Third is developing sustainable profitable growth through innovation and finally cultivating a high performance culture. If you could look inside our company today you would see substantial change and high energy activity everywhere, we are very busy. The company is energized and our people have the new skip in their status we drive our roadmap.

I’d like to share some comments on progress in each area to give you a sense that our transformation is robust and well underway, albeit early in the first year. As we focus and optimize our portfolio we have already created real clarity for each of our businesses and this clarity has now been translated into expectations, objectives, concrete plans and realistic resourcing requirements. We have never been more focused on businesses that have leadership, scale and profitability as well as fixing or if not possible exiting businesses that can't get there.

The second element is developing an industry leading cost and efficiency position. A competitive cost structure is fundamental for manufacturing businesses and we have substantial opportunity here. Many of our cost and efficiency initiatives have launched and are in the early stages of execution including announced plant consolidations, plant and product realignments, equipment relocations, product rationalization and supply chain efficiencies.

Previously we have reported that we achieved all the milestones in our 2014 restructuring program within the timeframe we set out, which generated savings of $36 million in 2015. Currently we are on track to achieve our total savings target of $80 million. Looking ahead as I said at our Investor Day we are targeting $100 million in additional cost savings opportunities, $40 million of this is expected from continuing to improve our manufacturing network, meaning site and production consolidations, in other words what is produced where and how to achieve the lowest cost structure.

There are substantial opportunities around our plant consolidations and equipment relocations to create more focused more efficient plants. Buildings are getting modified equipment is being moved and in many cases upgraded to state of the art controls and measurement systems. We've indentified and started to execute dozens of lien sigma projects to adapt material usage in scrap. And we've increased our capabilities and resources to drive them.

The other $60 million targeted is from global supply chain efficiencies which includes things like procurements and logistics. We selected the software we will use for the new transportation management system in North America and we are now beginning the software integration phase of that project. We've launched our new procurement organization and have identified numerous procurement projects throughout the company that we believe will have a meaningful impact. And we expect to be able to retain a majority of the procurement savings from these projects because the savings are derived from moving our company to a more competitive procurement price levels.

The third element of our roadmap is focused growth through innovation. At our Investor Day, we said that we identified a number of very-targeted growth initiatives all of which will be supported by competitive advantage existing or future. We've already launched several growth initiatives backed by existing competitive advantages. We’re also enhancing our capabilities and core areas of strength and looking for ways to increase efficiencies and innovation in both service and product technology in preparation to launch additional growth initiatives, we have some exciting innovations in the pipeline, we’re listening to our customers, leveraging our open innovation model that I reviewed during Investor Day and bringing it all together through our new growth process.

While the other elements of our roadmap would get us to industry leading performance, this focus on sustained growth will keep us there. The final and obviously the most important element of our roadmap is cultivating a high performance culture. At our Investor Day I told you that we defined our new cultures through the direct participation of nearly 100% of our 11,000 team members worldwide. We're now preparing to take another groundbreaking step to ensure the personal connection that each of us has to the cultural values and behaviors that will enable our success. We will continue to keep you apprised of additional progress as we move forward with executing against our plan, we’re very early in our three year plan but I think you will be pleased as you start to see real progress later this year.

While the overall environment remains challenging the sequential improvement seen in our results demonstrates that we are moving in the right direction. Brain will go into further detail about our first quarter results shortly but I just wanted to give you a quick overview. Overall I'm very pleased with our first quarter results, which reflects strong execution across the company and a sequentially stronger demand environment in North America and I want to recognize the entire General Cable team for the great execution this quarter.

Our utility business performed well particularly in the distribution and renewable segments industrial construction in North America was also better than expected. Our recently completed 2014 restructuring plan continues to contribute incremental savings. We also benefited from the work done on the contract finalization Baltic 2 project in our subsea power business in Europe. We are also continuing to advance the new restructuring initiatives communicated last quarter as part of our new roadmap. On the divestiture front we completed the sale of our India business and signed a definitive agreement to sell our operations in Egypt. So we are making good progress.

