AmEx Buys Travel One

American Express has agreed to acquire Travel One, the ninth largest travel agency in the country.  Travel One recorded sales of just over $700 million in 1997, related almost exclusively to business travel.  Through the acquisition, American Express will expand its relationships with mid-sized and large companies and will strengthen its presence in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest states.

Travel One will become a unit of American Express Corporate Services.  The principals of Travel One, President and CEO Jeffrey Harrow, and COO Scott Tarte, will continue to lead the organization, and its headquarters will remain in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey.

“Travel One has been a strong regional travel management provider, with excellent client relationships, and we are very excited about the contribution the company will make to our network,” said Ed Gilligan, President, American Express Corporate Services.  “Travel One has been particularly successful in delivering ‘high-touch’ customer service, recognizing the unique needs of growth-oriented companies.  We’ll gain from this expertise.”

“Travel One clients will benefit from American Express’ global reach and capability, including its industry-leading Global Information Systems,” said Jeff Harrow.  “We look forward to joining forces and bringing new services, including expense management solutions, to our customers.”

Travel One has approximately 1,400 employees, located in 30 full-service offices and 125 on-sites.  Geographically, its largest presence is in New Jersey, Maryland, and Ohio.

The transaction is expected to be completed within the next two months, subject to regulatory review.  Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Headquartered in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, Travel One is the ninth-largest travel management company in the United States with more than 650 wholly owned ticketing locations.  Its sales volume for the first two quarters of 1998 totaled $511 million.

American Express Corporate Services assists mid-sized and large companies in managing their business travel and purchasing expenses, offering them travel agency services, the Corporate Card and the Corporate Purchasing Card. It counts over 75% of Fortune 500 corporations as clients.  In 1997, American Express posted worldwide travel sales of $17.4 billion.  Corporate Services is a unit of American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the American Express Company — a diversified worldwide travel and financial services company founded in 1850.  It is a leader in charge and credit cards, Travelers Cheques, travel, financial planning, investment products, network services, insurance and international banking.

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Pay Now Pay Later Card

Schlumberger announced Tuesday its new ‘Pay Now Pay Later’ (PN/PL) smart card, offering Europay associate banks the opportunity to implement secure credit/debit card schemes exceptionally easily and quickly.  The multi-application cards allow personalised services to be brought to market with minimal overheads, reducing costs and risks for banks looking for advantage in the international credit/debit marketplace and seeking to differentiate themselves with additional financial service offerings.

Ease and speed of implementation were key design parameters for Schlumberger.  Minimal changes to current clearing systems are required, thanks to the use of an optimised version of the PN/PL specification, reducing entry costs and speeding the delivery of new services while retaining full EMV debit/credit compatibility.

“Our banking customers need to balance the drive to bring competitive new service offerings to market, with the paramount requirement for security” says Philippe Tissot, Schlumberger Product Line Manager, Financial & IT. “With these new cards, we’re helping them to compress the timescales required to develop and implement new financial services, while exercising the precise levels of risk management they need within specific domestic and international markets.”

Cards are personalised by simply selecting from a range of available security and operational parameters stored on the cards, with no requirement for mask development.  Depending on the specific cardholder segment targeted, operators can, for example, specify a limit to the number of consecutive transactions that can be carried out off-line at the terminal: when that limit is reached, the card will automatically initiate an on-line transaction. Cards can also automatically reject a transaction due to PIN error without going on-line.  So cards can be personalised to reflect the levels of control required for different user groups presenting different levels of debit/credit risk – such as students or business customers, different countries with varying perceived levels of risk, different clearing procedures, and so on.

By using the Schlumberger PN/PL cards, banks can bring new services quickly to market, confident that their credit/debit offerings are fully compliant with the EMV specification.  The multi-application card is available in a range of memory sizes from 1.3 to 8 kbytes, enabling participating banks to offer different levels of credit/debit service and complementary applications to different customer groups within the domestic and international marketplace.

