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Uber is slowly quitting developing markets in Asia — here's why India is probably next

Uber India

  • Uber is slowly curtailing its operations in Asia.
  • It has reportedly agreed to sell its Southeast Asia business to local rival Grab in exchange for a stake in the business.
  • Uber’s chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said operating in developing markets was a drag on profitability.
  • India is probably next on Uber’s quit list — it’s losing out to its biggest rival Ola, and the two share a major investor.

Uber is slowly backing out of developing markets in Asia. 

It has already merged its Chinese business with Didi Chuxing, a ride-sharing giant which has funded several of Uber’s competitors. 

A Friday report from CNBC suggested Uber would pursue a similar deal for its Southeast Asia business, selling off its operations to local giant Grab in exchange for a stake. Uber hasn’t confirmed that deal.

Just one day before the rumours around Uber’s Southeast Asia business surfaced, Uber’s new chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi spoke publicly about how expanding to emerging markets costs a huge amount of money.

He said:

“Where we are now as of Q4 is the developed markets, the contribution from the developed markets, essentially pays for the overhead of the business, alright … [The] amount that we are investing in developing markets, that’s a significant negative but that is an optional investment for us.”

In other words, Uber isn’t currently profitable as a business because it’s spending so much money trying to establish itself in places like India.

It’s worth noting that Khosrowshahi went on to say: “By the way, we think it should be on, it’s going to be on for a while, right?”

But given the firm has given up China and the entire region of Southeast Asia to the competition, what’s next?

Local rival Ola is clearly winning in India

Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal

Uber’s main competition in India is a local rival called Ola, founded by Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati.

When I visited India to see my family in October 2017, I saw firsthand how ridesharing had taken over the country.

This is no mean feat given that driving in India is a daily dance with death.

Ridesharing somewhere like the major city of Kolkata is a very different experience from trying to summon an Uber in London or San Francisco. You’re generally waiting around a long time for the car to turn up. Heavy traffic, illogical road systems, and Indian sensibilities about timekeeping all mean you won’t be going anywhere in a rush.

I found that home player Ola was dominant in Kolkata. None of my relatives there ever used Uber.

What little nationwide data there is suggests Ola is winning.

Ola said this month it handles about a billion rides annually across India. Uber has only ratcheted up 500 million rides in the four years it’s been in India, according to a company blog from August.

And according to Quartz, citing December data from data consultancy Kalagato, Ola has higher smartphone reach in India than Uber. Business Insider has asked Kalagato for more up-to-date data.

“Uber had a good start in India,” said Kathik Hosanagar, a professor at Wharton University and specialist in the digital economy. “They managed to grab significant market share from Ola  — Ola and Uber [had] roughly 50% market share each last summer. They customised their product to meet needs in India, ranging from features added to enhance passenger safety to accepting cash payments.

“That said, they are also realizing that Ola is a nimble competitor. Ola has been experimenting constantly with things like the ability to hail Autorickshaws.”

With Uber’s many problems with regulators around the world, and its board-level politics, it’s unlikely that India has been “front and centre,” he added.

“As Uber’s new leadership tries to trim down some fat and focus on its key markets in US and Europe, I suspect that it will exit some markets.”

Uber’s newest investor also backed Ola

Japanese telecoms giant Softbank owns a 15% chunk of Uber, as of January. It is now the firm’s biggest shareholder.

But it has also bought substantial shares in some of Uber’s biggest competitors around the world, including Ola. Along with Tencent, Softbank funnelled $2 billion (£1.4 billion) into Ola in 2017.

It’s possible Softbank could encourage the firms to duke it out in India and see who wins, but there are signs it wants Uber to focus on profitability. 

Board director Rajeev Misra said Uber would be more profitable faster if it focused on US, Europe, Australia, and Latin America. Asia is noticeably missing from that list.

As Hosanagar put it: “The primary determinant of how things play out in the long-term in India will be Softbank, which is a key investor in both companies.

