News Archives - Pat Carroll PCCO - Chartered Accountants & Tax Advisors

60pc of spending online goes abroad

Ireland’s rocketing consumer spending has fuelled a surge in online shopping, but the upswing in digital purchases has come at the expense of local retailers.

According to a recent survey, 60pc of the cash spent by consumers online last year flowed offshore.

The findings were revealed in the latest Consumer Market Monitor published today by the Marketing Institute of Ireland (MII) and UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.

The results, which offer a broad snapshot of consumer trends, dovetail with research by Retail Ireland and Retail Excellence, which showed the relentless shift online is harming local retailers.

But the increased migration online comes as retail spending overall rose by 7pc in 2017 to €40bn, according to the survey. The jump reflects the fattening wallets of Irish consumers as disposable income hit €102bn at the end of 2017 – eclipsing the last peak in 2007.

Tom Trainor, head of the MII, said: “Continuing employment growth is increasing the disposable income in circulation.

“This has taken us just about back to the level we were at 10 years ago, before the recession stalled the economy.”

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Sharing distribution costs could help artisan food producers grow

The retail food industry has for years been dominated by well-established brands, but more recently that has been interrupted by the discounters. They all have deep pockets to spend on marketing and distribution. They have the economies of scale to ensure they have the distribution reach and the cost base to profitably service the four corners of the country. In such a crowded and competitive market, how does an Irish artisan food producer cope?

According to Teagasc, the production of speciality food in Ireland accounts for a €500m a year from a base of approximately 300 producers. For artisan food producers, being sufficiently relevant so that retailers will give them space is an ongoing challenge. I take my hat off to those retailers who support and give them the opportunity to build their business.

Now those retailers are not charities and they expect to be able to sell all goods at a fair price, at a fair margin and in sufficient volume to justify the allocated space. That pushes the challenge back up the supply chain and it means that all producers have to perform. That usually means having a niche and a marketable product that sells out the door repeatedly. And doing that in a cost-effective way is not easy when you consider limited scale, short shelf-life, costs, etc.

A niche for most artisan suppliers comes from producing premium products that collectively give Ireland the international reputation for great quality. It makes me very proud when I see Irish brands on display on my travels.

Kelly’s of Newport, Artisan Butchers

If you were asked who the first Irishman to be knighted by the Brotherhood of the Black Pudding was, would you even know that such an organisation existed? Sean Kelly of Kelly’s in Newport was awarded this strange title. He and his brother Seamus have also won many other quality awards over the years.

Now employing about 30 staff, they are custodians of an 88-year-old family brand of artisan butchers in Newport, Co Mayo. Situated 19km west of Castlebar, they have a reputation for ‘making up to a standard, not down to a price’. In addition to the butcher shop, they have a newly opened restaurant next door that is capitalising on the extra tourists drawn to the Great Western Greenway. They have their own abattoir for beef and lamb and 80pc of that is sourced from their own farm.

Sean, Seamus and now a third generation – Kenneth, Cormac and Shauna – have developed a niche range of speciality sausages along with black and white pudding. Flavours include pork with garlic or leek and lamb with redcurrant.

Behind their quirky character and wit, there is a very astute business acumen and they have successfully achieved listings with some major retailers in Ireland and the UK.

Recent Challenges
Pudding has a three-month shelf life, so distribution is not a problem. Sausages however have a challenging 14-day shelf life. The big stores that are listing the Kelly’s range such as Dunnes Stores, are in Dublin. That too is where the volume is.

Furthermore, for any producer wanting to sell to the big companies they have to adapt to their needs. For example, Dunnes in Cornelscourt is a massive store. Goods with short shelf life have to be delivered direct to store before 8am. But even for other big retailers that have central distribution, short shelf-life is still a challenge for the producer.

Dublin is 250km from Newport which means the refrigerated van leaves at 3am twice a week. Keep in mind too that pudding and sausages are small items, so undoubtedly the van is carrying a lot of the fresh Atlantic air from Newport to Dublin – and returning totally empty. That is a big ongoing cost that impacts on margin, especially at the start of the business relationship – until the volume grows. I have no doubt that this issue resonates with artisan producers all over Ireland and finding a practical solution within cost constraints must be a big win for them.