Schlumberger is highly pro-active in its approach to the banking sector, and its track record in the provision of advanced and secure solutions is unrivalled.  Its work on standards and as design partners in major strategic projects including EMV ensure a growth path for future financial service offerings for its customers.  Major investment in R&D is focused on maintaining the highest levels of security for transactions, to ensure enhanced levels of confidence for the financial service offerings of the future.

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Metris Up 61%

Sub-Prime card leader Metris Companies reported net income of $17 million for the third quarter compared to $10.5 million last year. However the managed net charge-off rate was 10.5% for the third quarter compared to 10.6% for the second quarter and 8.7% for the third quarter of 1997. The managed net interest margin was 11.9% compared with 12.7% for the second quarter and 13.4% last year. Card volume increased 83% to over $1.1 billion compared to $600 million last year. Year-to-date volume totalled $2.7 billion. Managed card loans grew $362 million during the third quarter bringing the portfolio to slightly more than $4.2 billion at September 30, 1998. Total Metris card accounts now stands at 2.5 million. For the complete earnings report for Metris and other major card issuers dial [www.carddata.com][1].

[1]: http://www.carddata.com

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Synovus Update

Synovus Financial Corp., the Columbus, Georgia-based multi-financial services company, Tuesday announced record net income for the third quarter of 1998. Net income for the quarter was $47,438,026, up 10.1 percent over third quarter 1997 net income of $43,101,204.  On a per share basis, diluted earnings were $0.18, up 8.9 percent over third quarter 1997 earnings of $0.16, and basic earnings were $0.18 compared to $0.16 for the same period last year.  Annualized return on assets for the quarter was 1.99 percent and return on equity was 19.01 percent, as compared to 1.92 percent and 20.03 percent, respectively, in the third quarter of 1997.  Total assets were $9.8 billion, an increase of 9.4 percent from the end of the third quarter of 1997.  Shareholders’ equity at the end of the quarter was $1.036 billion, which represented 10.5 percent of quarter-end assets.

For the first nine months of 1998, net income was $132,863,160, up 12.4 percent from net income of $118,230,302 earned in the same period last year.  Year-to-date diluted earnings per share increased 11.5 percent to $0.50 from the $0.45 earned per share in 1997.  Annualized return on assets and return on equity for the first nine months of 1998 were 1.90 percent and 18.71 percent, respectively, compared to 1.81 percent and 19.29 percent in the same period last year.  Asset quality continued to improve in the third quarter as the ratio of nonperforming assets to loans and other real estate decreased to .44 percent from .50 percent at September 30, 1997.  Net charge- offs for the year-to-date were .33 of average loans compared to .34 percent in the same period last year, reflecting the continuing emphasis on high credit quality and credit management. The loan loss reserve was 1.54 percent of loans, which provides coverage of 495 percent of nonperforming loans, up from 1997. All per share data has been restated to reflect the three-for-two stock split that was issued on May 21, 1998.

Synovus began the conversion of its bank data processing to the Marshall & Illsley Data Services’ system in the first quarter of 1998. This conversion, which is expected to be substantially completed in 1998, will greatly enhance our team members’ capabilities to market the “New Bank’s” products and services, by providing more customer data at the point of service. Additionally, the Marshall & Illsley data processing platform is Year 2000 compliant, which allows resources to be allocated to the conversion and to other data processing areas that would have been originally allocated for Year 2000 compliance. In the first nine months of 1998, Synovus expensed $5,385,000 pre-tax for the conversion, and expects total non-recurring expenses of this conversion to be approximately $12,000,000 in 1998. During the third quarter, nonrecurring pre-tax conversion expenses amounted to $2,501,000. Without these conversion expenses in the third quarter, net income and diluted earnings per share would have been up 13.5% and 12.2%, respectively.