“Softbank may well determine whether the two companies eventually merge or if Uber will leave India to Ola like it left China to Didi. In the long-term, it seems unlikely that Ola and Uber will continue to be locked in an intense battle for marketshare when they have a major investor in common.”

SEE ALSO: This graph tells you everything you need to know about Facebook’s problem with falling use

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NOW WATCH: Why North Korea sent hundreds of cheerleaders to the Olympics

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The iced tea company that pivoted to blockchain is spinning off its beverage business as it once again risks being delisted (LBCC)

Long Blockchain stock price long island iced tea

  • Long Blockchain, formerly known as Long Island Iced Tea, received a second de-listing warning from Nasdaq for failing to maintain a market cap of $35 million.
  • The company on Tuesday announced a new CEO and plans to spin off its original iced tea business.
  • According to the company’s balance sheets, it has no income or assets related to blockchain or cryptocurrency.

Long Blockchain, the iced tea company that saved itself from being kicked of the Nasdaq stock exchange by pivoting to blockchain, has a new CEO, as it once again faces a risk of being delisted.

On Tuesday, the company announced that Shamyl Malik, who previously ran the firm’s blockchain efforts, will take over as CEO. It also announced plans to spin off its original beverage business into a separate company.

Malik previously worked in electronic FX trading in London for Morgan Stanley as well as Citigroup, before joining Long Blockchain’s board in January. He will receive a salary of $250,000 per year, the company said.

Last week, the company told shareholders it will appeal a second delisting notice from exchange operator Nasdaq for failing to keep its market value above $35 million. A hearing is set for Wednesday. Shares were down 5% in trading Tuesday at a price of $3.06 a share, giving the company a market cap of $27.98 million. The stock needs to stay above $3.42 a share to maintain a $35 million market cap. 

“It was always our intention to spin off our beverage business following our shift to Blockchain technology and we believe that it is currently the appropriate time to take such action,” outgoing CEO Phillip Thomas said in a statement.

“Shamyl has shown great initiative and leadership since joining the team, and his appointment as CEO and our planned spin-off will allow the Company to execute on a clear, focused Blockchain strategy.”

The blockchain pivot in December provided an easy boost for Long Blockchain. The announcement spurred a near tripling of its share price overnight — but its financial documents paint a very different story.

According to its most recently filed balance sheet from November, Long Blockchain owns no blockchain assets. However, it has announced plans to merge with a New Zealand firm called Stater Blockchain Limited, a “technology company focused on developing and deploying globally scalable blockchain technology solutions in the financial market,” according to its website.

If the buyout is approved, Stater Blockchain would become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Long Blockchain. This means Long Blockchain would finally have tangible blockchain assets, including Stater’s in-house currency futures brokerage.

In January, Long Blockchain said it planned to buy 1,000 cryptocurrency mining machines, before quietly cancelling those plans less than a month later

The company’s fourth quarter balance sheet — required of all public companies within 45 days of the quarter’s end — is now one week overdue. 

Neither Long Blockchain not Stater Blockchain responded to requests for comment.

SEE ALSO: Sign up to get the most important updates on all things crypto and blockchain delivered straight to your inbox.

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NOW WATCH: Microsoft President Brad Smith says the US shouldn’t get ‘too isolationist’

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The Danish inventor accused of the horrific murder of a Swedish journalist on his submarine allegedly texted his girlfriend a description of the crime

Kim Wall Peter Madsen submarine Nautilus UC3

  • Inventor Peter Madsen is accused of killing and dismembering Kim Wall, a journalist who was writing about him.
  • Wall was last seen alive in August, on a submarine Madsen had built himself.
  • A new account of her death includes texts Madsen allegedly sent detailing a “murder plan” with similarities to how Wall died.

The Danish inventor suspected of the horrific murder and mutilation of Swedish journalist Kim Wall allegedly sent his girlfriend a description of the killing a few days before it happened.

Peter Madsen, who is on trial for Wall’s murder, detailed a violent fantasy of cutting up a woman on board his home-made submarine, the UC3-Nautilus, according to a report by WIRED.