My immediate thought was to freeze the products, although Sean will not do that as he feels it negatively impacts the quality of his fresh product. Nor is there a cost-effective refrigerated delivery service available locally. A further thought came to mind which I’ve seen in large corporates around the world – it is that non-competing complementary organisations of all sizes are collaborating more and more.

It is already working for an Irish agent selling Irish produce in Dubai. Several artisan producers from all over Ireland currently send their goods to a factory near Dublin. From there, they are repacked in chilled boxes and flown daily to Dubai. That even includes strawberries, which have a shorter shelf-life than sausages.

There have to be other producers in the west of Ireland particularly on the N4 corridor with similar challenges. Instead of a number of half-empty vans heading in the same direction, what if producers were to come together in a collaborative way to share the cost?

If it works for shipments to Dubai with an added eight-hour flight, why can’t it work within Ireland? It just takes a character like Sean to initiate and lead that idea in Mayo.


There are thousands of small businesses in Ireland across all industries, challenged with achieving margin in the absence of scale. By reaching out through our industry federations, business groups, chambers of commerce and state agencies, I have no doubt that there is a high willingness to collaborate, not just for distribution. All it requires is an openness to share and talk.

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Brexit offering opportunities for Irish firms in fintech area

“I talk about fintech being like a parent and a child, with the bank being the parent and fintech the child. Five years ago, everyone was talking about fintech being disruptive, out to get rid of banks. But five years later, the banks are still here,” said Chris Skinner, the world-renowned fintech and financial services expert, who was in Dublin to deliver the keynote speech for Enterprise Ireland’s Future of Fintech conference.

This view of increasing collaboration between disruptive startups and established banks was echoed by a number of panellists, who included Elly Hardwick, head of innovation at Deutsche Bank; Kamlesh Thakur, chairman of Mumbai-based Prime Investrade; and Stephen Moran, head of research and development at Bank of Ireland.

The conference was attended by more than 100 leaders, disruptors and collaborators from international banking and fintech hubs. Attendees of the event, held at Dogpatch Labs in January, also met Enterprise Ireland-backed companies to discuss partnership opportunities.

With opportunities emerging as attitudes towards the sector mature, a combination of established global leaders with significant Irish operations and innovative Irish companies positions the industry well for international growth.

Ireland has become a globally-recognised centre for specialist International Financial Services, with 200 Enterprise Ireland-backed companies, employing nearly 10,000 people across the sector, at the end of 2017. Irish companies, from startups to scaling and large multinational companies, have achieved significant impact in international markets, exporting to 100 countries.

Companies offer innovative solutions and services across payments, regulatory technologies and broader fintech applications, an achievement supported by astute investments and an understanding of the market.

For many Irish-based companies, disruption involves delivering a better, more convenient customer experience.

“Legacy banks use the SWIFT network, which is slow and opaque, charges hefty ForEx fees, and fees both to send and receive money. We believe that is not fit for purpose,” said Gary Conroy, chief commercial officer of Irish international payments business TransferMate.

Irish startup Plynk targets millennials with a service that lets them “text” one another money. “For us, payments are social,” said Charles Dowd, Plynk’s CEO. “With the phone, you phoned places. With a mobile, you call people. You don’t think about the systems. Mobile money will be the same. It’s not about payments, it’s about people.”

The point was echoed by Conroy of TransferMate in relation to cryptocurrencies, “Cards, banks, the blockchain are just rails. How quickly I can get the payment from A to B is all people care about.”

In the regulatory space, the cost of governance, risk and compliance is estimated at 15pc of the total cost of running a financial services firm.

Technology can help deliver a better customer experience there too. “RegTech is about the intelligent use of technology to get better outcomes for clients. It’s also about stopping regulations getting in the way of the user experience,” said John Byrne, CEO of regulatory risk intelligence firm Corlytics.

Brexit may be viewed nervously by some sectors but, for fintech, it promises to bring real opportunity, according to expert Chris Skinner.