Profits from both Synovus’ banking operations and Total System Services, Inc.), Synovus’ 80.7 percent owned credit card processing unit, were excellent for the third quarter.  Banking operations’ net income increased 8.5 percent over the third quarter of 1997.  Return on assets for the quarter was 1.52 percent and return on equity was 17.66 percent, compared to 1.48 percent and 18.61 percent, respectively, in the third quarter of 1997.  Net interest income increased by 6.1 percent versus the same quarter last year, due to net loan growth of 11.1 percent and a net interest margin of 5.24 percent in the quarter.  Banking operations’ non- interest income grew 26.7 percent, with increases in mortgage revenues of 74 percent, brokerage revenues of 31 percent, trust service fees of 21 percent, credit card fees of 26 percent and service charges of 12 percent over the third quarter of 1997. Total banking operations non-interest income as a percentage of revenues, excluding securities gains/losses, was 26 percent as compared to 23 percent for the third quarter of 1997.

Total System Services, Inc.’s record net income for the third quarter of $15,171,000, up 14.7 percent from $13,225,000 last year, contributed significantly to Synovus’ results. In the third quarter TSYS achieved the significant milestone of more than 100 million accounts on file. With portfolio conversions scheduled for 1999, TSYS anticipates an additional 75 million accounts to be added during the next year. These conversions include Sears, the largest retail portfolio in the world; Canadian Tire, the largest retailer in Canada; Royal Bank of Canada; First Hawaiian Bank; and Bank of Hawaii.

Commenting on the company’s consolidated results, Synovus Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, James H. Blanchard said, “We are very pleased with our performance through the first nine months of the year.  In our banking operations, fee income continued to grow through our sales efforts, with significant increases in mortgage revenues, trust service fees and brokerage revenues. TSYS had another great nine months, increasing net income 17.0 percent over the same period last year.”

Synovus Financial Corp. is a $9.8 billion asset, multi-financial services company composed of 35 banks serving communities throughout Georgia, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina; an 80.7% ownership of Total System Services, Inc. (), one of the world’s largest credit, debit, commercial and private-label card processing companies; Synovus Trust Company, one of the Southeast’s largest providers of trust services; Synovus Securities, Inc., a full-service brokerage firm; and Synovus Mortgage Corp., which offers mortgage services throughout the Southeast.  The name “Synovus” was created by the combination of synergy and novus  —  synergy, meaning the interaction of separate components such that the total effect is greater than the sum of its parts and novus (Latin for “new”), meaning usually of superior quality and different from the others listed in the same category.  Synovus’ Internet address is .

For third quarter financials on Synovus please visit [www.carddata.com][1]

[1]: http://www.carddata.com

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Associates Breaks Record

Associates First Capital had the best single quarter in the company’s history for the third quarter. Net earnings for the third quarter reached $318 million, a 17% increase over third quarter 1997. This was also the 95th consecutive quarter of improved earnings at The Associates. During the third quarter the company announced it will make its largest acquisition ever with the purchase of Avco Financial Services. For the complete earnings report for Associates and other major card issuers dial [www.carddata.com][1].

[1]: http://www.carddata.com

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Rapid Payment

NJ-based NUI Corporation announced its newer, simplified Internet page for using NUI ‘Rapid Payment’, its alternative bill payment program. With NUI’s introduction of a new version of the Cybercash ‘PayNow’ service customers no longer need to download software onto their personal computers to take advantage of the NUI ‘Rapid Payment’ program. ‘Rapid Payment’ allows the majority of NUI’s customers to pay their bills by automatic debit from their bank account, by telephone or over the Internet. Customers can pay either through their bank account or by credit card. More than 10,000 of NUI’s 370,000 customers have enrolled in the program since its introduction in February 1997. NUI offers the service through its program administrator and Internet host, Princeton TeleCom.

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Terminal Patents Filed

USA Technologies Inc. announced yesterday that it has filed three applications with the United States Patent Office with regards to its proprietary technology involving electronic commerce and interactive advertising.  The company announced that it is in the process of developing a hybrid credit card/electronic commerce terminal.

“One of our primary goals is to become the preferred method and industry standard for self-serve, public access e-commerce.  By 2001, the electronic commerce market is estimated to be at $270 billion, and today the interactive advertising market is currently estimated at $186 billion,” said George R. Jensen, Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of USA Technologies.  “This new technology is intended to allow advertisers and merchants to leverage their strategies for internet advertising and e-commerce — reaching consumers beyond the internet.

