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ServisFirst Bancshares Inc (NASDAQ:SFBS)
Q4 2020 Earnings Call
Jan 25, 2021, 5:15 p.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good day, and welcome to the ServisFirst Bancshares, Incorporated Fourth Quarter Earnings Call. All participants will be in a listen-only mode. [Operator Instructions] After today's presentation, there will be an opportunity to ask questions. Please note this event is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Davis Mange. Please go ahead, sir.

Davis S. Mange -- Investor Relations Contact

Good afternoon, and welcome to our fourth quarter earnings call. We will have Tom Broughton, our CEO; Bud Foshee, our CFO; and Henry Abbott, our Chief Credit Officer, covering some highlights from the quarter, and then we'll take your questions.

I'll now cover our forward-looking statements disclosure. Some of the discussion in today's earnings call may include forward-looking statements. Actual results may differ from any projections shared today due to factors described in our most recent 10-K and 10-Q filings. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made, and ServisFirst assumes no duty to update them.

With that, I'll turn the call over to Tom.

Thomas Ashford Broughton -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Davis, and good afternoon. Welcome to our year-end conference call -- earnings call. Going back on the time to last March, if you had asked me, if I thought we would report record earnings for 2020, I certainly would have said, I feel fairly certain we will not report record earnings with the looming pandemic in front of us. So we are very pleased to be able to report record earnings. I think it speaks very well for the quality of our team, and our asset quality.

Our credit quality has never been stronger as, Henry Abbott, our Chief Credit Officer will discuss in more detail in a few minutes. Our deposits grew by $2.5 billion in the past year, a 33% increase, a very large deposit surge because of the pandemic. We are beginning the transition to a $10 billion bank, and we've been planning this for several years. The pandemic just sped up the timeline a bit. We do have all the infrastructure in place to make the transition.

Our regulators have been very proactive with working us to ensure a smooth transition. And our Chief Risk Officer, Mark McVay, has done an outstanding job. The pandemic helped us transition quickly to new technology and showed us we really don't need as much brick-and-mortar as we have even in a bank with a branch-light model like ours. It is also made our class transition more quickly as well. We are very fortunate to be based entirely in the Southeast where we have had very few shutdowns and less affected customers than in other parts of the country.

Our unemployment rate is good, bit lower. More workers have jobs and our economy is at much better shape. We are seeing a large migration into our footprint. We expect it to continue. I've always said that given a choice between a bad bank in a good market or a good bank in a bad market, I would pick the bad bank in a good market as we can fix a bad bank, but we cannot fix a bad market.

Talking a little bit about our loan growth for the quarter, particularly, we did see 6% annualized growth in the fourth quarter. I thought it would be a bit higher than that. But we did not -- I did not anticipate, there is the fear of higher tax rates, capital gains. Rates led several customers to sell their companies and other assets to lock in the current rates. We also launched a few loans on rate and structure. We continue to emphasize being a disciplined lender. Our credit quality was evident in the 2008-2010 recession, and has proven again to be the same at 2020.

The loan pipeline is off a bit from October, but we are starting to see some projects. They have been on hold, starting to move forward. We just lost a chunk of the year to the pandemic on the loan side.

Line utilization is still at historically low levels. We've had a very modest rebound. To recap, before the pandemic, our C&I line utilization was around 49%. It failed to 37% and is back up to 38.5% at the end of this quarter. I do expect the line utilizations to rebound over the next year or so. Supply chains are not rebuild for our clients. Their inventories are still very low. We're starting to see some prices increase on steel, lumber, which will lead to higher inventories as well for our customers.

Our legacy offices with the largest market share had the most paydowns, which is obviously very obvious that we would have that. So the newer regions had very less business on the books and had less paydowns from the line utilization drop.

We do expect significant loan opportunities going forward for several reasons. One is, we made many PPP loans to class of other bank, who will transition their banking to us. In addition, we've had many -- we've had a bad experience with another bank with PPP and plan to move their banking to us after their loan forgiveness is done. Also many banks closed their offices and were working remotely and not returning client calls, which led to a number of dissatisfied clients, leading to new client opportunities for ServisFirst.