“US banks are actively relocating core European services to Ireland. I’m not just hearing that, I’m seeing it,” he said. “London is still seen as a global financial centre, but for access to Europe, with the assumption that London no longer has that access to Europe, the next best place for US banks is Ireland, and not just Dublin but along the west coast too.”

Favourable market circumstances internationally and a strong ecosystem at home make the future of fintech bright for Irish companies, particularly in the UK and North American markets, with Europe and Asia-Pacific also featuring strongly in last year’s export figures.

Giles O’Neill is head of Fintech at Enterprise Ireland

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Do you ‘think creatively and do things differently’? This entrepreneurial competition could be for you

Whether you’ve got an entrepreneurial idea to explore or wish your grow your existing budding enterprise, this annual national competition is now open for business.

Social Entrepreneurs Ireland are calling for business minds across the country who wish to solve social issues to be in with a chance of getting the funding and support to leverage their plans.

The 2018 Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Awards, supported by marketing and support services group DCC, opens for applications on Wednesday, February 14.

Up to eight leading concepts will win support in the Awards category, a prize is valued at €25,000, with €10,000 in direct funding.

Those with early-stage ideas will earn on of up to 30 places in the Academy for Social Entrepreneurs where they will receive mentoring and support and the opportunity to pitch for seed funding.

A new Academy for Social Entrepreneurs is also being launched in Galway, according to the SEI, which is expanding its range of programmes due to the high quantity of applications received last year.

“We were inundated with ideas last year,” said Darren Ryan, CEO of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland.

“It goes to show how much appetite there is in Ireland to think creatively and do things differently. That’s where real change happens.”

Applications close at 5pm on March 20 and interested candidates can apply or find out more at

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Home economics: Sinead Ryan answers your property questions

Q. I’m confused about the new affordable mortgages being proposed. Do I still need a deposit and do I have to buy a local authority home?

A. I think you have the wrong end of the stick, but it is confusing. The new loan scheme to provide mortgages to those who cannot get them from banks, was recently announced by Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy with rollout from this month for up to 1,000 mortgages.

Although the loans will be made available by local authorities, they have nothing to do with council properties – you can buy (or build) any house (subject to size for builds). The loans will be at low interest rates compared to the retail banks (fixed at 2 – 2.25pc over 25 or 30 years). The key criteria to meet are tough, however.

You must have been already refused a mortgage by at least two banks. It is reserved for borrowers who earn no more than €50,000 (€75,000 for couples), but you can borrow up to 90pc of the property’s value, so yes, you need a deposit.

You must be a first time buyer, in continuous employment for at least two years (or have two years of accounts if self-employed), and it has to be your principal residence. There are financial checks similar to those a bank would employ.

If you jump those hurdles, the maximum market value of the property cannot exceed €320,000 in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Louth, Meath, Kildare or Wicklow, and €250,000 anywhere else.

The website, despite its an unwieldy name ( gives good details on the scheme. Loans can be applied for via your local authority if you meet the requirements.

I received a letter under my apartment door from my landlord (which some of my neighbours appear to have received also), informing us that a new charge is being applied for parking and refuse collection. For this, he claims, he is installing new communal bins for separating waste and painting parking spaces with apartment numbers on them which he says is enhancing the property. None of us asked for this, but it’s going to cost an extra €120 a month which I can’t afford. He says he is within the law, but is it a sneaky rent increase and can I stop it? I’m in a Rent Pressure Zone.

It certainly looks like it. I’m hearing quite a lot of inventive excuses to push up rent by pretending it’s not really rent at all, but of course, to tenants like yourself, it’s still a hike in the monthly outgoing to a landlord, so it hardly matters what it’s called.

It seems from what you are saying that the landlord is attempting to justify the increase on the refurbishment clause which allows higher than 4pc rent increases if there is a ‘substantial change’ to the property’s value.

This normally is taken to mean additional bedrooms or living space, and a painted car park space and a few bins would certainly not qualify. Neither does re-painting, or installing new white goods, for instance.

By law currently, your landlord is required to provide access to adequate refuse storage facilities in any event, so this is hardly an improvement either.

