Russian Academy of Sciences Central Economics and Mathematics Institute (CEMI RAS)
ISSN (печатный вариант): 2073-0071
automatic irrigation systems market, “residential&commercial” segment, European AIS market, manufacturing companies’ strategies, distributors, multibrand distributors, oligopoly market, expert estimations, рынок автоматических систем орошения, сегмент «residential&commercial», европейский рынок АСО, стратегии компаний-производителей, дистрибьюторы, мультибрендовые дистрибьюторы, олигопольный рынок, экспертные оценки
В статье проводится сравнительный анализ стратегий основных игроков (производителей оборудования) европейского рынка автоматических систем орошения (АСО) сегмента «residential&commercial» (Resсom) направленных, с одной стороны, на укрепление своих позиций на рынке АСО и расширение своего присутствия на нем, с другой, - на недопущение новых игроков на рынок. Анализ позволяет оценить состояние и перспективы развития данного рынка, который остается информационно закрытым для большинства исследователей, являясь при этом одним из динамично развивающихся рынков инженерного оборудования, применение которого позволяет в т.ч. решать ряд экологических задач; а также быть интегрированным в концепциях «умный дом» и «умный город». Подобный анализ впервые представлен в открытом научном информационном пространстве. В его основе лежат экспертные оценки. Авторы делают вывод, что после многих лет стабильности и предсказуемости рынок АСО возможно ждут изменения, в частности, появление новых крупных игроков.
Analysis and comparison of Rescom segment key players strategies at the European AIS market makes it possible to speak about its development prospects, in particular, from the viewpoint of appearing new players, as well as to form the basis for the in-depth study of the AIS market with possible involvement of other experts and AIS manufacturers. Nearly all the information regarding the AIS market (equipment production volumes, volumes of sales, profits, prime cost, etc.) is of closed nature, which was confirmed at the 1st European irrigation industry Forum Trends And Challenges In Europe (8.11.2016, Bologna, Italy)1 by Frost&Sullivan, a large consulting company in the field of the global development, indicating that it is not capable of determining actual volumes of the irrigation market due to the restricted access to such information and reserved character of manufacturers. It was earlier indicated by American Irrigation Association . The data on the equipment specifications, retail prices, equipment installation recommendations, etc. are publicly available. Expert estimations are among the few means used to analyze the AIS market, in particular, the equipment manufacturers’ strategies. The AIS market is a successfully developing market of engineering equipment with various automation degree (from a common timer to remote control access) designed to deliver water to plants in the absence (deficit) of natural precipitation (find more information on AIS application fields in . When watering the green plants with the use of the AIS water consumption should be calculated based on the evapotranspiration rate: for each plant the water is delivered precisely in the amount needed with due account of its biological characteristics; soil morphology and moisture; direction of wind; watering is made automatically under the program set . The irrigation systems contribute to solving a number of vital issues, including environmental ones. First of all, it is saving water resources (under the conditions of scarcity of this resource) and air moistening (along with the planting of greenery, it is practically the only way to solve the problem regarding “micro particle pollution” and maintaining city microclimate) . Besides, AIS may be integrated into the concepts of “smart house” and “smart city” as an element of managing water resources when taking care of landscape and plants. The AIS market is a comparatively young market (a little over 50 years), which is successfully developing but at the same time remains actually closed for new players (equipment manufacturers)2. There are 3 major segments singled out at this market: agricultural; golf; landscape, including sports facilities (Resсom) [3,4]. In its turn, in Resсom they single out: “mass-market” - retail sales of the equipment with the subsequent independent mounting of the system and “hose end” equipment (watering with the use of the “hose”); and “professional-market”3 - sales of the equipment to irrigation specialists, landscape designers, etc., who then install the irrigation system to the end users. The Rescom AIS market is an oligopoly market, where a limited range of players producing practically the same equipment for many years compete with each other within the close market boundaries, setting a tone to the entire AIS market. According to the expert estimations4, the turnover of Resсom segment of the European AIS market is about 150-200 mln dollars per year (including CIS and the Ukraine account for about 6-7 mln dollars), which is less than one fourth of the global turnover. In 2015, after some shrinkage during the period of 2009-2012, the AIS market has not only recovered its previous volumes, but also has exceeded them. AIS manufacturers expect further market growth to 20% per year (with some regional divergences of this indicator). The key difference of the European AIS Rescom market from the American one is that the American market has practically reached its saturation point and can expand primarily due to the construction of irrigation systems or modernization of the existing ones. The European AIS market started developing later than the American one and has not yet