CNBC Exclusive: CNBC Transcript: Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke Speaks One-on-One with Maria Bartiromo Today

When: Today, Friday, August 23rd

Where: CNBC's "Closing Bell"

Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke airing today on "Closing Bell" (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET). Excerpts of the interview will run throughout Business Day today.

All references must be sourced to CNBC.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Mike Duke,great to have you on the program.

MIKE DUKE: Thank you.

MARIA BARTIROMO: We were justwalking here over to this area because we wanted to talk about what you're seeing. Let me ask you about that. Because, of course, Walmart, the world's largest retailer, the largest employer-- it's a great vantage point and an opportunity for us to really go to the source to see what's going on with the consumer. Now, in your most recent earnings-- release, you said that things were challenging. Can you expand on that a bit? What do you see?

MIKE DUKE: It's good timing,Maria, because we're here where we're just finishing up our store manager'smeeting. So we had 4,000 managers. And we set up in this environment to meetwith our store managers and talk about the holiday season.

MIKE DUKE: --virtually every week talking to customers. We have a lot of data. And also these store managers that tell me what's going on. The customer clearly is on a lot of pressure. I think the economic pressure from the payroll tax, you know, Walmart customer,for example, even an-- say a typical customer might be in the $40,000 to$50,000 income range for a person. That may be $40 per pay-- biweekly paycheck that they're paying in additional tax that they can't spend.

I think the concern about fuel prices, about jobs, employment, all of this puts a little bit of a cloud on the consumer in the United States right now. What I fine, though, is the customer is so smart. They're using information more than ever. And they're adapting. They're finding ways to get through, even with this-- this pressure on them. And obviously, that's where Walmart comes in to play.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Which is why I think e-commerce has been so strong for you-- which I'm going to get to in a moment. But let me ask you this, Mike. Broadly speaking, why has it been so difficult to move the needle, in terms of job creation, in terms of economic growth?

MIKE DUKE: I do think here in the United States, if we focus there, all of us need to work together.Business-- government, nongovernment, to start to create a growth story. And we in business can do it, but also we do need government, of course, taking the right steps in Washington and across the nation to start to move the momentum.

I think of it as-- the moment of a flywheel. And we need to get this moving. And it can start to feed on itself. And some of this would revolve around our tax policies and where we really need comprehensive tax reform. We need other steps to start to create a growth story here in the United States. But business can be a part of that,investing in the United States, creating jobs. Because that can start the cycle also.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Which is why Walmart and you and Bill Simon have launched this manufacturing summit. We're going to talk to Bill later on in the program about that, which we're excited about. Let me ask you this, what are you expecting from back to school and from the holidays? Here we are looking at all of these products for the holidays. Do you have an anticipation at this point?

MIKE DUKE: I do anticipate that customers are smart. And they have more information than they've ever had.They are looking for value. And they look for quality. So I do think there'll continue to be pressure. I think the overall consumer spending in the-- in the United States and frankly around the world will be under pressure through the back to school and through the holiday season.

But I think where customers can see value and quality and their needs be met, then those retailers will do really well. That's why, actually, I feel really positive after this Walmart managers meeting about how Walmart is so positioned. Our business model of everyday low price is exactly what customers will be looking for this holiday season.

What about competition. I mean, in an environment where you are seeing people stressed and stretched, you know, with the payroll tax-- increase-- are they going-- even trying to go lower? In other words, the dollar stores. Are you seeing the dollar stores take market share, at this point, because of this stress?

MIKE DUKE: Well, I'm out in competitors every week, you know? When I visit our stores, wherever I'm at in--across the United States, I drop in and visit competitors. So I have great respect for all competitors. And I will tell you that I think there's going to be more pressure on all forms of retailing. But I also think that that's where Walmart comes into play. I can't say that-- because we are gaining market share in those categories that we can-- evaluate and get real true metrics around market share, we can see that we continue to gain market share and feel good about that. So I'm not one to be-- know where the market share shifts are taking place. I can know our own information and feel good about where we're headed in those categories that we can identify.

MARIA BARTIROMO: I love the fact that you go to the-- competitors and shop around.

MIKE DUKE: It's-- I learn every time, too.


MIKE DUKE: I learn from our own stores, but I also learn from competitors. So--

MARIA BARTIROMO: Let me ask you about international, Mike. This is something that keeps coming up with investors and the analyst community. This company has always been about operating for less, selling for less. Give the people the lowest price possible and do it through, you know, your ways, in terms of operating for less. But the productivity loop that you have implemented-- throughout the company, is it tougher to implement that internationally, as opposed to the U.S., because of the different labor laws, because of different wages? Are you having a tougher time-- selling for less international?