Seasonally the first quarter is usually down from the fourth quarter and we think it’s noteworthy that we manage to improve results quarter-on-quarter and peak guidance. While the year-on-year comparison is down it's a very capable comparison as the first quarter of 2015 was marked by significant contributions from our European subsea power business and elevated utility spending in both the power and communications sectors. To put our Q1 2016 North American electric utility performance in the perspective it was our second strongest Q1 for utility in North America we experienced in the past five years, trailing only last year's first quarter. Also we were still working through a project backlog in our oil and gas business a year ago and that business has now fully dropped.

You will notice in the release that we highlighted the impact of metal price moves. Our goal of course is to provide you with greater transparency around the underlying performance of the business ex-temporary impacts from metal price changes. Recall that metals are typically a pass through cost for us, but we’re effected in approximately half of our business by changes in metal price between the time we buy the metal and the time we sell the cable that is made with the metal, which typically can average around three months, when metals are declining there is a temporary about a quarter unfavorable impact uneven and the corresponding favorable impact on cash flow as we replenish metal stock at the lower metal price. We believe that looking at our business in this way gives more transparency on performance. It also illustrates the resilience of our business model to commodity price fluctuations. Recall also that our margins are not correlated with metal price levels as we've discussed at Investor Day.

With respect to the second quarter our guidance assumes sequentially improved seasonal volumes and further benefits from restructuring and business improvement initiatives. These trends are expected to be partially offset by easing performance of our subsea turnkey project business. We're encouraged by the demand experienced in our utility, non-residential construction and communication end markets to start the year as unit volume rebounded sharply following the soft finish to 2015. Demand for renewables including wind and solar is off to a solid start in 2016. And we expect this momentum to continue. Our improving cost position in our copper and aluminum building wire businesses is also expected to benefit us as move into the construction season. Our industrial business is showing signs of stability as smaller projects and OEM opportunities picked up.

Overall we are sensing some optimism in our customer base and end market demand is consistent with our expectations as we think about the first half of 2016. As always I appreciate and thank the entire General Cable team for their commitment and passion for results, and I am very energized by the progress we're making as we focus on mobilizing our strategic roadmap. Overall we believe we are heading in the right direction and clearly there is a lot more to be done. I am confident that we can do it and in doing so deliver values for shareholders. I'll now turn call over to Brian to walk you through our results in greater detail.

Brian Robinson

Thank you Mike, on Slide 8 sequentially unit volume was up 10%, principally due to demand for electric utility cables in North America, improved demand throughout Europe including land turnkey product shipments and stabilizing demand in Latin America, excluding the impact of aerial transmission cables in Brazil. Aerial transmission product shipments in Brazil were down sequentially due to the timing of project installation as expected. Unit volume was down 8% year-over-year which is principally due to lower end market demand across the North American portfolio including electric utility and specialty cables, continued pressure on end market demand throughout Latin America and the exit from certain low value-add markets in Europe.

Sequentially adjusted operating income of 42 million reflects restructuring savings of 9 million, favorable metal cost impact of approximately 4 million, the impact of improved unit volume in our North America electric utility business and stronger project activity in the subsea power business in Europe as the company finalized the contract for the multiyear Baltic 2 project. Year-over-year adjusted operating income declined $6 million principally due to lower demand for specialty products including oil and gas and electric utility cables in North America and lower project activity in the subsea power business in Europe.

On Slide 9 in North America adjusted operating income for the first quarter of $31 million increased 46% sequentially and declined 20% year-over-year. The sequential improvement is principally due to the impact of demand improvement for electric utility cables in the first quarter as utilities began spending again coming off the very slow finish to 2015. Our other businesses were within our range of seasonal expectations with the exception of specialty businesses specifically the oil and gas which remains weak. The year-over-year decline of $8 million is principally driven by a weakness in our specialty businesses particularly oil and gas. In the first quarter of 2015 we were working through our oil gas project backlog which has deteriorated significantly since that time.

On Slide 10 in Europe, adjusted operating income for the first quarter of $11 million increased 5 million sequentially and was down year-over-year by $4 million which principally reflects subsea project activity related to the Baltic 2 project. Our project backlog including both subsea and land was $160 million at the end of the first quarter. End market demand in Western Europe for electric utility cables including land and subsea projects was stable during the first quarter, which helped to offset low demand for construction related products.