reached its saturation point. Shortage of water in a number of states (California, Colorado, Nevada, New-Mexico) and imposed limitations on the use thereof have become an essential driver for the AIS market growth in the USA . In turn, the said measures were accompanied by the Government recommendations (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)) [4,16] regarding the development of the programs on water-saving technologies implementation promotion, as well as of special subsidy programs aimed at purchasing high-technology equipment (and AIS are classified as such), including instead of the outdated equipment5. The European countries, except for the southern Europe, experience such challenges to a lesser extent. However, the changing climate and other natural calamities make the Europeans revise their views on the issues of rational water usage. Alongside with that, water price growth is also promoting more active implementation of AIS in order to save financial resources when irrigating and maintaining a landscape. Therefore, we have every reason to believe that the European AIS market will continue to expand in the near future. Rescom segment leaders are considered to be three large American companies which have nearly equal shares in the European irrigation market (with some regional differences) - Rain Bird Corporation (RB) (1933 foundation year), Hunter Industries (Hunter) (1981 foundation year), The Toro Company (Toro) (1914 foundation year, irrigation equipment manufacture since 1923)6. The first two companies are the private companies (held by one or more owners) focused on the irrigation equipment manufacturing only. The third company is a public one whose shares are listed on New York Stock Exchange and which has about 16% of the turnover attributable to the AIS equipment manufacturing. A great number of other manufacturing companies have their position in the AIS market, however, none of them, either severally or jointly, is able to affect the situation in the irrigation market of Resсom segment. Let us consider some strategies7 of the key players of AIS Resсom market (Table 1), which are typical of all three players (and generally typical of oligopoly markets), and those which are common to particular companies. The leading companies adhere to practically identical strategies in the pricing policy, granting discounts for the distributors; maintaining certain quality of the equipment; active sourcing of research and development; and in the field of advertising. All three companies are well-known brands in their industry requiring no additional recommendations or special large-scale promotion. This may serve as a partial explanation of practically identical strategies of the players in the field of the advertising policy: participating in the same specialized exhibitions, advertising in the same professional journals. On the one hand, it highlights the closed nature of the AIS market - the manufacturers see no reason to promote their equipment and brands outside the AIS market. On the other hand, in their advertising strategies, including advertising of the new equipment, technological novelties all three companies are mainly oriented at a specific range of distributors and large (professional) consumers. The market leaders pay much attention to financing research and development in their companies and to implementing new technologies, including the software. Moreover, the strategy involving purchasing of technologies and patents by major players from minor producers is typical of the AIS market. Such trend is most evident in the IT technologies area where there are a lot of Start-ups engaged in the development of different AIS management systems with the purpose of reselling thereof to the major players. The members of the “Big Three” also buy local players to strengthen their positions and to prevent growth and development of any new competitive manufacturers. For example, in 2016, Hunter purchased Hydrawise (Australia) , a manufacturer of Wi-Fi controllers and web-platforms (cloud services) for fuel, and Toro bought the German firm Perrot, involved in manufacturing of a wide range of irrigation equipment [8; 9]. All three companies have their equipment productions facilities mainly located in the USA and Mexico, and RB and Hunter also in Chine8. Closing of the RB’s production in Europe (about 3-4 years ago) is likely resulted from closing of the European branch network of the company (please find below). Both RB and Toro had earlier and have now their storage facilities in Europe (RB’s storage facilities are outsourced now) (Toro uses them to warehouse the whole of its products); and Hunter has never had any logistics center in Europe. All three companies manufacture practically identical equipment (technological differences are material only for professionals) and have patens for their equipment. At the same time, each manufacturer recommends to use only its equipment when installing the AIS and not to mix the equipment made by different manufacturers in one system. As regards the equipment range, updating and extension thereof, 10 years ago RB was a leader here - each season the new equipment used to be brought to the market (the assortment was extended, new technological solutions were proposed). At present, the RB’s equipment range is less updated; however, the company is still keeping one of the widest ranges of products. Updating and extension of the equipment range in Hunter and Toro were slower than in RB, but as of today all three companies have become “equal”. RB was also the leader in the sphere of software (SW) for AIS - the company was the first to develop the SW for AIS (over 20 years ago). At