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Buy/Sell Deeds explained

WHY HAVE A BUY/SELL DEED?

A Buy/Sell Deed is an agreement between the owners of a company or unit trust that upon the death or permanent disablement of a director or key person associated with a shareholder/unitholder, that shareholder/unitholder must transfer its shares to the remaining shareholders in exchange for payment.

The method of determining the price is agreed and the funding of that payment usually comes from the proceeds of insurance policies to be taken out for those risks by the shareholders/unitholders.

A Buy/Sell Agreement is not a general Shareholders Agreement or Unitholders Agreement so it does not regulate all dealings in relation to the company.

COMMON SCENARIOS A BUY/SELL COULD HELP PREVENT

Consider the following and how it may affect you and your company…

  • A shareholder dies and you as the remaining shareholder inherit an unintended (and potentially non-income producing) business partner such as the deceased shareholder’s spouse (as they receive the deceased’s assets via their Will), with company profits being paid out according to the shareholdings.
  • You have to buy shares from a deceased shareholder’s estate above their value.
  • Your family do not get the best price for your shares in the company.
  • The remaining shareholders don’t have available funds to pay out a deceased shareholder or a shareholder who can no longer contribute to the business due to total and permanent disability.
  • The business either needs to be sold or funds need to be borrowed by the remaining shareholders or the company to make the payments.
  • A key person to the company has died, leaving the company in the position of losing a key source of revenue, client relationships and knowhow, affecting the value of the company and its business and its viability in the future.

CERTAINTY

A Buy/Sell Agreement is designed to bring certainty in relation to the exit from a business as the result of death or permanent disability of a key person – certainty for an ill shareholder, a deceased shareholder’s family, the remaining owners and the company itself. Don’t leave it to chance.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to Buy/Sell Deeds, Shareholders Agreements, any or any commercial dispute or issue, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your legal concerns or objectives.

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Selling your business?

So you have an offer to buy your business. How exciting!

Although there may be agreement on the price being paid and the amount of deposit, what else needs to be considered?

  • How is the price apportioned between goodwill and equipment?
  • Have you considered the costs associated with the sale – you may have an agreement with a business broker, but there are lawyers, accountants, financial advisers also.
  • What about tax, capital gains tax (CGT) in particular, and is GST payable?

Who does what?

You need good advice. You are great at what you do, but you cant do everything. You need a great team of advisers – this is their thing.

Your lawyer will be required to prepare the legal documents that give effect to the sale (such as Business Sale Contract, Share Sale Agreement, Deed of Restraint, Deed of Consent to Assignment of Lease, Employment Contracts, Deed of Novation, Consultancy Agreements etc… yes, there may be others).

Your accountant can advise on the price apportionment and taxation implications, whether GST is payable or not, and how to make the most of any CGT concessions, exemptions and rollover relief such as those relating to small business and retirement.

Your financial adviser can give you advice on what to do with your cash to make the most of it now or in retirement.

What are you actually selling?

It would seem obvious, but have you considered what you are actually selling? Are you selling your business or, in the case of a company or unit trust, the entity that owns it?

There is a big difference, particularly given that entitlements to income and liability for expenses incurred prior to completion of the sale will remain with the vendor under a business sale whereas in the case of a share sale, the whole lot will be under the control of the purchaser from completion.

This will also affect how much due diligence a purchaser may undertake – as any prudent purchaser would have concerns about potential claims, tax debts etc

The usual things

Assuming a sale of business, not a share sale, some of the other things to consider is what is included in the sale?

  • Business name
  • Plant and equipment used by the business
  • Stock
  • Customer lists
  • Agreements with suppliers, referrers… to the extent they can be transferred
  • Phone/fax numbers, logos, domain names, email addresses social media etc
  • Intellectual property – do you have any trademarks?
  • Licenses/permits to operate the business
  • Are staff being terminated or transferring to the purchaser? What are employee entitlements are due?
  • Are the business premises leased? Is the agreement subject a an assignment of the existing lease or the granting of a new lease?
  • Personal Property Securities Register issues – for example, is the telephone system under a hire purchase agreement? Is the photocopier leased?
  • Do you need the consent of anyone to the sale proceeding? Eg, a franchisor, a mortgagor, someone you have given a first option to purchase to for example?
  • Are there to be restraints of trade/non-competition provisions that affect you? What about for key staff?

Although an exciting time, there are many issues that need to be considered when you are selling your business. The abovementioned items are certainly not an exhaustive list of things to consider and every business is different, but hopefully it gets you thinking about what you may need to consider when selling your business.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to buying/selling businesses, intellectual property or any commercial law matter, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your legal concerns or objectives.

