Where’s the money? Some advice to improve your business’ Cash Flow

Cash flow is one of the issues SMEs struggle with the most. It is a topic much discussed and many owners of Small Businesses will confirm that it is a major concern of theirs.

In order to keep your business’ cash flowing you will have to make sure you are managing your cash properly. Careful cash management is generating revenues that bring in more cash than you are spending on your stock, your team and other business expenses and to manage this on an ongoing basis. It boils down to collecting data, reviewing and analysing it and then distributing cash where it is most needed. This may sound quite straight forward but most small and medium sized businesses fail to take the necessary steps in this regard.

1. Cash Forecasting

You should review your expenses such as rent, inventory, salaries and wages and taxes on a regular basis. It’s important to always know what costs you have and make a plan for the future as to what those costs will be and when they will hit your bank balance. Plan exactly when and how much you will be spending and always ask yourself why you are spending the money on each expense. This way you will be able to see what your necessary expenses are and which ones you could save on. There are various cash forecasting tools that can help you map out your spendings.

2. Monitor incoming payments

Check your accounts regularly for payments coming in. Late payments are a problem that many SMEs face and they can often be the reason for running low on cash. To avoid this make sure you invoice your customers promptly and to send invoices to the right person. Keep track of outstanding payments and take measures to chase late payments. There is nothing wrong with giving customers a nudge. A great, non-invasive, way of doing this is sending out reminder emails to encourage customers to pay outstanding bills. Visually appealing emails, with a simple call to action, such as “Pay Now”, linking to a payment site, will go a long way.

3. Dream big, stay humble

Having a grand vision of your business’ future is important and ambition is desired. However, it is important to stay realistic. The only certainty you have is that the future of any business is uncertain. Even if you can follow a particular patterns in earnings, it doesn’t mean that these will continue as such. You cannot predict the behaviour of potential customers and rates change all the time, in an unpredictable way. Therefore it is smart to expect the worst while working for the best, when managing your business’ cash.

4. Maximise the returns on your cash holdings

An aspect almost always neglected by SMEs is making sure that the business’ cash holdings are generating the maximum amount of returns, based on the best rates of the market. This is partially due to a lack of awareness of market activity, but mostly it is a lack of time and resources to scan the market for the best rates and then moving the business’ money around accordingly. Akoni stepped up and created a tool to automate this process. We provide a platform that scans the market for the best rates and cash can then be continuously allocated in a way that will maximise returns, in just a few clicks. In this way you can make extra money for your business while not adding another task to the to-do list.

If you follow these basic guidelines your business will be in a secure position to continue running and you can properly facilitate growth with healthy cash flow.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register free at AkoniHub.com and follow us on Twitter

 

 

3 Must-Haves When Choosing Your Business Bank

Small business banking is a topic that sometimes gets short shrift. With interest rates beginning to rise and business services at big banks closely resembling one another, small business media coverage tends to focus on more interesting topics such as technology, operations and company culture.

Because the banking news is static, it’s easy to forget how critical banks really are in the day-to-day life of a small business. However, trying to differentiate competing banks is a difficult task. National banks tend to match one another too closely in the pricing and structure of their small business products, while local banks vary too widely based on local conditions. Still, there are a number of basic qualities that make a bank the ideal choice for a small business.

Continue reading…

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register free at AkoniHub.com and follow us on Twitter

Poor Financial Management: 5 Practical Tips To Save Your Small Business

The right amount of debt can propel the business into a high growth trajectory but too much debt can pull it down as quickly. The magnitude of the problem is revealed by a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) study that shows that half of small businesses tend to collapse within the first 5 years due to poor financial management, including excessive debt.

Akoni can help to increase returns on cash holdings, but we think you should have a look at these tips as well

Read more…

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com and follow us on Twitter

Small businesses working hard to meet living wage challenge

The article below outlines the struggles British Small Businesses face with being able to keep up with the National Living Wage for their employees. They do seem to manage to find the funds by adjusting their budget but we can’t help to think that Akoni can add value to this issue, by offering Small Businesses better returns for their existing cash. This of course means more money on their accounts for anything that is needed to keep the business going and perhaps even grow:

“British small businesses are managing to stretch their budgets to cover the national living wage for their employees.