present, all three companies have presence in the market with their own SW that has certain technical specifics, however, the choice of any particular SW is determined by personal preferences of the users. As noted above, the “Big Three” players in Europe adhere to nearly the same pricing policy - the manufacturing prices in the AIS market in the Resсom segment are equivalent9. Ten years ago, RB was a price maker in the AIS market with other companies were guided by it. Currently, there is no such an evident leader. However, there is no reason to believe that the companies follow the “cooperative strategy” in the pricing policy (which is often typical of the oligopoly markets); it is most likely to be the result of the “fair play” (a strategy that also occurs at the oligopoly markets). For customers the price for the AIS equipment of all three producers is practically within the same price range and in many respects depends on the distributors’ policy. RB and Hunter adhere to similar strategies in granting discounts to the distributors, which is a single discount rate. Apart from the “standard” discounts, the manufacturers may grant any additional discounts “under large concurrent orders”. As far as Toro is concerned, the company follows the policy of individual agreements with exclusive distributors in respect of the discount amount “under revenue commitments”. That is why, in the absence of competition on “their” regional market, the exclusive distributors, compared to the common ones, have wider options to maintain any certain price level, being guided by the company’s internal priorities, financial abilities, as well as with due account of the expenses for advertising, service maintenance, and technical support. Material differences in the companies’ strategies can be observed in providing supplementary services - service maintenance, technical support, training and AIS design. RB is the only company that provided and is still providing a full range of such services. Training of personnel, distributors and customers have always been RB’s strong point which set it apart from other two companies. The same applies to the provision of the AIS design services - RB is the only one out of the three companies which is designing the irrigation systems on an independent basis, while Hunter and Toro engage third party designers. However, there were some changes in the RB’s strategy related to the provision of service maintenance and technical support services: 10 years ago the company had the service engineering staff at the key European AIS markets; certain measures were taken aimed at providing direct technical support when the AIS mounting and service maintenance. But it appears that such strategy failed to have the desired effect primarily due to the opposition of the distributors and high prime cost of such services (for the majority of the European countries the AIS market is of seasonal nature, therefore the staff service engineers were not engaged all year round, which came expensive to the company). By now, RB has proceeded to the strategy of “Authorized Service Partnership” (ASP) with minimum number of own service engineers being on the company’s staff10. Hunter and RB conduct training both for area managers and distributors and for customers. But unlike RB, Hunter has no separate service department (this function is performed by area managers, as and when necessary). As for Toro, since the company is pursuing the exclusive distributorship-based strategy at the AIS market, the expenses for the service maintenance and technical support have always been and are borne by the distributors (who are supported, where required, by Toro engineers, a small staff of whom is located in Europe). As regards training, it is provided only for the distributors. Both RB and Toro are currently rapidly developing the services provided by Call centers, with the difference that apart from the Call center in the USA RB has also a Call center in Europe (which renders services to the European customers), and Toro’s Call center is located in the USA and has a special subdivision servicing the European customers. Hunter has no Call centers for today. The companies adhere to different strategies aimed at expansion and strengthening of their presence at the AIS market. RB was the only one out of three leaders who maintained a wide branch network in Europe: in France, Germany, Spain, Turkey, Sweden, with full-time employees being hired in Italy, Portugal, Great Britain, Poland, Romania, etc. Despite the fact that management was centralized in the head office in the USA, some powers have been delegated to the branches, for example: they were controlling “their” regional distributor network; the branches were providing the technical support and service maintenance (in cooperation with the distributors). Closing of the branch network may be accounted for both by the intention to keep the costs down and by implementation of the strategy, which involves strengthening of the market monitoring from the head office. Moreover, the branches were created when there was no united economic area in Europe, and their presence in European countries facilitated national market promotion of the RB equipment, and also made it possible to consolidate these companies’ positions at these markets. However, when the unified European economic area was formed, RB appeared to start considering the branch network as an extra element in the “manufacturer-end user” chain. Alongside the branch network closing there was a reduction in RB’s sales volumes at some national markets with shrinkage of the regional segment. However, the European AIS market growth prospects suggest that the company will