Days later, he invited Wall onto his submarine, in response to a request she made to meet him so she could write an article about him.

kim wall peter madsen

The two set sail together on August 10 last year for what was meant to be a brief trip, but only Madsen returned alive. Wall was found dismembered days later.

According to Danish prosecutors, Madsen killed Wall on board the submarine then cut her body into pieces and threw them into the sea. The submarine then sank, but Madsen escaped.

The article by WIRED author May Jeong was published last week, and goes into an unprecedented amount of detail about the circumstances surrounding Wall’s death, including interviews with those close to Madsen.

One was described by Jeong as “a friend and recent sexual partner of Madsen’s,” and described texts she had been sent which echo the situation in which Wall found herself.

The woman recounts an exchange where she jokingly asked Madsen to threaten her as a way to motivate her to finish a work project. Here’s how WIRED reported it:

“The conversation began as a casual sexual exchange but quickly escalated. She read the texts to me, translating into English as she went.

“‘He says he has a murder plan ready in the submarine, and I tell him I am not afraid, you have to be more threatening. He talks about the tools he wants to use, and I say, ‘Oh it’s not threatening.’

“The scenario darkened to inviting a friend to the submarine, where they would suddenly change the mood and begin cutting her up.

“At the time, the woman didn’t give the exchange much thought; it was not something she took seriously. After a lull in the back and forth, she responded by sending him a video of horses. The moment passed. The police now have the texts.”

Madsen is due to go on trial again at the beginning of March in Copenhagen.

Nautilus UC3 Peter Madsen Kim Wall

As Business Insider reported in January, prosecutors published a full indictment against Madsen which gave further details about the alleged murder.

It said Madsen’s actions were pre-planned, and tortured Wall with a variety of tools including a saw, knife, screwdrivers, and body restraints before killing her. He is also accused of sexually abusing her.

Click here for Business Insider’s full coverage of Kim Wall’s disappearance and Madsen’s trial.

SEE ALSO: A submarine inventor tortured Swedish journalist Kim Wall with a saw and screwdrivers before she died, prosecutors say

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Bank of England's Mark Carney: Bitcoin has 'failed' one of its key aims

Mark Carney

  • Bank of England Governor Mark Carney: Bitcoin has “failed” to become an actual currency.
  • Carney told students at London’s Regent’s University that bitcoin fails two key tests: it is neither a medium of exchange nor a store of value.
  • UBS, S&P Global Ratings, and a senior ECB board member have all made similar arguments in recent months.

LONDON — Bitcoin has so far “failed” in its ambition to be a legitimate currency, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said on Monday evening.

Speaking at a private event at London’s Regent’s University, Carney told students that bitcoin fails to meet two key requirements of a currency: it is neither a medium of exchange, nor a store of value.

“It has pretty much failed thus far on… the traditional aspects of money. It is not a store of value because it is all over the map. Nobody uses it as a medium of exchange,” he said during a Q&A session.

A medium of exchange can be widely used to purchase goods and services from sellers. While bitcoin can be used to buy things — particularly in unregulated parts of the internet — its high price volatility means that few retailers accept it.

Payment provider Stripe dropped support for bitcoin at the startup the year, saying there are “fewer and fewer use cases for which accepting or paying with Bitcoin makes sense.” Video game marketplace Steam also dropped bitcoin support in December, blaming “high fees and volatility in the value of bitcoin.”

Another key feature of a currency is that it acts as a store of value: you can invest your money and be reasonably sure that its value will not fluctuate massively. Bitcoin, which has seen its price appreciate around 30% in the last week alone, does not offer that protection.

‘Fatal’ flaws

Carney’s views are in-line with many other central banks and traditional financial figures. S&P Global Ratings argued this week that cryptocurrencies are “a speculative instrument” rather than a cryptocurrency and ECB board member Yves Mersch said earlier this month that cryptocurrencies “are not money.”

UBS Wealth Management’s outspoken chief economist Paul Donovan said in November that bitcoin will never become a true currency because of a series of “fatal” flaws.