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Business names and trade marks are the same thing, right? Wrong

A BUSINESS NAME DOES NOT CONFER OWNERSHIP

Having a business name is a requirement so that people can ascertain the owners of a business they are dealing with. The register of business names is now maintained by ASIC.

Registration of a business name is required before carrying on a business or trade within Australia. Exceptions to registration include:

  • those operating as sole traders with their operating name being identical as their first name and surname (tip – if it has ‘& Co’, “& Partners” or ‘& Associates’ it must be registered);
  • partnerships where the operating name is the same as all of the partners’ names;
  • registered Australian companies whose operating name is the same as the company’s name (ie, with the “Pty Ltd” added).

While a business name is often used as a brand or trademark, having business name registration does not give ownership of that name. Only a trade mark under the Trade Marks Act 1995 (Cth) can provide that kind of protection.

Don’t rely on a business name registration thinking that it gives you any protection – it doesn’t give you any protection at all.

If you register a business, company or domain name, you do not automatically have the right to use that name as a trade mark. The same word(s) may be able to be registered by different people as a business name in other states and territories.

A REGISTERED TRADEMARK IS NECESSARY TO OWN A NAME

If you have a registered trade mark, you do have exclusive use of the trade mark throughout Australia (and other jurisdictions if you obtain registration there also) and you can take legal action for infringement of your trade mark if another person or entity uses it for goods or services like those covered by your trade mark registration.

A trademark can be a word or words, a phrase, a logo or a combination thereof (and even scents, sounds and colours!) which identify and distinguish a business’s goods or services from those of others. You can also trade mark your domain name if it fits within the requirements of the legislation.

There is no legal requirement to use the TM or ® symbols however, the TM symbol indicates that you have a pending application for the brand or that you are claiming some rights in the name without trademark registration whereas the ® symbol indicates that the trademark is registered.

After establishing or growing a business, the last thing you would want to do is receive a ‘cease and desist’ letter from the lawyers of a competitor asking you to cease using their client’s trade mark and to account to them for profits you have made, so don’t rely on a business name registration thinking that it gives you any protection, as it does not!

If you or your clients that are trading without a registered business name or under a brand without trademark protection, then they should be referred for advice by an expert in the area.

Similarly, if you have a trademark and become aware of someone infringing on your trademark, such as by using a very similar name or logo or indicating they have some association with your business or products when they do not, you should get advice from a lawyer on sending an appropriately worded letter asking them to cease using it,

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to intellectual property licensing or infringement or any commercial law matter, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your legal concerns or objectives.

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What does a Bankruptcy Notice do?

A Bankruptcy Notice is a document that, once served, requires the person served to either pay a debt (or enter into an arrangement for payment of a debt) within a specified period of time, usually 21 days.

If the Bankruptcy Notice is not complied with within that time, the person has committed an “act of bankruptcy” entitling the person owed the money (creditor) to commence bankruptcy proceedings.

It is usually a good idea not to try to do this yourself but rather to engage a lawyer to assist, including obtaining a National Personal Insolvency Index (NPII) search beforehand.

How is a Bankruptcy Notice issued?

Bankruptcy Notices are issued by the Australian Financial Security Authority (AFSA) (formerly the Insolvency & Trustee Service Australia (ITSA)) at the request of a creditor.

In order to apply for a Bankruptcy Notice, you must hold a final judgment for at least $5,000 that is no more than 6 years old.

Once issued, the Bankruptcy Notice needs to be served on the debtor. There are various ways to achieve this (including by post in some circumstances).

If the debtor does not dispute the validity of the Bankruptcy Notice or pay the judgment debt or come to a satisfactory arrangement for payment of the debt within the 21 day period, then the debtor will have committed an “act of bankruptcy” as defined in the Bankruptcy Act 1966 (Cth) and the law will presume the debtor to be insolvent, entitling the creditor to commence bankruptcy proceedings. The order declaring someone a bankrupt is called a “sequestration order“.

What is the effect of bankrupting someone?

Most people do not wish to be made bankrupt due for various reasons including:

  • the stigma associated with being declared bankrupt (and the effect this can have on obtaining certain employment etc);
  • the fact that all of the bankrupt’s property (subject to some exceptions) vests in the appointed trustee; and
  • because of the adverse effect of bankruptcy on a person’s credit rating (and therefore their ability to get a loan later in life).

This is why issuing a Bankruptcy Notice and, if necessary, commencing bankruptcy proceedings can be an effective way of obtaining payment if you are a creditor.

What does the court look at before bankrupting someone?