be able to regain its positions. At present the European market in RB is coordinated through the Central European Office, besides, the company has expanded the staff of the regional area managers and contractor specialists, having conferred limited powers to them. Hunter’s management strategy has not suffered such fundamental changes as RB: the European segment of the market was and is managed via the Central European Office. Alongside with that, Hunter (along with Toro) “has taken advantage” of the fact that the highly skilled AIS specialists, who were the former RB employees, appeared on the European labor market and has extended its European staff due to new area managers11. Toro is operating in Europe through the macro-region area managers, who are also acting as coordinators, advisers, and exclusive distributors. In Toro, the exclusive distributorship is still the preferred strategy to provide for its presence at the regional markets, which can be explained by the fact that Toro is the only company out of three ones involved in manufacturing of other equipment, alongside with the AIS equipment, that is why its distributors often represent at the regional (national) market other products made by the company (this results in reducing the “seasonal” factor which is typical of the AIS market in most European countries). Alongside with that, as regards the AIS equipment itself, the exclusive right is primarily granted with due account of the market segments rather than to all AIS equipment. Toro delegates a wide range of powers to its distributors, in particular, they bear the financial expenses for advertising, training, technical support and service maintenance. It also should be noted that when promoting the AIS equipment, Toro’s marketing experts and distributors make use of the reputation (popularity) of their product from other segments, for example, of the gardening equipment or professional lawn care equipment. In response, the competitors state that Toro is unable to compete with RB and Hunter on equal terms, as irrigation accounts for only 20% and the production is not irrigation-oriented. Hunter and RB have come over to “open distributorship”, which is related to the strategy of expansion of their presence at the regional markets, and to the wish to reduce dependence on one - exclusive - distributor and thereby to mitigate the risks of losing the regional market (for instance, in case of an unpredictable event in the exclusive distributor’s company), and to facilitate competition among the distributors. Nowadays, both RB and Hunter have presence nearly in each European country with more than one distributor. It can be assumed that the severe competition among the distributors (fueled by the equipment manufacturers) results in smashup of minor distributors, as to remain competitive at the market these firms have to operate with the low marginality at the seasonal market, which significantly reduces their profits up to negative ratios. In order to survive, the distributors began to proceed to the multibrand policy, that is to sell the equipment made by different manufacturers (and this is their advantage over the exclusive distributors). And here, the “comprehensive line” of the equipment available at the warehouse, either at the distributor’s or at the European warehouse, appears to be of certain importance. Where a multibrand distributor within short timeframes needs some particular equipment (irrespective of a brand), the positions of Hunter are likely to be vulnerable, as it is more convenient for the distributor to bring the equipment from the European warehouse than to wait for it to be delivered from the USA. In fact, the notion of loyalty tends to leave the AIS market together with the exclusive right. The distributor is no longer directly interested in promotion of a particular brand, which burden lies on the manufacturer, who has to, in order to increase the share of its equipment in the sales pattern of a given distributor, on the one hand, search for any new leverages thereon and, on the other hand, promote its equipment through the contractors more actively. For example, RB’s contractor specialists contact directly the irrigation system installation men (who are the last segment between the manufacturer and the consumer), so that they use the RB equipment when mounting the irrigation systems. Besides, the company is making attempts to accumulate the information on the distributors’ customer base, should the distributor leaves the market, and the manufacturer will be able to transfer the customer base to the next distributor, which is a kind of insurance for the manufacturing company. Other AIS market players are likely to follow the path taken by RB. *** Changes in the strategies of the key players at the European AIS market in Resсom segment, which are primarily aimed at expansion of their presence at the regional markets and strengthening of their positions, have resulted in major multibrand distributors appeared on the AIS market. Such distributors, who can boast of having financial possibilities and who hold a great share in the AIS market turnovers, are affecting (and this affect is becoming stronger) both the AIS market condition and the manufacturers themselves (for instance, through their priorities in choosing the equipment of a specific brand for further disposal thereof). Such policy pursued by the major multibrand distributors forces the manufacturing companies to reckon with and “reach an agreement” with them rather than to impose their laws of the game, as it was earlier. Moreover, some of the major multibrand distributors attempt to buy out the large manufacturer of the AIS equipment (for example, an