“A currency has to be a widely used medium of exchange,” Donovan said. “Cryptocurrencies are never going to achieve that. Period.”

Central banks around the world are scrutinizing cryptocurrencies, which have transformed in a short period of time from a little known, niche asset, into a $500 billion market.

Many around the world aggressively trying to regulate the space, and deter people from putting money in what to many from the traditional finance sector is a highly speculative and incredibly risky investment. Earlier this week, it emerged that Poland’s central bank has paid YouTube stars to talk down cryptocurrencies and discourage people from buying them.

However, some are considering launching their own centralised digital currencies. The Bank of England, for instance, has a task force looking at how the bank may be able to use cryptocurrencies and related tech in the future.

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10 things in tech you need to know today (AAPL, GOOG, NTDOY, BTC)

sergey brin

Good morning! Here is the tech news you need to know this Tuesday.

1. Support for regulation of cryptocurrencies is growing in the US. Congress members, both Republicans and Democrats, are calling for action to address the risks posed by virtual currencies to investors and the financial system.

2. An Alphabet subsidiary, Verily, is using artificial intelligence (AI) in eye scanning procedures. This allows it to measure things such as blood pressure and age, and even whether someone smokes or not.

3. The Wikimedia Foundation has announced that it’s closing Wikipedia Zero. The project, which saw the Foundation partner with 97 mobile carriers in 72 countries around the world, allowed people to browse Wikipedia content with no data costs.

4. Apple is releasing a series of software updates to fix its most recent bug. iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Apple Watch, and Mac users will now be able to download iOS 11.2.6, tvOS 11.2.6, watchOS 4.2.3, and macOS 10.13.3, respectively.

5. Google’s India-specific mobile payment system, Tez, is receiving its first huge update today. The update will allow users to pay bills from over 80 organisations directly from the app, both on Android and iOS devices.

6. Nokia is scaling back its digital health-related operations with a round of layoffs, just two years after the acquisition of Withings. In what the company is calling a “strategic review,” 400 jobs are being cut, as part of a €1.2 billion (£1 billion/$1.5 billion) cost-saving plan.

7. Uber has suspended its operations in Morocco after just two years. The company is still waiting for clarity on the local regulatory framework, however, so this might just be a temporary halt like those in Norway and Finland.

8. A new CB Insight report is saying that investment in AI-related startups has risen 141% in 2017. The money invested in them now hovers close to $15 billion (£11 billion), with 48% of funding coming from China, and 38% from the US.

9. Criminals all over the world are abducting people who have become rich with cryptocurrencies to demand ransoms from them. The so-called “cryptorich,” however, are gathering to find deterrents and solutions to the ever-increasing problem.

10. Hackers have turned the Nintendo Switch into a functioning Linux tablet. A hacking team has claimed that the bug they’re exploiting to sidestep the Switch’s security can’t be patched on currently released hardware, but there currently is no way to replicate the feat.

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Wikipedia’s free-to-access program for developing countries is being sunset

 A half-dozen years after launching Wikipedia Zero, The Wikimedia Foundation is sunsetting the program. Announced in 2012, it was the result of partnerships with mobile carriers, designed to waive the cost of accessing the free encyclopedia in developing countries, where data fees presented a barrier to accessing the site’s seemingly bottomless well of information. Read More

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The Navy's stealth destroyers are getting new missiles that will turn them into long range ship killers

USS Zumwalt

  • The Navy’s Zumwalt-class destroyers are getting new missiles that will allow them to take on other surface vessels at long ranges.
  • The ships were originally intended to fill a land attack role.
  • The Navy is still searching for affordable ammunition for the main guns on the ships.

The Navy’s most technologically advanced surface ships, the Zumwalt-class stealth destroyers, are getting new weapons that will turn them into long range ship killers, according to budget documents spotted by Defense News.

Ships will be armed with is Raytheon’s SM-6 missile, a ballistic missile that serves three purposes; anti-air, anti-surface, and ballistic missile defense.