A spokesperson from Threshold told me, “We are seeing this issue crop up particularly where leases are being renewed.

“It is abnormal once a lease has been signed to introduce additional charges but it’s difficult to comment in the absence of details on the lease.

“The landlord’s actions could be seen as an attempt to circumnavigate the legislation which limits rent reviews in a RPZ to 4pc per annum and we would advise you refer a dispute to the RTB. Alternatively, contact our team of dedicated housing advisors on our freephone helpline 1800 454 454 which operates from 9am-9pm.”

The Ryan Review

I was in a taxi the other day, and as occasionally happens, was asked by the driver what I thought the property market was like these days, and whether it was worth investing in. He already had two apartments, and was considering taking a punt on a third, bemoaning the price increases and regulations, but justifying the rental income and stock shortage. He reckoned it was now or never, but confessed to be also fascinated about cryptocurrencies – he knew someone who had cashed in Bitcoin at the ‘right time’. What did I think?

In late 1928 Joe Kennedy (Wall St mogul and father of John F) stopped on his way to work to have his shoes shined on a street stoop. The boy wielding the cloth and brushes started discussing stocks with him, offering him tips on what to put his money in. There and then Kennedy decided to sell up everything in his stock portfolio, reasoning “You know it’s time to sell when shoeshine boys give you stock tips; the bull market is over.”

He was one of the few who avoided the Great Depression when the stock market crashed the following year. I don’t know where the property market is going, any more than I know about cryptocurrencies, and anyone who tells you they do, doesn’t either. What I do know, is that we have inexorably rising prices, both capital and rent, and an unsustainable market. We also now, have cheap, easy credit.

And I also know that every bubble needs a shoeshine boy.

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Rents spiral despite Minister’s claims that bargains are available

Rental costs were up again in January despite the rate of inflation falling back, new official figures show.

Private rents rose by 6.3pc in the year to January, despite overall prices going up by just 0.2pc, according to the Central Statistics Office.

For the month of January, overall prices fell by 0.7pc – but this is the second set of figures in a week to show higher costs for accommodation.

The new figures come after Junior Finance Minister Michael D’Arcy created a political storm when he said there were rents in Dublin “at a fraction of headline figures”.

He was responding to a survey showing rents in every county in Ireland rose in the last quarter of 2017.

Fellow ministers are distancing themselves from Mr D’Arcy’s remarks.

Ministers Michael Ring, Denis Naughten and Catherine Byrne all deflected questions on Mr D’Arcy and none of them agreed with him.

Mr D’Arcy has yet to clarify his remarks or give examples of where people could rent “for a fraction” of headline figures that emerged in a stark report on the market.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr D’Arcy said: “There are other places that are available for rent for a fraction of what’s being quoted in the headline figures.

“There’s also different areas where rental isn’t as expensive as it is a couple of streets towards the river and the other side of the river.”

The Lord Mayor of Dublin Mícheál Mac Donncha is the latest Opposition politician to criticise his remarks, describing them as “alarming” at the launch of a report by the Money Advice and Budgeting Service.

The Sinn Féin councillor added: “It shows a distance from reality. For a minister to say that, it’s just showing he is not living in the real world.”

He said people searching for rental accommodation were “in desperation” with some living with parents or in overcrowded conditions because they can’t afford rent.”

Attending the same event, Junior Health Minister Catherine Byrne was asked about Mr D’Arcy’s comments. She replied: “I’m not even going there.”

Ministers Michael Ring and Denis Naughten also sought to side-step questions on the remarks. Asked if Mr D’Arcy’s comments were a mistake, Mr Ring replied: “I wouldn’t speak for a colleague of mine.”

The rural development minister added: “I can only speak for myself and the Government and all I will say is there’s a difficulty out there. People are finding it difficult to get rented accommodation and [it] is not easily got.”

Communications minister Mr Naughten brushed aside the question saying: “There are different circumstances right across this country.”

He added there is also a housing crisis in his own county of Roscommon.

Mr Naughten pointed to the National Planning Framework which will be published today.