We also expect substantial growth in construction loan draws in the next year, and we do combine that with the line utilization rebound should lead to some natural loan growth even without any organic loan growth, which we expect as well.

To mention where we are on the new round of the PPP program, we've just got a few days in it. We did start to last Tuesday. So we've had less than a week as of this morning. So we expect that we will have demand of about 25% to 35% of the last round of PPP, we did have -- I think we made almost 5,000 loans and a $1.50 billion in loans last year in that program. So, obviously, there is a -- it's more niche based this time, so we are seeing lower volumes.

The fee -- the actual fee income is slightly higher. We do see lower expenses deliver in this program, will less over time, and other expenses.

I'm going to stop there now, and I'll turn it over to Henry Abbott for a credit update. Henry?

Henry Abbott -- Chief Credit Officer

Thank you, Tom. I'm pleased with the bank's fourth quarter results, and how the bank's loan portfolio performed throughout the pandemic, and optimistic how we're positioned for 2021 and beyond.

Our total past dues to loans was 11 basis points, which is roughly $9 million, and that's on par with the third core -- third quarter, which is near historic lows.

Nonperforming assets were $25.5 million on the total loan portfolio of $8.5 billion. The $25 million in NPAs is an $8 million reduction from the third quarter and $18.8 million reduction from year-end 2019. These resulted in NPA total assets at 21 basis points, which is an 8 basis point reduction from the third quarter and a 29 basis point reduction, or over half from the same period in the prior year. I'm proud to say, past dues to total assets and nonperforming assets to total assets have not been this low since 2015. As referenced, asset quality improved, which leads me to be optimistic about our outlook in these uncertain times.

We did have roughly $9 million in charge-offs for the quarter. As we have historically referenced, we are proactive in our credit servicing and took appropriate actions as needed on credit in the fourth quarter. The overwhelming majority of these charge-offs we took in the fourth quarter were related to previously impaired loans. Two of the specific charge-offs we took in the fourth quarter were related to borrower misrepresentations on C&I relationship, and these charges accounted for just over half of the charge-offs for the quarter. And I'd also note, the charge-offs were down from our third quarter results.

We have grown our ALLL by over $11 million in the past year. As of year-end, our ALLL loans was 1.04%. However, excluding PPP from total loans, our ALLL to total loans was 1.16%, which is higher than we've been at a year-end in roughly 10 years.

As we move to the CECL calculation in 2020, the difference between the amount of credit losses allowance required under our incurred loss methodology and amount required under the CECL methodology, resulted in a $2 million reduction, which was shown in our fourth quarter results.

With that, I'll pass it back to you, Tom.

Thomas Ashford Broughton -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Henry. Thank you for that update. I'll now turn it over to Bud Foshee, our Chief Financial Officer for the financial update.

William M. Foshee -- Executive Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary & Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Tom, good afternoon. Net interest margin for the fourth quarter was 3.27% versus 3.14% for the third quarter. The adjusted margin was 3.23%, excluding the average PPP balances of $1.01 billion, and PPP interest and loan fees of $10.1 million [Phonetics]. The adjusted margin for the third quarter was 3.25%. The average PPP balances were $1.05 billion, and PPP interest and fees were $6.6 million.

Adjusted margin was 3.36% excluding the increase and excess funds of $311 million. In the third quarter, adjusted margin was 3.33% with an increase in average excess funds of $610 million. The remaining net PPP deferred fees at 12/31/20 are $17.8 million. CD maturities for 2021 are $530 million, a $137 million in the first quarter. Average rate is 1.25% and is 1.33% for the first quarter maturities. We expect majority of these CDs reprice at 0.40% or below. The repricing will result in the $2.3 million annual expense reduction, and just the first quarter maturities will reduce annual expenses by $1.1 million.