New research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) shows the majority (64 per cent) of small firms impacted by the National Living Wage (NLW) have stretched to meet the latest rise by taking lower profits.”

Read the full article here http://smallbusiness.co.uk/small-businesses-meet-living-wage-2540101/?platform=hootsuite

5 tips for effective SME cash flow management

Profitable businesses fail every year because they simply run out of cash. Stay in control, achieve healthy cash flow and grow your business with these tips.

Understanding cash flow is crucial if you want your business to survive.

Only by staying on top of the incomings and outgoings of your business can stay in control, make informed decisions and protect your business against unforeseen events, such as an unexpected tax bill from HMRC. Here are five steps to keeping your business in tip top condition by managing cash flow successfully.

Continue reading the article on http://www.smeweb.com/2017/07/03/effective-sme-cash-flow-management/

Are you making these cashflow mistakes?

Banana skin

According to a recent study by a global Bank, 82% of small businesses fail because of poor cash management skills or poor understanding of cashflow. Don’t let yours be one of them!

Here are four common – and costly – cashflow mistakes. Are you making any of these?

1. Omitting to analyse your expenditure

You should review your expenses regularly, including rent, inventory, salaries and wages, taxes and debt payment. What’s right for your business will depend on what you do. For example, a local B2C business might choose to pay high rent for a prime location with high footfall, while a B2B wholesaler can save on rental costs by choosing a cheaper out-of-town location.

Benchmark your spending against competitors and other companies of a similar size and life cycle. Consider the potential return on every penny you spend, and trim any unnecessary expenditure.

Create a strategic forecast to help guide your budget. Record the amount and date of all your upcoming cash outlays. Create a separate line item for every significant cost.

Cash forecasting should be a simple activity incorporated into the monthly activities of a business and there are various tools that can assist.

2. Forgetting to focus on the money flowing in

Money in accounts receivable can be a sign of payments to come, but the money still needs to be collected. You can’t spend accounts receivable yet, so don’t treat them as profit.

Create (and follow) a process to keep on top of incoming payments:

  • Issue invoices promptly
  • Implement credit checks on all new non-cash customers
  • Collect a deposit at the point of the initial order
  • Move to payment in advance, or even cash-on-delivery, if possible
  • Track slow-paying customers and don’t delay about contacting them

Monitor ‘Collection days’ (how long you wait to get paid); ‘Inventory turnover’ (how long inventory sits on your shelf); and ‘Payment days’ (how long you wait to pay your suppliers). Negotiate faster payment terms with your clients and slower terms with your suppliers.

Be proactive about collecting late payments. Ensure the contract you have with your clients makes clear what happens when payments are delayed, such as applying a late-payment penalty or stopping work.

Cashflow advice is one of the things you get in your AkoniHub personalised report.

3. Not being realistic

The only constant is change. So don’t assume that receivables will always continue to come in at the same rate. Also, interest rates fluctuate, and payables may not be extended as far as they have been in the past.

It’s impossible to predict the future, so the best thing to do is to prepare for the worst, while hoping and working for the best.

If you find yourself heading for a sticky cashflow situation:

  • Apply for working capital before you run out of money (banks are happier to offer a loan before you need it)
  • Ask your suppliers for extended payment terms (they have a vested interest in your success)

It’s easy to find the business bank accounts with the best interest rate when you join AkoniHub.

4. Growing too fast

Remember, turnover isn’t profit, and profit isn’t cash. Your company will only survive if you generate more cash than you spend. If your outgoing expenses exceed your incoming cash, you have a cashflow problem.

The answer isn’t just selling more stuff, more quickly – because the faster you grow, the more financing you need. You will always need cash to use as working capital.

Don’t take an increase in orders as a sign to increase spending. Don’t build up inventory that you hold in stock for ages. Continue to be ‘lean’ and operate on minimal expenditure as you grow.

Plan ahead and secure appropriate financing to ensure you have sufficient working capital for peak times.

Retailers have to do major purchasing in the run up to busy seasons such as Christmas, but not all patterns are so predictable. If you’re experiencing or facing a growth spurt, remember that production costs increase at the same rate as sales. To avoid increased returns or loss of loyal customers, ensure your customer service is scaleable to cope with increased demand.