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Revealed: How much your local pub needs to make to stay open

Last year saw a 6pc increase in turnover in card sales for Ireland’s pub sector, according to AIB’s 2018 Pubs Outlook.

Food was a key driver of growth for the period, with food service in pubs reaching a market size of €982m in 2017, up 3pc year-on-year.

And increasing numbers of Irish publicans are accepting card payments, with some city centre pubs now achieving 80pc of their turnover from credit and debit cards, according to Visa.

However in order to keep their doors open pubs need to be turning over between €8,000 and €13,000 a week, according to Tony Morrissey, MD of Morrissey’s, the Dublin-based auctioneering and consultancy firm that specialises in the pub and hotel sector.

“If a pub is not turning over €8,000-€9,000 a week in rural areas, then it’s going to be very difficult for them to survive,” Mr Morrissey said.

He went on to say that the same is true of pubs in the capital.

“If a pub [in Dublin] is not turning over between €12,000 and €13,000 a week, it’s in trouble.”

Despite the high level of turnover needed, David McCarthy, head of hospitality & tourism, at AIB Retail & Business Banking maintains that the pub sector in Ireland, which is made up of nearly 7,200 pubs across the country, is performing strongly.

“Strong economic growth, customer sentiment, falling unemployment and a record year for tourism means that the Irish pub sector is performing strongly and there is a sense of optimism within the sector that we haven’t seen in many years,” Mr McCarthy said.

Despite a decline in visitor numbers from the UK last year, the number of UK visitors visiting pubs in Ireland actually increased during the period.

However the report warned on the level of exposure to UK visitors, and the implications of further sterling devaluations.

“As many of the wholesalers currently import goods cross border, there may be indirect exposure to additional costs coming because of Brexit. This may erode margins for publicans across the country,” Mr McCarthy said.

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Hydrogen to power homes, boats and cars on Aran Islands

The Aran Islands will form part of an EU study to see if hydrogen can be produced using renewable energy to power cars, boats and heat buildings.

The €3.5m project led by NUI Galway will also see construction of a hydrogen plant on the Canary Islands, where up to 25kg of hydrogen gas a day will be produced, sufficient to power up to 10 commercially-available cars with a maximum range of 600km.

The hydrogen will be generated using seawater and solar panels, and if successful, similar plants could be installed in offshore and isolated communities, including the Aran Islands.

The project is also being piloted in Madeira in Portugal.

Seafuel project lead, Dr Pau Farràs Costa from the School of Chemistry at NUI Galway, said the project was aimed at establishing a business model to help offshore communities reduce energy imports.

“The plan for the project is to study if this model is a viable business model to export to other places within the islands and other regions,” he said.

“The Aran Islands already has electric vehicles, and we are looking at other possibilities including heat, but also for boats and ferries. We are focused on the islands because they are so dependent on imports.

“This is a carbon-free fuel which will be good for the island and will break the dependency.”

Hydrogen is used to power vehicles in parts of the US, Japan and Germany, and a number of manufacturers have commercially-available cars including Toyota, which only emit water. Japan plans to create an emission-free ‘hydrogen society’ over time.

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Enterprise offices help create 4,000 startup jobs

ALMOST 4,000 jobs were created last year by startups and small businesses backed by their Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs).

This brings the total number of jobs created by LEO-supported companies to 15,000 since the LEOs were established in 2014.

Yesterday’s announcement of some 3,700 jobs created in 2017 was welcomed by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys and the Trade Minister Pat Breen.

“In a challenging environment, LEO clients have contributed substantially to economic development up and down the country, especially outside of the main urban centres,” said Mr Breen.

Overall, there are a total of 31 LEOs nationwide.

The LEOs are run in partnership by Enterprise Ireland and local authorities, and aim to provide support to startups and small businesses.

In addition to the jobs created by LEO-backed companies, more than 80 small businesses progressed from the LEOs into the Enterprise Ireland portfolio last year.

“As these results for 2017 clearly demonstrate, the LEOs are playing a pivotal role in local job creation nationwide,” said Anna-Marie Delaney, Offaly Council CEO and chairwoman of the CCMA Committee on Economic Development & Enterprise.