Quarter-to-date cost of interest-bearing deposits has decreased. It was 0.58 in the third quarter and 0.44 in the fourth quarter. And the last deposit rate cut that we made was on November 23. End of the year deposit costs, total deposits was 0.28%. Total interest-bearing DDAs was 0.25%, and total interest-bearing deposits was 0.39%. Just a reminder, we have no accretion income related to acquisitions.

Liquidity, excess funds were $600 million, when we started funding the PPP loans in April of 2020. At the end of the year, the excess funds were $2.1 billion. For noninterest income, credit card spend $168.4 million in the fourth quarter versus $151.4 million in the third quarter. Total year-to-date spend for 2020 was $601 million, and in 2019, that was $515 million.

In credit card net income, we made an accrual adjustment of $870,000 in the fourth quarter related to rebates. So fourth quarter net would have been $1.78 million. Actual was $913,000 versus $1.8 million in the third quarter.

Merchant services fee income, year-to-date income was $565,000 versus $416,000 in 2019. And we have two officers dedicated to selling that service.

Mortgage income in fourth quarter, $3.1 million versus $2.5 million in the third quarter. The Durbin Amendment, that is change that will take effect for us on July 1, '22, anticipated loss of revenues around $950,000. And just a reminder, we do not sell any government guaranteed loans to generate noninterest income.

Noninterest expense, total producers at the end of 2019 were 139, at the end of 2020, 133. And total employees, 12/31/19, that was 504, and at the end of 2020, it was 499. Total noninterest expenses, when you adjust for PPP expenses, the PPP, FASB deferral and ORE expenses, in the first quarter, they were $27.2 million, second quarter, $26.4 million, third quarter, $26.2 million, and it increased to $28.4 million in the fourth quarter.

Increase in the fourth quarter has several components. The fourth quarter expense for reserve for unfunded commitments was $1.2 million and the increase was due to portfolio line utilization. It decreased from 52.7% at 12/31/19 to 47.8% at 12-31/20. Salaries increased to $116,000. We had new hires in Nashville and West Florida. We did open a new office in Venice, Florida. But we also closed Atlanta office. Also, we will review potential closing of two additional offices when they currently sees leases expire.

Problem credit expense has increased $236,000. We also had PPP expenses, round one expenses of $209,000, and round two of $50,000. The bank's tier 1 leverage ratio was 8.75% at 12/31/20, well above the 8% minimum required by the regulators. Earnings retention for 2020 was 77.6%. Taxes -- quarter-to-date tax rate for 2020 was 22.1%. The fourth quarter 2019 was 20.1%. Year-to-date 2020, the rate is 20.7%, and the year-to-date rate for 2019 was 20.1%. And the projected tax rate for 2021 is 23%.

This concludes my comments, and I'll turn the program back over to Tom.

Thomas Ashford Broughton -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Bud. Couple of more things before we take questions. One, I thought you might be interested in a COVID update. Like all banks, we took all precautions early on and continue to do so. But we work remotely in rotation, we require mask, we use barriers, plexiglass and other things. And we've also had many redundant systems, which have proven to be very beneficial.

I checked with our HR last week and 17% of our employees have tested positive for COVID. A total of 57% have either been sick, have been out due to exposure or quarantine for other reasons. So we continue to operate the bank even though our half of our employees have been out for one reason or another. None of our employees have been hospitalized, and we really learned the -- most of them are not too sick to work remotely. So that's been certainly helpful to operating the bank.

We don't think we've had -- we -- I think with some employees go to lunch together and that's probably how there's probably been some inner-office transmission is just people leaving together and going to launch. Most of the stories I hear from my employees', they went to wedding, they went to a social event. They went to a large family Thanksgiving or Christmas function, so holiday function of some kind. So anyway, that's your update on COVID. So we're fortunate that we pushed through that with no one being hospitalized here in the office.

We -- as Bud mentioned, we did open our new office in Venice, Florida last week, when experienced team, as we had in the West Florida region. We're also opening our new Fort Walton Beach office this year, and one in Summerville, South Carolina. So as we continue to build, look at session, how many offices we need, we do continue to open new offices.