Unlike its older brother the SM-3, the SM-6 has a proximity charge that explodes near its target, meaning it does not have to make physical contact with whatever it is intercepting.

The Navy tested the SM-6’s anti-ship capability in March of 2016. A SM-6 from an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer destroyed the decommissioned Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Reuben James. Back then, its range was listed as 250 nautical miles, but is now expected to be as high as 268 nautical miles. The missile also has a speed of mach 3.5.

Zumwalt

The SM-6 has had successful results in its anti-ballistic missile tests, with the missile intercepting a target in Hawaii last August.

The stealth destroyers will also be equipped with Raytheons Maritime Strike Tomahawk, a variant of the classic cruise missile that will be able to destroy moving naval targets.

The missiles are a much needed addition to the destroyers, since the ships’ main armament, the two 155 mm Advanced Gun Systems, are unusable because no ammunition has been made for them. The original rounds intended for the guns were deemed too expensive, with a price tag ranging from $800,00 to $1 million for a single round.

The guns will remain on the destroyers, but “in an inactive status for future use, when a gun round that can affordably meet the desired capability is developed and fielded,” according to budget documents.

The Navy was looking at changing the Zumwalt-class’ role from land attack ship to an anti-surface warfare ship last December. The change was motivated by fears of China’s increasingly capable navy, and the need for more surface ships capable to dealing killing blows in ship-to-ship combat. 

Zumwalt1

All three Zumwalt-class destroyers will be based in the Pacific. 

The new missiles will allow the destroyers to work alongside Littoral Combat Ships, which will soon be getting their own upgrades that will allow them to take on enemy vessels miles away.

There are currently two Zumwalt-class destroyers; USS Zumwalt, which is currently in its homeport of San Diego getting overhauled and a weapons installation, and USS Michael Monsoor, which just successfully completed its acceptance trials last week.

SEE ALSO: Trump’s defense budget is a wishlist for a massive military buildup — these are the planes, ships, and missiles he wants

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Criminals are reportedly abducting the 'cryptorich' to steal their Bitcoin (BTC)

bitcoin china

  • Groups of criminals around the world are targeting people known to be in possession of large amounts of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
  • Their modus operandi usually involves abduction, which is followed by demands of ransom often north of $1 million (£715 million).
  • There are security methods that are being put in place to safeguard cryptocurrencies owner, but there is still much to be done as the threat may grow bigger.

A number of thieves across the globe are reportedly harassing — and, in some cases, abducting — people that have become rich trading cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, according to a report in The New York Times.

One of Bitcoin’s properties is that although transactions themselves are traceable, it’s virtually impossible to identify the two parties involved.

If criminals manage to successfully extort someone into making a Bitcoin payment to their own wallet, it’s close to impossible to link the receiver to an actual person, as the system grants full anonymity.

The New York Times report mentions a number of attacks that have recently occurred in countries such as Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, and Russia — but also Canada, the US, and UK — where people known to possess large sums of cryptocurrencies were forced to make payments to wallets of criminal organisations.

“This is now becoming more pervasive and touching more law enforcement divisions that deal with organized crime and violent crime on a local level,” Jonathan Levin, founder of Chainalysis, told the NYT. (Chainalysis is a firm that has worked with several law enforcement agencies on virtual currency crimes.)

Law enforcement bodies can track the computers used to make the transaction, and sometimes the help of video footage helped them identify the attackers in the past. But if such elements are absent, as soon as the money transfer is completed there’s very little that can be done.

There are a number of protections that the so-called “cryptorich” are adopting, however. Some of them are hiring security teams to stay outside their houses and make sure that they can’t be harassed in any way. But the real protections are themselves digital.

One such method is the “multisignature,” which requires multiple approvals before a money transfer is granted. In that case, simply forcing an individual to hand over their digital key to make a transaction would be pointless.

Others are instead thinking about “duress wallets,” which would hold a small amount of credit and be secretly swapped with the primary wallet by the victim at the moment the actual transfer is taking place.