American company John Deere Landscapes negotiated for buying Hunter). Other major distributors make their own brands on the AIS equipment market. For example, Fluidra (Spain), being a major distributor of Hunter and RB, has started making its own AIS equipment line under the OEM agreements and is promoting it actively on the AIS market. Another threat for the “Big Three” comes from the developing countries, which are currently operating successfully in the agricultural segment. However, they make active efforts to enter the Rescom segment (for instance, on the part of the large Indian company Jain Corporation). Appearance and strengthening of positions held by new players, their aggressive policy in penetrating the AIS market may materially change the power balance - such players are becoming more active on the international market and are not confined to the boundaries of their national markets. Such tendencies affect the European AIS market of Rescom segment, and make the key market players revise their strategies in order to protect and strengthen their positions. However, the modifications and change of leaders are likely to occur in the near future on the market, which for many decades has been stable enough and predictable in its development. _ 11st European Irrigation Industry Forum. Trends And Challenges In Europe. http://irrigationeurope.eu/sites/ default/files/eia_1st_irrigation_industry_forum_bologna_2016_invitation_and_agenda_final_0.pdf . 2Hereinafter, when it comes to the AIS market players, we mean the equipment manufacturers. 3Hereinafter, when it comes to Rescom segment of the AIS market, we imply the professional AIS market of such segment. 4Hereinafter, the numbers relate to the manufacturer’s selling price. 5The ongoing programs (including those relating to AIS equipment) are specified on EPA’s official website (refer to https://www.epa.gov/watersense/rebate-finder ). 6According to the expert estimations, in 2016, the turnovers of the companies (in all segments of the AIS market) amounted to: RB - 0.8 bln dollars per year, Hunter - 0.55 bln dollars per year, Toro - about 0.5 bln dollars with the total turnover being equal to 2.392 bln dollars. 7The companies’ strategies have not been provided in full due to lack of the exhaustive information. 8The equipment is partially manufactured also in other countries under Original Equipment Manufacture (OEM) agreements. 9Lower prices (about 10% as compared to other manufacturers) for the Hunter equipment are largely due to the fact that the European price for the manufacturer’s equipment are exclusive of any logistics expenses (these expenses are borne by the distributors, therefore this factor scarcely has any impact on the purchaser’s price). 10The ASP strategy is as follows: when mounting the AIS (RB) the customers are recommended to enter into a service agreement with Rain Bird Corp; in its turn, RB enters into the service agreement with ASP, which employees visit the facility to provide for service maintenance or technical support, where required. In some complicated cases, the company may send a full-time engineer to the facility. Where there is no service agreement, a customer shall contact Rain Bird Corp (either directly, or through the contractor, or a distributor (who are normally not ASP)) and receive the service or technical support again through the central office of Rain Bird Corp. Earlier in such cases an engineer from RB’s Central European Office visited the site or the distributor itself provided for the service maintenance on the site. In general, the new RB strategy in service maintenance and technical support is in line with the strategy of “customer base data collection” (please find below) pursued by the company. 11Both AIS expert labor market, as well as the AIS market in general is very narrow and specific. AIS experts are not educated in the educational institutions, they are “brought up” and trained in companies themselves. By taking the professionals, RB ex-employees, on the staff, the competitors have received top-ranked experienced specialists. Table 1 Strategies of the Key Equipment Manufacturers on the European AIS Market, Resсom Segment Rain Bird Corporation HunterI ndustries The Toro Company 2007 2016 2007 2016 2007 2016 Brand Brand Market leader A very well-known brand, recognized as one of the industry sector founder. Became known for its presence in segments “golf” and “agriculture” A young developing brand Primarily known in segment “landscape” (Rescom) A popular brand, the former leader. Receded its positions on the market due to lack of new products and technological solutions A widely known brand that is present both in golf and in agriculture. Became widely known owing to manufacture of the gardening equipment (both consumer and professional) Equipment “Equipment line” The widest of those available on the market The widest of those available on the market Limited Extending Stable Limited Innovations A new product is available every season The new equipment is presented on the limited line: equipment for micro-irrigation, controllers, new SW for remote management There is always the top-selling rotor (PGP) present in the line. Technical innovations and new equipment are presented in a limited range An updated equipment line is available (controllers, including those with Wi-Fi, upgraded irrigators, etc.) Only well-known products are available. Practically no new technological solutions Innovations in the equipment line, controllers, sensors Equipment quality Considered to be the best on the market Good quality of the equipment Problems with the quality of a number of products Good quality of the equipment Problems with the quality