“In the near future, our touch-screen credit card terminal is intended for locations where consumers would like to pay by credit card for goods, services and/or information in an unattended manner.  This would give advertisers access to a targeted, captive audience while they conduct everyday transactions,” continued Jensen.  “In addition, the consumer can respond to the advertisement for additional information on advertised products — even engaging in a purchase.”

“Our new terminal, already in development, is intended to utilize open architecture to enable effective integration into all types of host equipment including, but by no means limited to, USA’s Public PC as well as other self-serve automated office equipment,” said Brock Kolls, senior vice president, research and development, of USA Technologies.  “We believe the technology will also have broad impact in the mass transit, communications and vending industries.

“We are developing a universal point-of-sale solution whereby companies can utilize the infrastructure of the internet to run interactive advertisements on a touch-screen credit card terminal.  Our technology is intended to give consumers quicker and easier access to goods, services and information while making their routine transactions with their preferred method of payment, credit cards,” continued Kolls.  “This technology elevates both electronic commerce and interactive advertising to a higher level – beyond the internet.

“One application that we are very enthusiastic about is the ability to work with internet search engines,” concluded Kolls.  “Our new technology provides internet search engines with the opportunity to export their advertising content off of the internet into mainstream points of commerce, such as the vending industry.  These search engines will be reaching consumers in a universe outside of the traditional internet.  By reaching consumers with their advertising content, they are thus creating the opportunity to drive the same consumer back onto the internet should the consumer be inclined to further explore the product or service being advertised.”

“This exciting new technology will be packaged with our existing proprietary technology, TransAct,” continued Jensen.  “TransAct — the world’s first network controlled, unattended credit card terminals — are capable of processing unattended credit card-transactions as low as one dollar cost-effectively.  Among the first products utilizing TransAct are MBE Business Express and USA’s Public PC.  In the very near future, however, consumers will have the option of purchasing small ticket items in millions of potential host locations that feature our next generation of TransAct terminals.

“Specific examples include vending purchases, mass transit or taxi fares, movie tickets etc., all done with a credit card in an unattended manner,” said Jensen.  “It is while consumers make these routine purchases that they will be exposed to the interactive advertising and electronic commerce applications via a color touch-screen located on the host equipment.  The opportunity for merchants of all types to reduce or eliminate labor costs while adding value for consumers is enormous.

“With so many potential applications for this new technology, we look forward to pursuing licensing and partnership arrangements in various industries, including credit/smart cards, e-commerce/internet advertising, vending, etc.”, added Jensen.

“USA Technologies has filed applications for twelve patents and has been issued two patents. These patents contain hundreds of innovative claims related to Public PCs, automated business centers, unattended public access electronic commerce and interactive advertising.” said Jensen.  “Our terminal’s capability to facilitate e-commerce/interactive advertising is intended to be a logical progression beyond our proprietary TransAct technology.”

USA Technologies is the developer and owner of TransAct, a proprietary technology that allows consumers to purchase items for as little as one dollar, using their credit cards in an unattended setting.  These transactions, once cost prohibitive due to processing costs, have been made cost effective by TransAct’s patented batch processing technology — helping to make the cashless society a reality.  The technology is currently being implemented in USA’s Public PC, as well as MBE Business Express — a joint venture product with Mail Boxes Etc.  Activated with a credit card utilizing TransAct, MBE Business Express is a self-serve, automated business center, allowing the use of a computer, the internet, a photocopier, printer and fax machine 24-hours per day.

USA Technologies is also the leading owner and licenser of networked credit card-activated control systems for the personal computer, photocopier, facsimile and laptop printing capabilities.  The company’s proprietary technologies make available unattended, point-of-sale control systems for credit card payments.  USA’s web site is .

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NationsBanks New NM Center

NationsBank announced Thursday the grand opening of its Card Services call center in Rio Rancho, N.M.  The center, a 76,768 square-foot facility located on 15 acres in northern Rio Rancho, was developed to house 1,000 customer care functions and combines “state-of-the-art” technology with creative associate programs including flexible scheduling.