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Bitcoin climbs back above $11,000

Screen Shot 2018 02 19 at 15.48.58

  • The price of bitcoin climbed back above $11,000 per coin on Monday afternoon.
  • Having lost more than half its value between November and late January, bitcoin has staged a strong rally over the last week or so.
  • “This recovery is being led and carried primarily by Japan,” said Mati Greenspan, a senior market analyst at trading platform eToro.

LONDON — The price of bitcoin climbed back above $11,000 per coin on Monday afternoon during thin trading.

With Americans celebrating Presidents’ Day, trade quieter than usual but that hasn’t stopped investors buying into the cryptocurrency as it continues to bounce from recent lows.

By 3.50 p.m. GMT (10.50 a.m. ET), bitcoin is trading at $11,139 — up around 7% from its previous close.

Bitcoin lost more than half its value between November and late January but has staged a strong rally over the last week or so, appreciating from around $8,000 on February 13 to more than $11,000 on Monday.

“This recovery is being led and carried primarily by Japan,” Mati Greenspan, a senior market analyst at trading platform eToro, said in an email.

“Traders in the land of the rising sun are no fools. They allowed the prices to drop when it got to the top and now they’re buying up the bottom.

“The crypto market is also celebrating some positive updates from Europe, of all places. The European banks have been notoriously harsh on Bitcoins and everything Blockchain. Over the weekend the Swiss government has come out with some clear-cut groundbreaking regulations on how to handle ICOs.”

Elsewhere in the crypto space, it emerged that Poland’s central bank has paid YouTube stars to talk down cryptocurrencies.

According to Business Insider Poland, the Narodowy Bank Polski (NFB) spent around 91,000 zloty (£19,430; $27,300) on a marketing campaign designed to attack the legitimacy of cryptocurrencies. The money was spent on platforms including Google and Facebook, but was also used to pay a Polish Youtube partner network called Gamellon.

The Gamellon network reportedly represents many of Poland’s top YouTubers, including popular prankster Marcin Dubiel.

In December, Dubiel published a video titled “STRACIŁEM WSZYSTKIE PIENIĄDZE?!” — which loosely translates as “I LOST ALL MY MONEY?!”

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Uber may sell off its Southeast Asia business to improve its finances as it prepares to IPO

dara khosrowshahi

  • Uber is reportedly planning to sell its business in Southeast Asia to rival Grab.
  • It’s likely to receive equity in Grab as part of the deal.
  • Uber’s CEO said last week that operating in developing markets is an “optional investment” for the company.

Uber is reportedly preparing to sell its business in Southeast Asia to rival taxi company Grab, according to a report from CNBC. Uber would reportedly receive a “sizeable” stake in Grab as part of the deal, CNBC said.

Bloomberg wrote in 2017 that Uber was struggling to compete in Southeast Asia as Grab launched security features and took credit card payments, both things that Uber lacked. Uber, however, “feels like it’s pushing a business model and an app designed in and for wealthier markets,” Bloomberg wrote.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Uber sold off one of its international businesses. In 2016 it merged its Chinese division with local competitor Didi. Didi agreed to make a $1 billion (£713 million) investment in Uber at a $68 billion (£48 billion) valuation, and Uber China’s investors ended up owning 20% of the merged Chinese company, which was valued at $35 billion (£24 billion).

This could be a new route to profitability for Uber

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco last week that Uber could sell off underperforming parts of its business in order to improve its finances ahead of an IPO in 2019.

“Where we are now as of Q4 is the developed markets, the contribution from the developed markets, essentially pays for the overhead of the business, alright,” Khosrowshahi said.

“Now, I include two things. And they’re a lot of money for those two things: One is the amount that we are investing in developing markets, that’s a significant negative but that is an optional investment for us. By the way, we think it should be on, it’s going to be on for a while, right? That gets us negative,” he said.

“And the big bets, autonomous etcetera also increase the negative. But if you just said, if someone says, ‘Forget about all this stuff, all I want is the core and just sell all the stuff or stop investing all the stuff,’ you would have a business that for a quarter was cash flow breakeven.”

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