We are optimistic about our growth prospects. As Bud mentioned, we had a number of very fine officers join us in the fourth quarter, not a large number. We have much higher quality officers we're adding to our banking ranks. So, again the bank margins are very helpful for us, both for hiring new bankers and obtaining new clients. The pandemic deposit surge will allow us to grow quality loans as we currently have over $2 billion on deposit. The Fed Reserve are in 10 basis points. So, again, we strive to be a disciplined growth company that sets high standards for performance.

We'll be happy to answer any questions you have. Thank you.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

We will now begin the question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] And our first question will come from Brad Milsaps with Piper Sandler. Please go ahead.

Brad Milsaps -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Hi guys.

Thomas Ashford Broughton -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Brad.

William M. Foshee -- Executive Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary & Chief Financial Officer

Hi, Brad.

Brad Milsaps -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

So I appreciate your optimism around loan growth. So just kind of curious, would you expect kind of with what you have in front of you, you can kind of get back to that sort of low double-digit, maybe even higher growth rate that you guys have experienced in the past? Or you think that's more of a second half '21 and '22 kind of proposition?

Thomas Ashford Broughton -- President & Chief Executive Officer

That's a really good question, Brad. It's the timing of when does the rebound and loan demand. We think -- the line utilization, we think will bounce back, but I couldn't say that it's going to be evenly over the next four quarters, right? That would be speculative on my part. And the construction loan collaterals [Phonetics], we have a fair pipeline of construction loan draws that will happen this year that will add to the -- be additive to our loan growth. So, I feel good about that part. Just the line utilization. I don't know exactly when we'll see the rebound that I would expect there, Brad. But the pipelines never really strong in the first quarter because we close everything, we get close by year end, right, that's for -- for incentive purposes, thereby wants to get their deals closed by the fourth quarter, all our bankers do. So the first quarter is always a little on the slim side. So I would expect a pickup, a good bit in the second -- second, third, fourth quarter, Brad. And -- but two things, we are in the throes of PPP, the current program right now. So that sort of got our -- nobody's out doing a prospect, and right now we're trying to make sure all our clients' needs are taken care of. First of all, and also we're still at pandemic and companies move in their banking to us. Let's say, yeah, we're going to do it, but when we get through the pandemic, when we get through the loan forgiveness for existing banks. So moving their bank is not top of mind right now for our customers. So, that's -- wining a little bit of time, I think, to get this pandemic behind us perhaps.

Brad Milsaps -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

And Tom, for the growth that you are seeing what types of rates are you seeing on the new loan originations that are coming on?

William M. Foshee -- Executive Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary & Chief Financial Officer

Hey, Brad, it's Bud. We're -- with savings, I would say, we're getting [Indecipherable] the quarter on the deals.

Brad Milsaps -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Okay, great. And then maybe just another follow-up, Bud. Obviously, liquidity continues to be a big headwind for the margin. Kind of curious, are you guys going to kind of hold that -- kind of wait for the loan growth to come? Would you increase the bond book at all? Just kind of trying to get a sense of kind of how you're thinking about that big liquidity bucket that you've got on the balance sheet right now?

William M. Foshee -- Executive Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary & Chief Financial Officer

Well, we like to try, but Fed buys [Phonetics] everything. So there's really nothing to buy. You're about -- like if you break even every month, about what pays down a mortgage backs, you can buy. It'd be hard to build it up by that much just based on what's out there from an inventory standpoint right now.

Brad Milsaps -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Okay, great. I'll hop back in queue.

Thomas Ashford Broughton -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our next question will come from Kevin Fitzsimmons with DA Davidson. Please go ahead.

Kevin Fitzsimmons -- DA Davidson -- Analyst

Hey, good afternoon, everyone.

Thomas Ashford Broughton -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Hey, Kevin.

William M. Foshee -- Executive Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary & Chief Financial Officer

Hey, Kevin.