On Slide 11 despite the challenging macro environment in Latin America marked by volatile currencies and low commodity prices, weak construction spending and slowing growth rates, we're continuing to implement our restructuring actions to drive savings and improve our operational execution. While the first quarter is typically the weakest from a seasonal perspective the company's adjusted operating results improved $4 million versus the first quarter of 2015. Our teams in Brazil, Colombia, Central America and Chile continues to capture market opportunities while delivering restructuring initiatives focused on the factory floor.

As we have summarized on Slide 13, we remain focused on executing our plan to simplify our portfolio, reduce operational complexity, and deliver improved returns to North America, Latin American, and Europe. We are pleased with the execution and the continued positive momentum we've achieved since announcing the divestiture program. In total, we have generated $187 million of cash proceeds including the first quarter of 2016 sale of India. We continue to target cash proceeds in the range of $250 million to $300 million.

We're pleased with the continued momentum as we've just signed a definitive purchase agreement to sell our operations in Egypt, which is expected to close later this year. Additionally we also have signed a definitive purchase agreement to sell our interest in Zambia, which was executed in the fourth quarter of 2015 and is expected to close later this year as well. We are managing an active process and pressing forward with the divestitures of our remaining operations in Africa, including Algeria and Angola and Asia-pacific including China, New Zealand and Australia.

Next, on our restructuring program, we are substantially complete with our July 2014 program. In the first quarter, we generated $9 million of savings. We continued to target $80 million to $100 million of savings and are on track to realize the needed 35 million to 45 million of incremental savings in 2016 to achieve our target.

On Slide 15 we provide a summary of our debt maturity profile position as of the first quarter. Net debt of 1.072 billion was up $73 million from the end of 2015. The increase in net debt is principally due to the timing of collections from subsea turnkey projects of $43 million, which is expected to be collected in the second quarter. Putting aside these ordinary course project payments the principle increase in net debt of $30 million is a result of higher accounts receivable driven by the increased unit volume in North America for the first quarter. We currently have $320 million of availability under our North American and European-based credit facility. In addition, we have approximately $60 million of availability on working capital lines and cash in our Latin American businesses. We are well positioned to fund the business including working capital requirements, restructuring activities and quarterly dividends.

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

Thank you. [Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from Shawn Harrison with Longbow Research. Your line is open.

Gausia Chowdhury

This is Gausia Chowdhury on behalf of Shawn. First of all can you please provide some color on volume expectations per region for the quarter as well as the full year and then some color on the subsea business as well, please?

Mike McDonnell

Chowdhury can you repeat the second part of that please?

Gausia Chowdhury

Sure, so I just wanted volume expectations for the quarter and the full year and then just wanted some color on the subsea business I'm particularly looking for the contribution in the first quarter what was it sequentially and how those like land turnkey roll off?

Mike McDonnell

So I mean I think volumes overall and for the company as you can see we had a really nice rebound in the first quarter a lot of it focused around the electric utility business and then when you look at it year-over-year we had a reduction and again we want to highlight a very strong first quarter of 2015, but we also feel very strong quarter herein to start off 2016. And as we look forward and thinking about volumes by region and I'm not going to be terribly specific as you know we give guidance quarter at a time but we see a nice uptick as we move into the second quarter our business as we talked about the specialty business is the oil and gas which have been soft as everyone would expect and that continues. We remain encouraged and we’re expecting continued growth into the second quarter in electric utility. Parts of our industrial business in Europe and in Latin America, and I guess to the last question on our European power cable business, NSW business continues to execute well and we do have -- we have -- I would say we have a smaller sized projects who are on the backend of the multiyear Baltic 2 project so that's all going very well and on the land turnkey side and that's more focused in our French business but a critical part of the European team that business I think volumes there were softer in 2015 but we were taking orders and the business was growing and in ’16 we’re seeing I don’t know let's call it mid single-digit may be volume growth in that land turnkey project business.

Gausia Chowdhury

And then I found a news that you sold the ETCO business, just wondering what the sales were for that business and then also the cash you received from the sale of it?

Mike McDonnell

This is the -- I think ETCO business you said?

Gausia Chowdhury

Yes.

Mike McDonnell

Yes the revenue on that business was de minimis and the proceeds were really de minimis I mean a couple of million dollars.

Brian Robinson

Just a small marginal product line, that just did not fit on our path forward, so.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question is from Brent Thielman of D. A. Davidson. Your line is open.