MIKE DUKE: Actually, we have had great success in the markets that we've been in for a number of years,where we have implemented our everyday low price practice is where we have great success. So, for example, Mexico, Canada, the U.K., our ASDA business. So those are our three big markets that we've been in for a longer period of time.And we've implemented our everyday low price productivity loop model there.

In the newer markets, we a ea long the curve of maturity. And we're still working on that transition in markets like China, Brazil, so we've had nothing but success where we mature and develop the E.D.L.P. productivity loop model. Frankly, I'd just like to see this move faster. You know, and those emerging markets, the customers still want E.D.L.P.

MIKE DUKE: than China with--as we've even focused more on the-- this particular business model. So no, I think it's really-- it is the right model for every market that we operate in,all over the world, both mature and developing markets.

MARIA BARTIROMO: On thesecond quarter conference call, you told associates that international needs tobetter drive expense leverage and lower your cost structure to align with amore challenging retail environment, exactly what you're saying right now. Howdo you do it?

MIKE DUKE: Right. In somecases, we have to even be better job of forecasting. You know, theinternational consumers-- in different markets have also tightened, havereduced spending. So some markets that were growing at a faster rate haveslowed the rate of growth, where consumers have started to cut back. We have toadjust more quickly. We have to adjust our own base of operations as theconsumer adjusted.

That's part of the adjustmentthat the international markets are doing. The other thing we're doing is we'reinvesting there. We are-- we are investing in technology, leverage, the greatideas from other markets like the U.S. and the U.K. We're now exporting thoseideas to other newer markets and bringing forward productivity initiativesthere. But we go through an investment phase in order to-- in order to producethis-- long-term business model. Because we are in this for the long term inall the markets that we operate in. And that's kind of our cycle of the way weinvest.

MARIA BARTIROMO: So talk tous about your investing and how you want to allocate capital going forward.You've made a number of investments in social media, in the cloud-- Chinese--commerce site. Tell me, is this going to be the norm going forward? Are theremore acquisitions to be done in terms of technology and international?

MIKE DUKE: We are clearlygoing to be investing in technology. No doubt about it. Now whether itsacquisitions or our own capabilities, I spent-- Monday and Tuesday in ouroffice in San Bruno, California. We have acquired talent, the best talent inthe world. The smartest-- there in Silicon Valley that I was so-- continue tobe enthused.

So we will invest, in differentways, in the area of technology. And at the same time, we're going to continueto invest in stores. We think the overlap, having 11,000 retail stores aroundthe world and the world's best technology, we think produces the world's bestway to serve consumers in every market. So we're going to continue to invest inboth in order to serve customers with this overlap of technology and stores.

MARIA BARTIROMO: You know,it's interesting that you ment-- first of all, are you going to take somepeople from

MIKE DUKE: Well, frankly--

MARIA BARTIROMO: What aboutthe talent there?

MIKE DUKE: It's--we havegreat respect for all competitors, including-- Amazon and other competitors.And frankly-- a lot of-- we are really having an amazingly good time ofrecruiting-- talent to come to Walmart. I think, you know, it's interesting. Weare a company with a purpose. And the mission, the things that we work on tohelp people live a better life, the big initiatives-- about sustainability andabout-- veterans and other things that Walmart is involved in-- I find this isthe best time in my history with Walmart, in terms of recruiting talent,recruiting senior executives down to recruiting all the associates that want tobe a part of the opportunity to grow themselves and be a part of the Walmartstory.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Speakingof-- employees-- the minimum wage, a lot of people expecting it to go up again.What are you expecting?

MIKE DUKE: Yeah, it's hard tosay what I'm expecting. I-- think there'll be a lot of discussion, there shouldbe, about that. I think there should be even more discussion in the UnitedStates about the middle class. You know, we've got a middle America that wereally need to develop. And that's where a lot of jobs like manufacturing and otherscan come into play that we are very involved in.

What I also think, though, isAmerica needs are places for everyone to start. And sometimes the-- opportunityfrom the starting role on to grow and develop. And I'm just extremely proud ofthe fact that 75% of U.S. management started with Walmart as hourly associates.And this creation of opportunity, it's a great story of America. It's a greatstory of Walmart. So whatever we do, we sure don't want to take away from theopportunity to get started and the opportunity to grow and be a part ofpersonal growth, as well as the growth of our business and the growth ofAmerica.

MARIA BARTIROMO: It seemslike it could be two-sided. If the minimum wage goes up, it helps yourcustomers. Maybe they'll spend more. But it also-- forces you to pay more.What's the impact to Walmart?