Kevin Fitzsimmons -- DA Davidson -- Analyst

Just curious, it sounds like everything is going in the right direction in terms of credit, and you guys all feel comfortable. I'm wondering what you're seeing in terms of migration into criticized and classifieds? Whether any of the big decline we've seen in deferrals has migrated to those categories yet? Thanks.

Henry Abbott -- Chief Credit Officer

No. I mean, I think for the year, we were up in criticized assets. But for the quarter, we were down in the fourth quarter on our criticized assets. And we're -- as folks got off of the deferrals, they start making payments again. We haven't increased TDRs. They're continuing to pay. So for the quarter, we did see a decrease, but as of 12/31/2019 we were in a pandemic. So they are up for the year.

William M. Foshee -- Executive Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary & Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. I think, Kevin if I -- very, very few of our credit problems have anything to do with the pandemic. I mean there is some. I mean, but probably, like -- if Henry would -- 5% or 10% of our problem credits being tied to the pandemic, being damage from the pandemic, would that be...

Henry Abbott -- Chief Credit Officer

Yeah, I mean from the loss perspective, I can really only harp on one, and that was one we talked about last quarter...

William M. Foshee -- Executive Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary & Chief Financial Officer

Right.

Henry Abbott -- Chief Credit Officer

The impacts -- but other than that these are existing credits, we've just been working through.

William M. Foshee -- Executive Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary & Chief Financial Officer

That's really [Speech Overlap] Credit -- our credit problems have really nothing to do with the pandemic, so.

Kevin Fitzsimmons -- DA Davidson -- Analyst

Yeah. Okay. Is it fair to say though you're -- are you taking a more, not more proactive, but are you taking a deliberate approach because of the pandemic to work those through this -- the pipe a little quicker than you might, if you didn't have the pandemic looming out there?

Thomas Ashford Broughton -- President & Chief Executive Officer

We are. Kevin, it's just a good time to take a hard look, especially the fourth quarter, you don't want to carry something over from year-to-year that has any sort of loss potential in it. Right? So you as a former diameter [Phonetics] would not appreciate us doing that if we were a bank. So we are trying -- we do try to be fairly aggressive these days and looking at everything out there. It's good to have the COVID [Phonetics] -- deal with the problem.

Kevin Fitzsimmons -- DA Davidson -- Analyst

Sounds very reasonable to me. Can you -- Bud, I appreciate all the numbers on PPP. Some of those were coming kind of quick. If you -- how should we look at the timing of the forgiveness on what's remaining on round one and the recognition of the fees in terms of over the next few quarters? Will at all occur in the first quarter? Will it be spread between the next two quarters? And then, do you feel likewise, on the round two, do you think that is basically all buttoned up by the end of this quarter that in terms of timing on that? Thanks.

William M. Foshee -- Executive Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary & Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. The current PPP is spread throughout the year. I know it's a little bit elevated more in the -- driving first half of the year. So we anticipate we had -- there were $17 million left or $17.8 million. So essentially, all of that will play out. We don't -- we see maybe just a small amount left, maybe at the end of 2021. But as far as the fees, I would say, it's more first-half weighted. And with their round, I really don't. Do you have any?

Thomas Ashford Broughton -- President & Chief Executive Officer

I don't have the figure for you. I'm sorry. Too early.

Kevin Fitzsimmons -- DA Davidson -- Analyst

And...

Thomas Ashford Broughton -- President & Chief Executive Officer

[Speech Overlap] We think it all be paid off in this calendar year. We think, yeah, but I can't tell you though, timing though.

Kevin Fitzsimmons -- DA Davidson -- Analyst

And just to dovetail little on Brad's question on the excess liquidity, so you've already got this very excess liquid position. But isn't it likely now to get even more elevated because now you basically are getting cash coming from the SBA on round one? And then, is your expectation that -- I know there is a limited amount of what you can do with it, but you expect some of it to -- some of the deposits that are related to PPP to go away once PPPs forgiven?