Brent Thielman

And first question may be on Egypt did you indicate what you expect to get for that business and what's kind of the timeline for finalizing that?

Mike McDonnell

We did not indicate proceeds Brent and the timeline we are looking at the -- I think into the third quarter.

Brent Thielman

And maybe you indicated whether it's significant or sort of relatively small?

Mike McDonnell

Maybe I would say it's in the scheme of things it is relatively small but it's significant it's another step in the significant progress.

Brent Thielman

Sure. Okay, and then it looks like adjusted EBITDA, EBIT margins in North America were down modestly on a relatively sharp decline in sales could you pick apart the pieces of what's kind of allowed you to sustain margins there, is it purely cost initiatives or you are getting a little bit of benefit from mix in the business as well?

Mike McDonnell

I think we're going to say it's mostly our cost efficiency initiatives that we've been working on, the first restructuring program. There are a number of business improvement initiatives that are very specific to the businesses and I think we are just overall executing better, the company is very-energized now and we are very-focused and so I think we are just doing a lot of different things a little bit better that's helping on the cost side. I think it's mostly that I don’t think they are substantial benefits to mix at this point in time as we look at our current results versus recent past.

Brent Thielman

Okay. And then on the specialty cables clearly some challenges in that particular area I presume these have kind of a higher margin profile relative to the other products in the portfolio, can you help us understand what kind of the magnitude of specialty or may be oil and gas as the way we should think about it as a portion of the business now?

Mike McDonnell

I think that we said in the past oil and gases has roughly been about 300 million in revenue and so if you go back probably two years before the decline started and it was higher than average in terms of our margins in that business. Today it’s cropped I mean it really is pretty de minimis as I look at it over the last few quarters and recently I made a swing through some key customers in that segment just to get a first hand view. And there is activity but it is about as lower level now as it can be I think it’s bottomed. I don’t think there is a -- and our customers don’t believe there is upturn in sight. There is a modest low level activity they think that is stable now over the last two, three quarters and that is sort of what we have in our outlook. If it turns up a little bit that’s great for us but we are not counting on it.

Brent Thielman

But it doesn’t seem to be getting any worse?

Mike McDonnell

It doesn’t.

Brent Thielman

And a lot of, I mean a lot of focus by you guys on taking cost out and obviously deleveraging but in terms of investments back into the business, which are the four major product lines either the greatest potential for General Cable and kind of anticipate focusing a little more capital for it?

Mike McDonnell

Yes so we have identified some key areas for growth and that is based on a strategic review of our portfolio when you look at our market positions, and the strength of those positions their capabilities the scale that we operate with, financial performance and expectations, the attractiveness of the market et cetera and we really like our communications business, we like our utility business and we like our industrial business and those are really core strengths in the company. And so that is where investment is going to go, I think why that investment will be improving our cost position, we have work to do but much opportunity and it’s clear and right in front of us to become very-very efficient in those markets and then particularly in the communication side it’s going to be more oriented toward growth.

Brent Thielman

And then just one last one the legal investigation cost that I guess I was thinking most of the bulk of that was behind you should we kind of assume to see some additional cost to this magnitude going forward?

Mike McDonnell

Could you repeat that again please?

Brent Thielman

The legal investigation costs I think you still had some additional costs there in the quarter, are you thinking most of this is behind you at this point?

Mike McDonnell

Yes we do, so look I think there is an end in sight for that, remember that has been -- most of that cost have been incurred in terms of our investigation and kind of working through now this continued cooperation on the SPPA issues with the government and so when that winds down that spending will obviously go away, you can see it’s been significant and so we will benefit happy when -- we brought that to conclusion.

Operator

Thank you our next question is from Noelle Dilts, Stifel. Your line is open.

Noelle Dilts

And my call just dropped out for a second so I am sorry if this question has been asked but going back to your strategic roadmap in terms of the cost stability growth over the next two years and this is kind of circling back to Investor Day but it looks like you are not really assuming any reversal of the roughly 30 million metals headwinds that hit in 2015 so first of all is that correct? And would you say that is sort of the first of the upside you are forecasted if that headwind sort of improved going forward?