Bankruptcy proceedings are commenced by filing a Creditor’s Petition in the Federal Court of Australia or the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

Before a person is declared bankrupt, the Court must be satisfied that the person has committed an “act of bankruptcy” in the 6 months before the commencement of the bankruptcy proceedings. The most common act of bankruptcy is failing to comply with a Bankruptcy Notice.

Effect of bankruptcy on company directors

For those in business for themselves, one of the effects of being declared bankrupt, in addition to losing control of the majority of your assets, is that s.206B of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) provides that undischarged bankrupts or those who have entered into personal insolvency agreements cannot act as a director or take part in the management of a company.

AFSA and ASIC have a Data Matching Protocol such that ASIC will receive notification of a director’s bankruptcy. Although a bankrupt automatically ceases to be a director, the director must notify ASIC by lodging a Form 296 - Notice of Disqualification from Managing a Corporation and further, the Company also has an obligation to notify ASIC of the cessation of an officeholder by lodging a Form 484 - Change to Company Details within 28 days of the change taking effect.

The Court has the power to grant leave to an undischarged bankrupt to take part in management of a company, subject to ASIC being notified of the application. Such leave, which can be granted both with or without conditions, is not available however, where the disqualification was imposed by ASIC (as opposed to an automatic disqualification due to the operation of the Corporations Act).

The court will not easily be convinced that the usual prohibition should not apply and will exercise its discretion with a view to balancing the considerations relevant to the bankrupt and the public policy behind the prohibition. In such an application, the applicant bears the onus of establishing that the Court should make an exception to the legislative policy underlying the prohibition. The policy behind the law is protect the public and among other things, to seek to ensure that investors, shareholders and others dealing with a company are not disadvantaged.

Hardship to the proposed director is not of itself a persuasive ground for the granting of leave although it is one of many factors which may be considered by the court in exercising its discretion. The court will have regard to the reason for the disqualification, the nature of his or her involvement, the general character of the applicant including the applicant’s conduct in the intervening period since being removed from office or prevented from being in office, the structure of the company, its business and the interests of shareholders, creditors and employees.

Although such applications are not commonplace, an undischarged bankrupt may be granted leave to take part in the management of companies generally or, more frequently, in the management of a particular company. The disqualification imposed by the Corporations Act continues despite the Court granting leave and care must be taken to ensure that any conditions on the leave are complied with as failure to do so can result in the leave being revoked and the commission of an offence.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to bankruptcy, insolvency, debt recovery, commercial law or business disputes, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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What is the PPSR?

The Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) is a single national online register where details of security interests in personal property can be registered and searched. The PPSR is administered by the Australian Financial Security Authority (AFSA) and was established under the under the Personal Property Securities Act 2009 (Cth).

The PPSR is an amalgamation of registrations that were recorded in registers including the Australian Security and Investments Commission (ASIC) Register of Company Charges, the Australian Register of Ships, the Fisheries Register, state and territory bills of sale registers, and the state and territory Registers of Encumbered Vehicles (REVS).

All charges and other security interests in personal property (such as cars, boats, intellectual property etc) have been recorded on the PPSR since 30 January 2012.

It does not include real property (land or buildings) as these are covered by the various land title registers in the States and Territories, such as Land and Property Information in NSW.

On the PPSR:

• you can register a notice to show that you have rights over personal property which secure a debt or obligation that someone owes you

• you can check to see if someone has registered an interest over personal property you want to buy or lease.

If you are buying a business or an asset of significant value, it can pay to have the PPSR properly searched because if you buy property subject to a security interest, it is possible that the person or entity with the security interest will repossess it.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor
is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to the PPSR, buying or selling a business, business succession or any other commercial law matter, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your estate planning needs.

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Superannuation Death Benefit Nominations

Did you know that on your death, your superannuation balance will not dealt with in accordance with your wishes unless you have a valid beneficiary death benefit nomination in place. That’s right, your Will probably doesn’t have any effect as regards your super.

The trustees of most super funds have a discretion as to who to pay a benefit to and usually, the fund rules specify the member’s dependants as the class of beneficiaries to be considered first, with the trustee to determine the amounts/proportions.

Imagine what happens if you are separated (but not divorced) and you are living with another person (as a de facto) – a dispute could easily arise. What if you have children? What would/should the split be?

If you have no dependants, the trustee will likely pay it to your estate, but why take the risk? and does your Will adequately deal with that asset?

To minimise disputes and avoid applications to the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal or the Supreme Court of NSW, make a nomination. There are generally 2 types: Non-binding and Binding

NON-BINDING NOMINATIONS

A non-binding nomination is an indication to your trustee of your preferences but it is, as it states – non-binding so the trustee can ignore it. This can be a good idea if there are significant changes in circumstances before your death where you haven’t got around to updating your nomination. The trustee’s discretion could prevent it going to your ex or avoid the situation of you accidentally omitting one of your kids from a benefit.