In summary

Following these tips will keep investors happy, allow you to make strategic choices, and provide you with a financial cushion in case you need it.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

Cash management for construction firms

As with any business, ‘cashflow is king’ in the construction industry.

Even profitable construction companies can have cashflow problems, and there has been a high rate of insolvencies in the industry for years. Contractors go out of business not because they run out of work, but because of poor management and lack of financial control.

If you consistently make a loss, you’ll fail. If you run out of cash, you’ll fail.

Construction companies need special cashflow management strategies to help them fund expenses, mitigate any losses, and achieve profitability.

Here are some of the challenges that are unique to this sector:

Time-lag between income and expenses

Construction companies have to cover their expenses every week, even though the average number of days it takes to get paid is 60 – 90.

Change orders

Change orders are common, due to extreme weather causing delays, or a project requiring more time, money and/or resources than originally expected. Try to resolve change orders quickly so the project can be completed and the final bill issued.

Retention

Construction contracts often have a retention rate up to 10%, meaning that only 90% of completed work can be billed. Try to negotiate a reduction in the retention rate, perhaps dropping to 5% retention once 50% of the work is complete. If possible, withhold payment to your sub-contractors at the same rate (assuming that is permitted under local regulations).

Inventory

Don’t buy too many materials and store them for future use. If not used quickly, this inventory just ties up your cash. Don’t allow resources to build up beyond what you need in the short- to medium-term, and sell off any excess.

Equipment

Similarly, if you have invested in equipment that’s not in use, it’s losing money. Know how much each item costs to run, and monitor your equipment usage accurately. Limit downtime. If equipment is not generating money for the business, then rent it or sell it. Consider leasing fixed assets rather than purchasing them.

Cash management throughout the lifecycle of a construction project

Every project is different, and you need to know the net cash position for each unique project. Here are some tips that cover the five main stages of a construction contract:

  1. Pre-bidding and bidding
  • Review the credit status of your potential customer
  • Review the payment arrangements in the project contract
  • Cost the contract accurately
  • Understand what financial records need to be kept
  1. Contract awarded
  • Finalise the details of the project contract and negotiate favourable terms
    • When payments will be made
    • How payments will be made
    • What happens if payments are not made
    • What costs are allowed within the contract
    • What performance penalty is allowed, if any
    • What is the retention rate
    • When is the property owner’s monthly cut-off for invoices to be received
  1. Before construction
  • Hold a pre-construction meeting to agree the project overview and what reporting and documentation is required
  • Establish a performance and billing schedule, month by month
  1. During construction
  • Follow the performance and billing schedule
  • Follow the schedule of values
  • Negotiate with vendors and subcontractors to save money
  • Send invoices in line with the contract terms
  • Pay suppliers in line with the contract terms
  1. End of contract
  • To avoid delaying the final payment, ensure you complete the project to the customer’s satisfaction
  • Collect the final payment

If that’s what to focus on for each construction project, here is some general cashflow management advice:

At company level

  • Use cashflow management software to predict future income and expenses
  • Train your project managers so they understand how to manage cashflow
  • Develop a good relationship with your bank, so you can access credit if you need it to cover unexpected expenses

Dealing with suppliers

  • Let suppliers know you are shopping around – this incentivises them to offer you the best deal
  • Negotiate a discount on materials
  • Extend credit from 30 to 60 days
  • Use financing to spread the cost

Paying staff

  • Offer incentives based on cashflow performance
  • Consider outsourcing. Full-time construction employees are usually paid weekly or fortnightly, while sub-contractors are usually paid every month (this can benefit cashflow but potentially raises the risk of issues with security or quality)

Invoicing customers

  • Write clear payment terms
  • Check credit reports before you make any deals
  • Develop a front-loaded schedule of values. Bill in phases for items such as mobilisation, then site development, and finally walls, roof, landscaping and finish. Don’t put all the profit into the last tasks. Build profit into the front end to help mitigate the natural cash outflow when the job gets underway
  • Automate your invoices so they are issued on time – or even early
  • Offer payment incentives
  • Avoid over-billing and under-billing. Over-billing may increase cashflow in the short term, but too much overbilling may mean that you are borrowing from one job to pay for another. It’s best to invoice according to how much of the project is completed
  • Accept electronic payments; they are the quickest way to get paid
  • Do whatever you can to increase the speed of receivables, such as reducing your payment terms to 50 days or less
  • Chase late payers promptly, and restructure terms

Automation

There are various ways to make it easier to manage your construction company, such as job management software from Okappy, and cash management services from AkoniHub.