A grand opening celebration and ribbon cutting ceremony were held today in Rio Rancho at the Card Services call center.  Special guests in attendance included: Hugh L_ McColl, CEO, NationsBank; Senator Pete Domenici, R-N.M.; John Blanks, N.M. Secretary of Economic Development; and Rio Rancho Mayor John Jennings.

Simultaneous celebrations also were held in Card Services offices in Charlotte, NC; Dover, De.; and Norfolk, Va.

“We are pleased to officially open this important call center,” said Eileen M. Friars, president of NationsBank Card Services.  “We have been looking forward to this event since Mr. McColl decided to locate this state-of-the-art facility here.  Today marks the beginning of an exciting, long-term partnership between NationsBank Card Services, the Rio Rancho community and New Mexico.”

“The opening of this facility is, indeed, cause for celebration,” said Hugh L. McColl, NationsBank CEO.  “After a thorough search to find the right place for our call center, we stopped when we found Rio Rancho.  This city, which works in partnership with local businesses to grow the economy and make life better for all its citizens, is clearly the right place for NationsBank.”

The call center began hiring customer care representatives in May and receiving customer calls on July 20.  About 190 associates currently work at the call center and accommodate customer calls from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., MST, Monday through Friday.  Bank officials estimate 300 associates will work at the call center by December 1998, totaling about 1,000 associates within five years.

“We are very pleased to welcome NationsBank Card Services to the state of New Mexico,” said David S. Bair, president, NationsBank New Mexico.  “The decision to locate this call center in Rio Rancho and add 1,000 new jobs over the next five years is a reaffirmation of our commitment to New Mexico.”

NationsBank Card Services is one of the nation’s leading issuers of bank credit cards and a recognized leader in the card industry.  NationsBank Card Services provides one of the world’s largest travel and purchase card programs and is a major provider of purchasing card services for state and local governments.

NationsBank Corporation, with $315 billion in total assets, is the third largest U.S. bank with full-service operations in 16 states and the District of Columbia.  NationsBank provides financial products and services to more than 18 million households and one million businesses as well as institutional investors and government agencies in 46 states and in major markets around the world.  The company’s shares (NB) are listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

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Wright Signs Imperial Oil

Cendant-owned Wright Express Corp. was selected by Canada’s Imperial Oil Limited to process and enhance its existing fleet card program. Under a newly signed agreement, Wright Express will establish and operate a program to support the existing Esso commercial cards and to develop new Esso commercial card products for use at approximately 2,600 Esso stations throughout Canada. In addition, in 1997 the two companies entered into an agreement for Esso to electronically accept the Wright Express Universal Fleet Cards, with card acceptance to be rolled out in early 1999.

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Check Central

Greenland Corp. made its first public demonstration of its new ‘Check Central’ check cashing machine yesterday. ‘Check Central’ is a system that integrates stand-alone check cashing ATM machines with a 24-hour back-office customer support operation all connected through proprietary computer software. Customers apply through any ‘Check Central ATM’ for a ‘Check Central Check Cashing Card’ . Operators are available 24 hours a day to assist customers, if needed, through telephone lines connected directly to each ‘Check Central ATM’. Once the application is approved and the card issued, the card allows customers to cash checks, up to a certain dollar limit, at any ‘Check Central ATM’ machine. The company says the new ATMs are intended for installation in convenience stores, liquor stores, grocery stores, shopping malls and other high-traffic locations. There are currently 6,000 check cashing stores in the U.S..

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IRS Volume

The Internal Revenue Service announced yesterday it has reached agreements with Discover, MasterCard and American Express to accept credit cards for federal taxes. Beginning in 1999, U.S. taxpayers will be able to pay IRS bills either by calling a toll-free number or filing electronically. San Ramon, CA-based US Audiotex will handle the phone service. Discover cardholders will be able to use Intuit’s ‘TurboTax’ or ‘MacInTax’  tax preparation software to file their returns electronically and then pay using any NOVUS-issued card. A convenience fee, based on the size of the transaction, will be charged regardless of what option the taxpayer uses. VISA has not joined the acceptance group yet, reportedly holding out for a flat fee instead of a percentage of the transaction.