BINDING NOMINATIONS

A binding nomination is exactly that – binding (provided that it is valid as at the date of death). There are 2 sub-categories of binding nomination: lapsing and non-lapsing.
  • LAPSING – Most funds provide for the lapsing type – these need to be renewed every 3 years or the nominations lapse.
  • NON-LAPSING – Some Self-Managed Super Funds (SMSFs) and some retails funds allow in their deeds for nominations that never lapse (unless you update it). Older SMSF Deeds and their Rules do not allow for the non-lapsing type and may need to be updated.

There are requirements for making any nomination legally valid, witnesses etc.

Speak to us about your estate planning and ensure your wishes are properly documented.

FURTHER INFORMATION
If you would like any further information in relation to superannuation death benefit nominations or updating SMSF deeds , please contact us on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au

School zones and pupil free days

In New South Wales, more than one million school students travel to and from school each day. The vast majority of students do so safely.
At the time of this article, there are 127 fixed digital speed cameras installed in NSW, of which 57 are in school zones.

School zones were selected according to a number of criteria concerning the risks young pedestrians are exposed to, including a combination of high traffic volumes, the level of pedestrian use and crash history.

When do they operate?

All school zone speed cameras operate 24 hours per day, 7 days a week and detect vehicles exceeding the speed limit. They are also programmed to detect vehicles exceeding the 40km/h school zone speed limit during sign-posted school zone times.

For most locations these times are: 8:00 – 9:30am and 2.30pm – 4:00pm on days notified by the NSW Department of Education.

There are a small number of schools which have different school zone times. They are identified by red/orange school zone signs to show non-standard times.

In addition to the regulatory signs Roads and Maritime has also installed flashing lights (school zone alert systems) at a number of school zone sites, including all fixed speed camera sites that are located in a school zone.

What about pupil free days or private school holidays?

Both Catholic and private/independent schools have enforceable school zones in line with Department of Education school terms, irrespective of their term dates.

Pupil free days or staff development days are notified school days so the school zones continue to apply – there may still be students attending schools on these days.

Further information

For more information about fixed speed camers or school zones, visit the RMS Website

Double Demerits on Easter and ANZAC Day weekends

A reminder to our clients that double demerits apply this Easter long weekend 13-17 April inclusive and again on the ANZAC Day weekend, 21- 25 April inclusive. Drive safely.

 

Minimizing risk in your business

Running a business is risky and small businesses can be especially so. Minimizing risk in your business is crucial.

Often, SME owners put their own personal assets on the line, whether to borrow funds from a lender to start up or buy stock or equipment or by signing a guarantee in relation to suppliers and others for the debts of the business.

There are several methods of protecting personal assets from creditors, but it is a process that many don’t follow. Some are quite simple and easy to put in place. They include…

Placing assets in a spouses’ name or in a family trust

In most circumstances, creditors will not be able to make a claim upon assets owned by your spouse or held by a discretionary trust, provided that you are not the trustee. If your spouse is the trustee, then he or she is the person who will usually decide how to divide up the income or capital of a trust (or not to).

Of course, stamp duty and capital gains tax issues must also be considered before acquiring or transferring assets as well as the potential operation of claw back provisions. The loss of the principal place of residence CGT exemption or the land tax issues may be a factor weighing against doing this.

In the end, it is weighing up risk vs benefits and making an informed decision regarding any asset protection measures.

Encumbering assets if you cannot transfer them

An asset that is mortgaged to its value is not attractive to a creditor. The mortgagee in such a case is the only entity that will benefit from the subsequent sale of the asset.

A guarantee form a person without assets is effectively valueless. Often businesses don’t check to see what a guarantor actually owns.

If you seek a guarantee from a director of another business, you could make some inquiries about their credit/financial position before creating an account,

Correctly structuring your business

Sometimes it is not feasible to establish an asset-holding entity and a trading entity (as many small business start-ups are strapped for cash) but it can be a great way to protect the business assets from day to day trading risks. Even getting the type of business structure right from the beginning (sole trader, partnership, company, trust or combination etc) can have a massive impact on your business.

It is possible to establish a company with a single director and/or single shareholder. The company dealing with third parties, supplies, customers and the like is the entity that may be liable to them, not the shareholders.

The shareholders are only liable to the company for the unpaid amounts (if any) on any issued share capital. This liability is usually a nominal amount such as a dollar. Shareholders have no liability to third parties unless they agree to it, such as by giving a guarantee.