MIKE DUKE: Well, you know, Ido believe in general the level playing field is what's important. So whatwould be-- what's not appropriate is when different retailers are approacheddifferent ways. But it's one of those that the formula of labor and people andopportunity is complicated for all businesses. And frankly, the important thingfor us is to be able to serve customers with our business model in a level way.

But the story of Walmart withour people, it's not the pay to start it's the opportunity. As you probablyknow, I think less than 1% of our associates make the minimum wage. The vastmajority of our associates are paid more than that. And this opportunity togrow is the real story of opportunity of Walmart.

MARIA BARTIROMO: But whatabout in Washington, D.C., Mike? I mean, Walmart along with other big chainscould pay nearly 50% more than D.C.'s existing $8.25 minimum wage, if thislatest bill becomes law. I know people are not happy about this. There was anexecutive declaring in the Washington Post website that it would cancel plansfor the three stores not under construction if this bill becomes law. Will youpull out of Washington if that happens?

MIKE DUKE: Well, we hope wedon't face that. We really want to serve customers in Washington. I've visiteda number of times the cities, the communities. There are areas where the very,very high unemployment rate, food deserts where customers really can't buy theproduce that we've seen here on the floor. And we want to serve thosecustomers. We want to provide those job opportunities.

We'd like to create anotherstory, like we've done in Chicago. We had a similar debate in Chicago a fewyears ago. We now have nine stores in Chicago. I've visited a number of them.Great jobs, great opportunity for growth, serving customers, and of course--Mayor Rahm Emanuel-- was at our most ribbon cutting. So I believe and I tend tobe positive and confident that Washington, D.C. will end up being another storylike Chicago at some point in the future.

MARIA BARTIROMO: So you hopeit doesn't get there. All right, let me turn-- my attention to-- our attentionto Mexico. Walmart, of course, reported higher than expected expenses-- relatedto the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the international division. This, ofcourse, the bribery charges-- in Mexico.

$73 million in the firstquarter-- more than expected. $82 million in the second quarter, on top of the$155 million to implement the compliance program, a lot of expectations, moreto come in the third quarter. Do you have any visibility on this, Mike? Whatshould investors expect? Should they expect these kinds of outflows for severalquarters to come?

MIKE DUKE: Well, first, theinvestigation itself and the timing I really can't comment on, because it's aninvestigation underway. So it'd be inappropriate to-- discuss that or thetiming of that investigation. It would also be inappropriate to jump to anyconclusions about the outcome of that. What I can say and-- a portion of thisinvestment is in the area of compliance, to do the right thing in every marketthat we operate in. So we have invested in people and processes and systems toensure that every market that we operate in, that we do it the right way inevery aspect of our business. And I'm really pleased with the developments ofimproving compliance around the world.

MARIA BARTIROMO: I thinkpeople are happy about that. But it was expensive, $155 million to implementthis program. You've got to have a model that you're anticipating. I mean--could this be a billion dollar fine? Are you going to be doing $80 to $100million putting aside for this-- for this-- expense for the next severalquarters?

MIKE DUKE: Of course-- as Isaid, I really wouldn't be able to c-- comment at all on the future of theinvestigation or-- any future discussions about that. So--

MARIA BARTIROMO: let me askyou this. Are heads going to roll? Is anybody going to get fired over this?

MIKE DUKE: I-- we will takethe appropriate action. But it would be premature to discuss anything about thefuture. We do the right thing. And Walmart management associates know that--doing the right thing is just a part of working at Walmart.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Some peoplejust feel like this is also a part of working and running a business in Mexico,by the way.

MIKE DUKE: We do not havedifferent standards anywhere in the world. We set the highest standard. Weexpect compliance with our United States law. But we also expect that standardsof local law. But frankly, I like to say that our standards are higher, thatthe way of doing business the right way comes where the law is the startingpoint. We have much higher expectations of all of our leaders.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Mike, let meswitch you over to health care. 'Cause this, of course, is-- as you know, allyour colleagues in business keep naming this as one of the issues that arekeeping them sitting on cash, not hiring workers. Increasingly, companiesshifting full-time workers to become part-time workers because of the expenseof Obamacare. You initially backed Obamacare. But then last year in December,you said you too would no longer insure part-time workers. How much of a burdenis the rising cost of health care? Explain this to us.

MIKE DUKE: And, you know,I'll clarify. Back a number of years ago, we actually said before there was--the Affordable Care Act, that the current system of health care was notsustainable. And we still believe that. That the path on health care-- healthcare in Am-- in the United States needs revision and still does. And-- butwe've been working on this now for a number of years.