of irrigator nozzles Good quality of the equipment Production facilities USA, Mexico, Europe USA, Mexico, China USA USA, Mexico, China USA, Mexico USA, Mexico Pricing policy Prices “Benchmark” The prices are roughly equivalent to the prices of other manufacturers Prices are lower than those of competitors (due to the absence of logistics expenses in the price) Prices are lower than those of competitors (due to the absence of logistics expenses in the price) The prices are roughly equivalent to the prices of other manufacturers Prices are slightly higher than those of competitors Discounts No information The manufacturer has a unified discount system for distributors. Additional manufacturer discounts are possible in respect of the large orders No information The manufacturer has a unified discount system for distributors. Additional manufacturer discounts are possible in respect of the large orders Individual agreements with regional distributors (based on the purchase amount obligations) Individual agreements with regional distributors (based on the purchase amount obligations) Management Head office role Management is centralized in the head office; regional markets are controlled through the branches. Certain powers have been delegated to branches Strengthening of the center dominance. Granting limited powers to the contractor specialists. The number of the distributors in the regions/countries is controlled through the Central European office for Western Europe and through the Central American Office for Eastern Europe Management of the European segment of the market is through the Central European office Management of the European segment of the market is through the Central European office Management is centralized in the head office, which is in contact with both macro-region arеa managers, and with exclusive distributors. Wide-ranging powers are granted to the exclusive distributors. Regional arеa managers act as coordinators and advisers Management is centralized in the head office, which is in contact with both macro-region arеa managers, and with exclusive distributors. Wide-ranging powers are granted to the exclusive distributors. Regional arеa managers act as coordinators and advisers Representative offices around the world Branches available in France, Germany, Spain, Turkey, Sweden, plus the full-time employees in Italy, Portugal, Great Britain, Poland, Romania, etc. Closing of national branches and representative offices in many European countries. Replacement of full-fledged branches by contractor specialists Central European office Extension of the Central European office due to the new area managers, including due to RB’s ex-employees Nearly each regional market is assigned to a particular distributor. Macro-region area managers are available Nearly each national market is assigned to a particular distributor. Macro-region area managers are available. Expansion of the area managers staff, including due to RB’s ex-employees Availability of the logistics center in Europe Yes Yes (in outsourcing) No No Yes Yes Distributor network Distributor network Tendency to extend the distributor network in regional terms instead of the exclusive distributorship (a single distributor for all irrigation market segments) More than one distributor operates in each country. The distributors are involved in selling equipment in all segments of the AIS market Exclusive national distributors, with some exceptions. The distributors are involved in selling equipment in all segments of the AIS market Tendency to extend the distributor network in regional terms instead of the exclusive distributorship. The distributors are involved in selling equipment in all segments of the AIS market Exclusive national distributors, with some exceptions. Distributorship for the entire manufacturer’s equipment, except for the AIS equipment (divided on a market segment basis). Exclusive national distributors, with some exceptions. Distributorship for the entire manufacturer’s equipment, except for the AIS equipment (divided on a market segment basis). Additional services Service maintenance. Technical support Own service engineers on the primary sales markets. Some efforts are being taken to provide for the technical support. Service maintenance and technical support may be provided through the European branch network (in cooperation with the distributors) Call-centers in the USA and in Europe, authorized service partners, service engineers No Underdeveloped. No Call-centers available An exclusive distributor acts as a service engineer and as a service partner An exclusive distributor acts as a service engineer and as a service partner. Call-centers in the USA, with a special unit for European customers Training Well developed Well developed Underdeveloped Yes, to some extent (more as the presentation of own equipment) Training is for distributors only. For others is the equipment presentation Training is for distributors only. For others is the equipment presentation AIS designing Yes Yes Yes, with the involvement of the outside designers Yes, with the involvement of the outside designers Yes, with the involvement of the outside designers Yes, with the involvement of the outside designers Promotion, social projects Advertising. Exhibition participation Advertisement in the highly specialized magazines. Participation in thematic exhibitions. Printing of brochures and catalogues with technical information for limited groups of specialists, distributors, etc. Additional promotional events, and participation in social projects - depending on the distributors, area-managers, management of the European centers
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