With money in the bank, you can pay bills promptly, which helps get competitive prices from suppliers and sub-contractors. With better cashflow, you have more capital to use for day-to-day operations, accounts payable and growth. With increased automation, you can stay on top of your cashflow and have more chance of building a successful construction business.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

Business savings: Why it’s worth shopping around

shopping bags

The UK is currently sweltering under a heatwave, and the sun looks set to keep shining for a few more days at least. However, the interest rate climate is uncertain, with rising inflation and the wider economic impact to be considered.

As discussed in last week’s newsflash, rates are bound to rise sometime, although the Bank of England base rate is staying at 0.25% for the time being.

What about the USA?

Rates may soon be on the move if the UK follows the US pattern.

Over the Atlantic, interest rates were held at record lows since the financial crisis. The first increase in nine years came in December 2015, then in December 2016 and again in March this year.

Base rates in America are set using the Federal Reserve funds rate (this is the amount banks and other institutions charge each other to borrow money held at the central bank).

The Daily Telegraph says: “The US Federal Reserve is expected to raise its federal funds target to between 1.00% and 1.25%, from 0.75% to 1.0%.”

Managing your savings while interest rates are low

Businesses are managing and optimising the opportunities and risks presented by Brexit and the current climate. You might have deposited money in the bank to act as a cash reserve, to save for new equipment or to fuel long-term business growth. A sensible business will make their money work as hard as possible, while keeping enough in a current account for effective cashflow.

Why leave your cash in business savings accounts that pay little or no interest when you could boost the income you receive by 10 to 12 times when you choose an account paying the highest rate?

UK businesses have £258bn in cash balances and make next to nothing on them – in some cases, businesses with cash holdings are being charged fees by their banks

A business with £2 million cash holdings could generate an additional £30,000 per year. This return could provide for a new marketing campaign or a staff member, contributing to productivity and profit.

Akoni CEO and co-founder, Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, says: “Most businesses sweat all assets, yet cash typically languishes.”

A business savings account is the best place for any surplus funds, because they usually offer higher rates than a business current account. Broadly, you can choose between two types of business savings account:

1. Fixed rate bonds

With a fixed rate bond, you choose a term from one to three years. The rates on business bonds tend to be better than variable rate accounts, and are guaranteed so you know what you’ll be getting.

Generally, the longer you’re willing to lock your funds away, the higher interest rate you’ll receive.

However, there’s no flexibility, and you won’t be able to add funds. Usually, you won’t be able to make any withdrawals before the maturity date. If you do, you’ll have to pay a significant penalty.

You could get 2.2% when you invest £500K in Secure Trust Bank for 60 months, or 2.0% over 48 months*

Check today’s fixed rates on AkoniHub >

2. Variable rate accounts

‘Variable’ means providers can change the interest rate at any time.

With an easy access business savings account, you get instant access to your funds in case of emergency. These accounts are very flexible. The minimum balance is likely to be low, and there will be few withdrawal restrictions, so you can make as many deposits and withdrawals as you wish.

Interest rates are higher with a notice account, but you will have to give notice to your provider before you can withdraw any money. Notice periods generally vary from 30 days to 120. If they allow you to access funds earlier,  there will usually be a penalty.

You could get 1.0% when you invest £500K in ICICI Bank instant access business savings account*

Check today’s variable rates on AkoniHub >

Things to look out for

It’s important to consider the small print as well as the headline rate. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Does the rate include a short-term bonus? If yes, you may need to move your savings when the rate drops
  • Is your type of company eligible? Do you meet the turnover criteria?
  • Is there a minimum investment requirement?
  • Do you need to maintain a minimum balance at all times?
  • How many penalty-free withdrawals can you make each year?
  • Are you restricted to accessing the account only in branch, by phone or by post?