So the Affordable Care Actreally doesn't have the significant impact, because we've-- we already meet thetest for affordability, for quality of what the act-- requires. So not a bigchange for us. What I do believe, Maria, is the country con-- needs to continueto work on, which is how can we create the competitive environment for the costof health care? How do we also create transparency? How do we create awarenessso that the cost of health care in-- in America can be reduced and still getthe kind of quality that Americans expect from their health care system?

MARIA BARTIROMO: How do we doit? This is, like, the million dollar question, Mike. Everyone's trying tofigure out how to get the costs down.

MIKE DUKE: We want to help inthat area, too. We think competition, technology, transparency-- many of theways that can apply to reducing cost of other things, we think can still beapplied to the topic of health care. And that's where we want to be engaged inthose discussions.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Have youbeen increasing the ranks of part time versus full time?

MIKE DUKE: We-- that has notbeen a strategy related to health care. We're pleased that we give-- healthcare benefits. We've always been one that-- and we've been improving ourbenefits in the health care area. We've also had-- health care plan for ourpart-time associates that-- that now meet the requirements of the AffordableCare Act.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Mike, one ofthe issues that came up with some of the investors that I was talking to when Iwas preparing for this interview is your succession. The company has identifiedtwo people that perhaps could be your successor, Bill Simon who runs the U.S.,Doug-- who runs international, McMillon. Have you discussed the issue ofsuccession with your board?

MIKE DUKE: I think everyresponsible public board at every board meeting should be discussingsuccession. And, of course, Walmart has a very mature board, our chairman RobWalton and other members. So succession is an ongoing. I think when I firstjoined the board of directors, it was discussed then. And it's discussed atevery board meeting continually. As should every public company board.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Will youannounce your retirement this year?

MIKE DUKE: You can tell, Ilove what I'm doing. So that's not the topic of today's discussion. I lovebeing here with our store managers and being at a meeting like this anddiscussing our customers and our business. And-- I'm highly energized.

MARIA BARTIROMO: All right,final question, Mike, and that's on ecommerce. This is a good story for--Walmart, isn't it?


MARIA BARTIROMO: 30% higher--first two--

MIKE DUKE: That's right.That's right.

MARIA BARTIROMO: --quartersof the year? What's going on?

MIKE DUKE: Well, we have hadgreat growth in ecommerce business. And we looked at the overlap of technologyand our retail stores. And I think that's why we're having good success.Customers can buy how they want it. They can pick it up where they want to pickit up. Many of them are in our stores all around. We've had great investmentsin-- in improving our systems, our technology, our access to customers.

So the investment I mentionedearlier that we're making, we're going to continue. Because we see a greatreturn on that investment. We see great growth in the United States. But alsoin China, Brazil, the U.K., and other markets around the world. So ecommerce isgoing to continue to be a great story for Walmart.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Well, Iguess, you know, when you're Walmart, $500 billion in-- in revenue for a year,the largest employer, the largest retailer. In an environment where the economyis under 2%, we're not even a 2% grower, does it become harder for Walmart (thelaw of large numbers) to grow faster than the economy?

MIKE DUKE: See, I think theopportunity to be-- better and serve more customers is greater. I'm-- I reallydon't spend much time thinking about how big we are. I think of all thecustomers we could serve. We have billions more around the world that we canserve. And here in the United States, more customers that we can serve. So Ireally believe that technology-- and additional store locations, sometimes indifferent formats, we've discussed opening in some cases smaller stores, closerto where customers live. The combination will allow us to continue to grow. Ourgreatest days-- for Walmart are ahead of us, not behind us.

MARIA BARTIROMO: What's thesingle biggest opportunity for Walmart ahead?

MIKE DUKE: The biggestopportunity really is to be accessible to more customers. When customers--often when they say, "I just don't have access-- I don't have a Walmartnear me." The combination of access comes both with ecommerce and alsomore locations closer to where customers live. And that may be here in theUnited States. But it may be in China and Latin America and other marketsaround the world, too.

MARIA BARTIROMO: I'm glad youmentioned emerging markets. Are-- have they bottomed yet? I mean, the outflowscoming out of emerging markets have been stunning.

MIKE DUKE: Clearly theconsumer spending in emerging markets has slowed compared to the pace it hadbeen. But I'm still very bullish on emerging markets. There's an emergingmiddle class. They're a growing group of customers. And frankly, they wantWalmart. They want everyday low price. And that's why we are continuing to growin the emerging markets around the world, too.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Mike, wouldyou like to add anything else that I may have missed?