Company directors may have some liability but only in limited circumstances can the corporate veil be lifted. Courts may be prepared to lift the veil in limited circumstances, such as in the case of insolvent trading, fraud or misrepresentation, inappropriate transactions or where public policy requires it.

Charging assets (and properly recording the charge)

Before lending money to your business, a charge should be created in the correct form and that form recorded as against assets such as real property (by way of mortgage recorded at Land and Property Information or another State’s land titles registry) or against non-real estate assets (by way of a Specific or General Security Deed and making a registration on the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR)) to secure repayment of that money in preference to other creditors should the business fail.

Having proper terms of trade

Most businesses, if they have them at all, have terribly inadequate terms and conditions of trade. Often they are just copied and pasted from other documents and not tailored, leaving businesses thinking they are adequately protected when they really are not covered at all.

T&Cs should be built to protect your particular business and should be a work in progress, tweaked to solve or prevent problems that have arisen in your business from occurring again,

Avoiding personal guarantees altogether

A guarantee is a contract by which a guarantor promises that another person or entity will comply with his, her or its obligations to a third party and if they don’t, the guarantor will. The most common example involves bank loans where a guarantor such as a parent promises to repay the loan of their child if the child defaults.

Becoming a guarantor can be extremely risky, particularly when large liabilities are involved. Under most guarantees, the guarantor becomes immediately and primarily liable to repay the debt (and the lender does not have to wait for attempt to recover from the borrower before calling on the guarantee).

As a practical matter, many businesses cannot obtain finance unless a personal guarantee is provided. If this is the case however, whenever the loan is actually repaid or if the business can prove it is financial stable and secure, the guarantee should be discharged so that the guarantor cannot continue to rely on it at a later date concerning subsequent transactions.

Managing staff

One of the biggest risks to your business is that of staff leaving, and worse still, taking valuable information and assets with them.

Having appropriately drafted Employment Contracts with restraints of trade in them is a must.

Superannuation contributions

In many circumstances, superannuation entitlements can be protected from bankruptcy trustees. There may be no protection for example where the payments are made for the primary purpose of defeating creditors.

Making contributions to super is getting harder and harder with the Federal Government’s recent changes to the superannuation laws however, this can be an effective long term tool for wealth creation and asset protection. This will also usually involve the assistance of your financial planner.

Business succession planning

If you are in business with another person, what happens to your business if you or your business partner gets seriously injured or dies?

Do you have an appropriate and valid Will, Enduring Power of Attorney and Appointment of Enduring Guardians in place?

Usually having these estate planning documents is not enough. Presumably your business partner would give all of his or her assets to their spouse on their death through their Will. What if you don’t want to me in business with your business partner’s partner?

You should have in place business succession documents to deal with this such as a Buy/Sell Deed with appropriate insurances, a Shareholders Agreement (for companies), Unitholders Agreement (for unit trusts) or a Partnership Agreement (for businesses operating through a partnership structure).

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to starting a new business, commercial law, business disputes or estate planning/business succession issues generally, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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Justices of the Peace

A Justice of the Peace (JP) can perform certain functions like witnessing Statutory Declarations or Affidavits and certifying copies of documents.

The NSW Department of Justice has updated the Justice of the Peace Handbook for JPs in NSW. The handbook contains guidance for JPs, tips to avoid common risks and answers to frequently asked questions.

Witnessing a Stat Dec or Affidavit

When witnessing a NSW Statutory Declaration or Affidavit, the JP must see that person’s face as well as confirm that they have known the person for at least 12 months or sight approved identification documents. The current approved versions of Statutory Declaration and Affidavits contain amended wording in this regard but it should be added if it is not there.

If the person refuses to remove any face covering, the JP must refuse to witness the execution of the document unless there is special justification (which means a legitimate medical reason, but does not include religious beliefs or cultural practices).

Approved identification documents include drivers licences, Medicare card, birth certificate, passport (so long as they have not expired/been cancelled). Expired passports are acceptable so long as they did not expire more than 2 years ago.

Quick JP facts

  • JPs may not charge or receive any benefit for providing JP services.
  • A JP is not authorized to witness an Enduring Power of Attorney.
  • JPS cannot conduct a marriage unless they are also a licensed Marriage Celebrant.
  • The Jury Act 1977 does not provide an exemption for JPs from jury duty.
  • A JP May not provide legal advice unless they are also a registered Australian Legal Practitioner.
  • A JP must not unreasonably refuse to provide JP services.

The Code of Conduct for Justices of the Peace was reviewed in 2014 and updated by the Justices of the Peace Regulation 2014.

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