Ensure you’re covered by FSCS protection

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) protects the first £85,000 you hold in each institution with a separate UK banking licence – but only if you’re a ‘small business’ that meets at least two of these criteria:

  • 50 employees or fewer
  • £6.5 million turnover or less
  • £3.26 million balance sheet total or less

To find out more, please see our article: Are your deposits protected?

A note about tax

Interest is paid gross, so remember to notify HMRC of any tax your business owes on its savings interest.

Follow our cash management advice by shopping around to find the best rate, and you’ll be happy to pay extra tax on the extra interest you’ve earned!

*Interest rates correct at time of writing.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

Are your deposits protected?

Padlock

Individuals and businesses are rightly concerned about risking their cash, especially since the 2007/8 financial crisis.

As you may remember, the problems started in the US with the sub-prime lending crisis and collapse of Lehman Brothers. This led to a run on UK’s Northern Rock that forced the government to intervene and guarantee deposits, followed by the need to step in and save HBOS and RBS (owner of NatWest).

FSCS

After NatWest was deemed ‘too big to fail’, the government launched the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) – an independent fund designed to protect your money if the worst happens.

The FSCS applies to all organisations regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and covers all UK-regulated current accounts, savings accounts and cash ISAs held in banks, building societies and credit unions.

If your bank collapses, it’s likely that you’ll lose access to the cash temporarily, but you should get your money back within seven days.

As part of the Akoni service, we share advice on making the most of your cash. So here are six things you need to know about how the FSCS protects your deposits:

1. The amount of protection you get has increased from £75,000 to £85,000

The amount protected in each UK-regulated financial institution increased by £10,000 on 30 January 2017.

Chief Executive, Mark Neale, said: “Our new limit will protect about 98% of the UK public, so people can be sure their money in banks, building societies and credit unions is safe.”

2. Joint accounts get double protection

Cash in joint accounts is protected up to £170,000 – half each. But beware. If you have another account with the same institution, your individual savings totalling over £85,000 won’t be covered.

3. In some cases, up to £1m will be protected for six months

If your savings balance is temporarily high due to a life event such as selling your main home (not a second home or buy-to-let property), inheriting money, redundancy, or a payout from insurance or compensation, the FSCS protects up to £1m for up to six months if your provider fails.

This allows extra time to plan. Meanwhile, you can move the cash into an account that pays higher interest, and maximise your cash.

4. Check which institution owns your bank

Remember, the limit is not £85,000 for every account, it’s for every financial institution. So you need to know which institution ultimately owns the brand name where your account is held.

The definition of ‘institution’ depends on what licence the bank holds. For example, Halifax and Bank of Scotland are sister banks, and your money is covered up to £85,000 combined. However, RBS and NatWest are also sister banks, but their limits are separate.

See the list on the Bank of England website >

5. Check that the FSCS covers the bank where your money is deposited

Most banks that are located in the UK are also regulated in the UK, including some that are owned overseas, such as Spain’s Santander. However, there are a few EU banks that are not UK-regulated, such as use Fidor and RCI Bank. Instead, they use a ‘passport scheme’ which gives protection from their home government.

Find out more on the FSCS website >

6. Spread the risk

We recommend you deposit less than £83,000 in any one institution, which leaves room for interest to grow. We also suggest you spread your money across at least two institutions. This is because if one bank collapses, there will be a delay in releasing your funds via the FSCS, meanwhile, you will still be able to access your cash in the other.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

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Cashflow Tips for Your Expanding SME

As an owner of a small business for over ten years, I’ve seen my fair share of cashflow crises. It’s the one thing that all small and medium (and large) business owners experience somewhere along the line, and dread.

Here are some tips we’ve compiled to help SME business owners plan ahead, and may help avoid the cash flow crunch:

ONE: Cashflow Forecasting

The first thing to do is to predict where and when the business’s cash is coming in to cover what is going out, and make some profit on the side. Imagine if a client didn’t pay on time and plan for that. Set realistic earnings targets a year into the future, planning ahead week by week. List your SME’s income and expenditure on a spreadsheet, taking factors such as the peaks and troughs of trade, the overhead costs of running the office during the various seasons and staff leave, amongst other factors, into account.