Meanwhile, the number of job vacancies grew by 3pc year-on-year in the three months to 31 December, with the hotel and catering sector generating the majority of the vacancies, according to the latest employment index.

The technology sector generated 7pc of all jobs vacancies in the final three months of last year, while the construction sector generated 6pc as the sector was boosted by an increasing demand for commercial and residential property,

“Economically, Ireland is in a strong position, and the Q4 2017 Jobs Index reflects this robustness,” said general manager Orla Moran.

However the jobs portal warned Ireland is not immune to threats, with a great deal still unknown about the UK’s departure from the EU.

The slow pace of Brexit negotiations means there is a danger that Irish businesses will simply “forget” the risk of a “bad deal” or “no deal” scenario, Ms Moran said.

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Is Your Business Fit for 2018?

In discussion with Mark Kellett, CEO Magnet Networks, we ask is your business fit for 2018?

What should be front of mind to ensure your company is in the right shape and securely and safely primed for growth and expansion?

When it comes to the centre point of all business – communication – the four most essential starting points for 2018 are business broadband, phone, GDPR and cyber security connections.

If you’re a growing and ambitious business in Ireland, here are the most important considerations to get your business fighting fit and ready to expand, scale up and thrive right now:

GDPR – It’s Here – Ready or Not

While GDPR is considered to be complicated, confusing and time consuming, it cannot be ignored and Irish businesses are being advised to act now. One of the keys to GDPR and making your business GDPR fit is

to understand how your business handles and protects personal identifiable information (PII). This can be implicit or explicit and businesses must demonstrate ‘due consideration’ to customers, suppliers, employees and essentially everyone they interact with. They need to check how secure it is, how can it be anonymised, who has access to the information and ensure that there are answers to all these questions so that there is no danger of data breaches as there can be fines of up to 4% of global earnings.

Cyber Security – Are you Protected?

A massive 48% of all businesses in Ireland still have no cyber security policy in place and 171,000 businesses in the State could be vulnerable right now to crippling ransomeware attacks, according to a nationwide survey by Magnet Networks

Over 26% of businesses surveyed in the Magnet Cyber Security Survey stated that they have suffered from cyber-attacks in the past two years, with a further 18% “unsure” if they have been affected. The study found that only 13% of respondents think that their business is very secure. “This is worrying,” points out Magnet Networks CEO Mark Kellett, “as in the absolute world of cyber-attacks you are either totally secure or you are vulnerable in some way.”

Prioritise Your Phone Patterns – Never Miss A Call.

If your business has an element of being on the road either for you, or for employees, be sure not to miss that all important phonecall to the office. Take your office wherever you go with the support and help of the Magnet Voice App. Thousands of businesses are using this app to ensure that they never miss a call but by moving to a cloud-based app they do not need to pay phone line rental, resulting in cost savings too.

Business Broadband – Is it Fit for Purpose?

When was the last time you really looked at what your broadband line is delivering to your business? Are slower speeds holding you back from moving to the cloud? It’s advisable to think about how your business would be affected if your broadband service stopped working right now. Ask if all your employees are using the business broadband connection for the benefit of the business? Do you know how much of your business broadband bandwith is being used for personal use when you’re trying to access the cloud.

Some 62 per cent of Irish companies said they used social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter as their primary method for connecting with customers, according to figures from Eurostat, compiled by the CSO. The figures indicate that companies in Ireland increased their use of blogs and microblogs such as Twitter last year, with some 30 per cent of enterprises now saying they use such platforms. If your broadband isn’t fit for your business does it stop you processing orders, engaging with customers, marketing to potential customers and most importantly beating your competition?

Many businesses use a single broadband connection which is critical to their business but do not consider a backup, which is a risk. It’s advisable to really look at your business infrastructure in a forensic way and think about how vulnerable it is. What broadband connection is serving your website? ERP? CRM? Payroll? Billing? Accounts? Think about getting expert help to ensure you are not vulnerable. It is also a good idea to think about ‘Live Chat’ or Omni channel communications for better customer engagement and as a tool to increase sales.

Get your business fit for 2018.
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