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Sensar Secure ATM

Each day nearly 27 million people use ATMs for financial transactions.  Until now, the strongest measure of security was a four digit PIN number — easily forgotten or stolen. Securing billions of ATM transactions is no longer a “Mission Impossible.” ATMs around the world are getting ready to be secured with a state-of-the-art iris identification system.  Right now, the first working prototype of this futuristic technology for personal electronic identification is being demonstrated at Sensar’s world headquarters in Moorestown, NJ.

Customers of Nationwide Building Society, the U.K.’s largest savings and loan, are already using Sensar Secure iris identification ATMs.  The Sensar system was also used in the 1998 Nagano Olympics to ensure that high-powered rifles were kept in the hands of athletes and out of terrorists’ reach.

Sensar Secure ATMs are being installed in banks around the world and will be at banks in major cities around the U.S. very soon.

This fraud-proof identification system is more accurate than DNA testing and identifies customers in less than two seconds.  The Sensar system first takes a quick picture of your eye, using standard, everyday video cameras. Then it focuses in on the iris (the colored part) and maps it.  More than 250 points of information are immediately translated into a digital bar code. That bar code is then safely tucked away and stored on file with the bank. (All this technology is illustrated on giant TV monitor screens at Sensar’s “bank of the future.”)

With most financial service providers moving from cash to electronic transactions as a payment form, the need for a more secure, fraud-resistant, yet still user-friendly means of personal identification is critical, particularly at ATM locations where more than 10 billion transactions were processed in the U.S. last year alone.  The eye is the most data rich part of the body, making iris identification more accurate than any other personal electronic identification system available today.

The newly built Sensar-secure “bank of the future” prototype, located at Sensar’s headquarters in Moorestown, NJ, features an enrollment station, teller platform and two functioning ATMs.

Sensar predicts that within five years consumers will be able to use the system to check on stocks and bonds, cash checks, wire money, buy tickets to upcoming concerts, and even apply for large loans right at the ATM, 24 hours a day, because the bank will positively know the customer’s identity.

Sensar has a multi-million dollar development, distribution and supply agreement with Citicorp for direct marketing of its products into the financial services area.  The company also continues to explore cooperative marketing agreements with numerous ATM manufacturers worldwide, and has already formed strategic partnerships with NCR, Citicorp, OKI Electric of Tokyo and LG Electronics of Korea.

NCR, OKI, LG, and several other financial giants are currently testing pre-production versions of Sensar’s Iris Identification system.

According to Rob VanNaarden, Vice President of Sensar, limitations on transactions at ATMs and concerns about their security have plagued the financial services industry for years.  Until now, however, no solution was available that combined high accuracy and reliability with the ultimate in user friendliness.

“Sensar’s technology will enable banks to offer a broader range of high-value ATM services, thus improving customer services at the ATM and generating increased profit opportunities for financial institutions,” VanNaarden said.  “In addition, Sensar’s iris identification system delivers a powerful personal identification tool that enhances the security of ATM customers while increasing user friendliness by eliminating the need for remembering PIN numbers and, soon, even cards.”

Founded in 1993, Sensar was formed as a spin-off of the Sarnoff Corporation, formerly RCA Laboratories, an internationally acclaimed advanced technology research and development organization.  Many of the world’s most important breakthroughs in electronics during the past 50 years have been pioneered at Sarnoff, including color television and the liquid crystal display.  Sensar holds the exclusive licensing rights to computer-vision technology developed at Sarnoff for use on a worldwide basis that is being incorporated into the company’s iris identification system.

IriScan, Inc. of Mt. Laurel, NJ, holds the exclusive worldwide patents on the Iris Identification concept developed by Drs. Leonard Flom and Aran Safir and the software and process technology invented by Dr. John Daugman, Cambridge University, England.  Sensar uses, under license, the Iris Identification process developed and owned exclusively by IriScan.  IRISCAN is a trademark of IriScan, Inc. of Mt. Laurel, NJ, and is used by Sensar under license from IriScan, Inc.

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