TWO: Accounting Software

Cloud based tools allow SME’s to scale up and migrate their software as the company grows. Depending on your business profile, some of the most popular cloud-based tools out there are Xero, Freshbooks, Quickbooks and Sage, which provide solutions that are affordable and easy to use. They feature time-saving features such as automated entries, invoicing, bill payments, expense reports, financial reports and reconciliations – all key to keeping your cashflow fluid.

THREE: Strong Business Process

By definition, a business process is an activity or set of activities that will accomplish a specific organizational goal. Ensuring that your business has a strong business process, and is focussed on growth and  financial success makes the company more streamlined and efficient – which will translate directly to  your cashflow, as you will be getting the maximum out of your company to earn the best turnover for the least amount of input possible.

Ensure fiscal control by segregating duties in the financial department –  i.e. separate people working on the bank reconciliations and invoice billing.  If the SME is small, the business owner should always check the bank reconciliation, making sure they keep up to date with company finances. Enhance the business process by, for example, integrating CRM programmes that facilitate and streamline one’s marketing and client relations strategy, or by using cloud based invoicing which link your marketing and sales teams.

FOUR: Optimal Payment Terms

Always remember that your clients have different business priorities to your company’s. The longer they can delay paying your company, the better for their business. Negotiate terms with your clients that suit both sides – and bargain hard. On long-term projects, explore progress payments, never accept back-to-back payments (you get paid when the client gets paid) and make sure you are getting the most agreeable terms possible from your suppliers. Negotiate the best deal woith suppliers, but keep them on your side by settling their bills within their terms too. Business is all about relationships, and building up a loyal supply base is one of the secrets to success.

Offering clients incentive to pay early is a good way to ensure bills are settled in a timely way – small discounts or free delivery for early payment goes a long way to fostering good client relations, and getting the payments in quicker.

Make sure that you are using the most cost effective manner of payment – bank charges on card transactions can be steep, online payments may take days to clear – ultimately you need something to investigate the most effective payment method for your business needs.  You can speak to your bank relating to the most efficient services provided and the costs per transaction.

coffee-cup-mug-deskFIVE: Funding Your SME

When your business needs funding, the first place to go is the high street banks -still the largest funding source for SME’s. There are also a number of challenger banks out there, offering great deals. Should you need alternative funding sources, then consider  financing though companies like TradeRiver or FundingCircle (who provide a thirty second eligibility check, with no impact on your credit rating, and has a £60million facility via the government-back British Business Bank) or BoostCapital (online application and an answer within 24 hours, with access to the funds within two days).

SIX: Deliver the Goods

Make sure the customer has no excuses not to pay. Deliver a good quality product, on time and within the brief. Realise that without customers you don’t have a reason to exist. Customer complaints should be taken seriously as these will alert you to problems that could indicate a serious leak in your cash flow. Disputes hold up payments, which leads to cash flow problems.

Listen to your clients – if they have suggestions to improve your User Journey, or your product, implement them. You should see the difference in your bottom line. Ask your happy customers to write company review on TrustPilot or Which.co.uk or s similar website. Good reviews are what drive sales. Sales translate into cash. Regular cash coming in helps your cash flow.

SEVEN: Make Your Cash Work

SME business savings are often a blindspot when it comes to the banks, and now there are an increasing number of alternative savings accounts out there that are tailored towards the SME market. If you have your business’s cash savings stored in a savings account earning next to nothing, we at StongJones suggest you shop around for a better deal. There are many banks such as Investec, ICIC, SBI as well as the challenger banks which are offering competitive rates. There is a growing awareness amongst financial institutions of the need to cater for SME’s, recognising that they are the future of business in the UK.

Finally…

Being an SME owner comes with many challenges. Well known businessman and entrepreneur Sir David Tang once said that the three most dreaded words in the English language were “Negative Cash Flow “. However, if one can get the basics right, and gets a good operating system in place, then your business has a far better chance of surviving the first few crucial years, and will be well prepared for future expansion.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

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