Mike McDonnell

Yes Noelle it’s generally correct and we did we covered that a bit in the Q&A on the Investor Day but that’s generally correct yes.

Noelle Dilts

Okay. And then in terms of the U.S. utility market, can you parse out a little bit I am sorry North American utility market can you parse out a bit what you are seeing in terms of distribution activity versus transmission and how you are thinking about those two markets going forward?

Mike McDonnell

Sure, Noelle, as we look at it we think about transmission distribution and then the solar renewables too which is part of growing and not an insignificant part now of electrical generation in the United States. Our transmission -- we called it kind of flat to 2% or 1% to 2% growth it was a little bit flatter in the first quarter only because I think the utilities have kind of continued their effort to reduce their inventories into the first quarter that is typically a fourth quarter activity but it ran a little bit longer so we expect that to pick up a little bit more so that will get to kind of our long term thought of around 1% to 2%, distribution much more attractive and that for us is the biggest part of it and we are seeing mid single digits so single digits there steady activity and we have a great access to market there. And the renewables have been relatively strong in terms of wind and solar and so forth, so when you put it altogether 2%, 3%, 4% kind of in that range and that’s all we are counting on if you recall in the Investor Day materials we have taken a pretty conservative outlook on in terms of our markets, we don’t want to count on a lot of tailwinds here to get where we want to go so, I think we are right in line with that.

Noelle Dilts

And then just on also one other traditional market, in U.S. industrial how are you thinking at this point given sort of the prevailing concerns around industrial and the impact of lower oil prices on that market in a conservative way can you just talk about how you are thinking about industrial moving forward and the second derivative impacts on them from lower oil prices?

Mike McDonnell

Sure. We saw some slowing I think a lot of others commented on this as well in the second half of last year in industrial and we’re watching it very carefully obviously it's an important component of our business and so forth but we were encouraged by the first quarter and by the outlook I got to talk to a number of our customers in the segment over the last month or so and I'm sensing their optimism that -- frankly there was some pessimism in the fourth quarter that was a tough quarter for industrial but first quarter came back and I'm not looking for this to be a great growth rate I think someone quoted it's going from bad to less bad. I think kind of 1% to 2% growth would be just fine for us and that's what we saw in the first quarter and that's what we are kind of expecting looking forward at this point.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question is from Shawn Harrison with Longbow Research. Your line is open.

Gausia Chowdhury

So regarding restructuring can you clarify this 35 million to 45 million incremental that you have highlighted does that exclude the 9 million from the first quarter I just wanted to be clear as incremental changed because I think previously you were saying 40 million to 50 million so just how should we think about that need?

Mike McDonnell

Yes Gausia so and -- yes the 35 to 45 would actually include the 9 it's the cadence for the years in that 8 million to 10 million kind of range is kind of what we thought about as far as the overall performance so it is embedded in that 35 to 45 and part of that is really just the currency as you think about that over the time period and what we initially guided to those numbers so that's really what you are seeing reflecting as far as the 35 to 45 at this time.

Gausia Chowdhury

And then what was the operating cash flow and CapEx for the quarter and then could you provide some color on what you are expecting for annual CapEx?

Mike McDonnell

Yes so, CapEx in the quarter was $14 million and in terms of overall operating cash flow we had to use it on the working capital side as we said we invested about 70 million and I want to emphasize about 40 of it is really a transitory thing with respect to these projects in Europe so we will get that cash in Q2 and then the other piece of it is deposit growth we had in volumes in Q1 and the growth in receivable so that was an investment in working capital of about $70 million. With respect to CapEx for the full year so we have guided towards $75 million that really the base keep in mind there is some growth initiatives in there we are still dimensioning as we said on the Investor Day we expect over the three year period the capital spending on these initiatives to be $125 million so we are still dimensioning the impact in 2016 you should expect something incremental to the 75 but we are not yet ready to be precise to that number.

Gausia Chowdhury

And last question for me. Can you let us know what your cooper and aluminum assumptions were for the first quarter?

Mike McDonnell

Yes the average on cooper was 211 and the LME on aluminum was $0.70.

Operator

Thank you. This concludes the questions in the queue. I'll turn the call back over to presenters.

Len Texter

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

Mike McDonnell

Thanks everyone.

Operator

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. This concludes today's conference call. You may now disconnect.

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