Thomas Ashford Broughton -- President & Chief Executive Officer

That would be -- our assumption is that we will see deposits migrate out at some point, but we are projecting net deposit growth for this year. So each of our regions we roll out there, their numbers and our own. And so they are optimistic, they continue to grow their balance sheet. Yeah, we need to find some loans.

Kevin Fitzsimmons -- DA Davidson -- Analyst

Right, understood. All right, guys, thanks very much.

Thomas Ashford Broughton -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Kevin.

William M. Foshee -- Executive Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary & Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our next question will come from William Wallace with Raymond James. Please go ahead.

William Wallace -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Thanks. Good evening, guys. So, Tom, in your prepared remarks, you mentioned crossing over $10 billion, which we generally assume comes with elevated costs around the compliance side of the business. You also mentioned that the pandemic helped you learned that the branch network is not as necessary, even -- I believe you said even for a branch-light network like yours. Can you talk a little bit about the push and pull of the potential cost pressures from going over $10 billion and what relief valves you may have on the branch side or whatever other side there is? And then maybe just kind of help us think about where we end up the year from an expense perspective?

Thomas Ashford Broughton -- President & Chief Executive Officer

I'll let Bud address most of the question, Wally. We are looking at branch rationalization. As we open new branches, we'll always be saying, where can we be more efficient. And we think there are opportunities as leases come up. It take a little bit of time, but we've got a couple of offices, we think we can consolidate. We are obviously consolidating one in the Atlantic region, starting in March. It will be closed. So that will be added to our efficiency a little bit. But it's going to be a noisy year, because we're going through the system conversion, and I'll let Bud refer to that and -- from -- and also your overall question of expenses on compliance. So go ahead, Bud.

William M. Foshee -- Executive Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary & Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. Well, on the compliance side, the regulators have really been working with us for several years on what we would need. So we don't see a -- an elevated expense from a compliance side. We feel like we're pretty well staffed in that area. Really on the system conversion, the system conversion will take place. We'll phase that in starting in February. So really you got elevated counts from our current provider, because we're under short-term agreement with them. And then the costs for the new system will only be there for a couple of months this year. So you will have elevated RT [Phonetics] expenses this year, but we will have a lower RT expense next year with the -- within the [Indecipherable]. I mean going back from clients and we're just not a consumer bank, I think that's where a lot of banks have increased expenses as they crossed $10 billion, and what is -- that's just something we don't have to worry about for month from that side as far as of staffing and infrastructure.

William Wallace -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Okay. And maybe just trying to put a bow on this, you did about, I don't know, it's like 8% or 9% growth in your expense in 2020. Do you think that the growth is at that range in '21? Or is it above that? Or do you think that you've got opportunities to slow that growth down?

William M. Foshee -- Executive Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary & Chief Financial Officer

I would say, it's still going to be in that range mainly because of the elevated RT expenses.

William Wallace -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Okay. And then just one housekeeping question. I couldn't find it anywhere else, I mean it was probably somewhere, but what was the period end PPP balance?

William M. Foshee -- Executive Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary & Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, one sec, that is $900 million.

William Wallace -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you.

Thomas Ashford Broughton -- President & Chief Executive Officer

The balance -- which you asked was the balance? I didn't hear that.

William M. Foshee -- Executive Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary & Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, yeah.

William Wallace -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Ending year balance, I got the average. I just didn't get any. Thank you, guys.

William M. Foshee -- Executive Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary & Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Wallace.

Henry Abbott -- Chief Credit Officer

Thank you.

Thomas Ashford Broughton -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Wally.

Operator

This concludes our question-and-answer session, as well as our conference call for today. Thank you for attending today's presentation. You may now disconnect.

Duration: 34 minutes

Call participants:

Davis S. Mange -- Investor Relations Contact

Thomas Ashford Broughton -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Henry Abbott -- Chief Credit Officer

William M. Foshee -- Executive Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary & Chief Financial Officer

Brad Milsaps -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Kevin Fitzsimmons -- DA Davidson -- Analyst

William Wallace -- Raymond James -- Analyst

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