MIKE DUKE: No, I thank youvery much. I'm really looking forward to the holiday season. I'm glad that wehave this holiday scene around us. I think Walmart customers this year, here inthe United States and around the world, are going to get just an unbelievableholiday surprise this year with tremendous product but at great prices. Andthanks for experiencing the holiday feel with us.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Can we justenjoy one and a half more weeks of summer before we're talk-- start talkingabout the holidays?

MIKE DUKE: I'm excited aboutthe holidays. I'm ready to go, you know?

MARIA BARTIROMO: Me, too.Mike Duke, president/CEO of Walmart. Thank you so much for joining us.

MIKE DUKE: Thank you, Maria.Thank you.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Good to haveyou.

MIKE DUKE: Great to have you.


MARIA BARTIROMO: Mike Duke,president/CEO Walmart. Great to see you. And thank you for having us.

MIKE DUKE: Oh Maria, itsgreat having you here in-- in Orlando, Florida. We're actually at theConvention Center, as you know. But we've kind of converted this into a WalmartSuper Center for our store managers meeting. We're just wrapping up right now, wherewe've had 4,000 U.S. store managers come together so we could teach them aboutthe second half of the year and our game plan. We happen to be in the producedepartment. See, the focus on produce, local produce, quality, but at greatprices. You know, one of our big initiatives, Maria, has been to lower theprices of healthy food. Produce, fruits and vegetables, obviously, help you so.

MARIA BARTIROMO: And you'reseeing a trend. Because-- it's working.

MIKE DUKE: Exactly, thissimply--

MARIA BARTIROMO: You know,produce is doing well.

MIKE DUKE: As we called outin our earnings report last week, this is really one of the highlights of ourbusiness would be the fresh areas of our super center.

MARIA BARTIROMO: So you'vegot fresh areas. You've got-- you've got lettuce, produce, all thesevegetables-- and fruits here as well as the athletic wear is doing well. Isthat right?

MIKE DUKE: We can walk over.I'll show you.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Yeah, okay,sure, sure.

MIKE DUKE: Because-- youknow, I think there are trends, consumer trends. And even in produce, theyare-- the convenience of salads that are premade, cut fruit. But then you getto an area like athletic wear. Customers are casual today. They want to becasual. I had to put a tie on for our visit here. But we love customers andhelping them be comfortable, casual, and however they want to dress, howeverthey live. So that's why we've got great product now. This--

MARIA BARTIROMO: You've gotsome great brands here.

MIKE DUKE: This is anotherarea of our business that's doing really well. You know, I think we called outto our apparel business is growing. A lot of it is-- would be around basics.You know, clearly socks and underwear, the basic things that all families need,you can find at Walmart. What I love now, though, when sometimes customers areunder more economic pressure, their times could be down. But a little bit ofneon just brightens, I think, the spirit of customers and their children. Soapparel has a lot of color.

MARIA BARTIROMO: And you'reseeing that get traction, the color?

MIKE DUKE: Exactly.


MIKE DUKE: One of the thingsI think also we put a lot of emphasis on is raising quality, but not prices. Sowe put a lot more focus on improving the testing, the quality, the fabric. Andthat resonates with customers, as long as we're not raising prices. So we'vedone both. We can do both. We can raise the quality and still have Walmartprices. And I think that's really the key to our growth in the apparelbusiness. So--

MARIA BARTIROMO: I think itwas interesting that this last quarter you saw great interest in produce andthese consumables and the athletic wear, but not as much in electronics. Andelectronics has been the driver of business for so many years. What do you think'sbehind that?

MIKE DUKE: Actually, in somecases, I think customers are so smart. And they know at times when somethingnew is coming. So, like, in the gaming business, we've got a fantastic plan. Asthe new game boxes, the new Xbox, the-- and other game systems come out,customers are going to be in the stores. We've already discussed preselling.And so it's-- sometimes it's where the customer is waiting for the right time,the right product. And they do want quality. Like this, I've got to show you ifwe get by.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Oh yeah,sure.

MIKE DUKE: Brands are reallyimportant. Calphalon, the very best--


MIKE DUKE: --and best brandin the home area.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Really highquality?

MIKE DUKE: They havetremendous quality, but at-- we've taken the prices off the signs here for theTV show. But when you see this in the store, you'll see it with prices. Andreally, really great value of the best quality products. So again, customerswant quality. They want to be current, relevant, but they are so smart aboutprice today. And they want the best price for the product.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Mike, how doyou do it? I mean, you talk so much about this productivity loop. How is itthat you're constantly driving prices lower so that you can, in fact, offer thecustomer lowest price ever?

MIKE DUKE: We have the mostinnovative associates in the world. Our store associates that are alwayslooking for ideas on how to better operate. Our store managers, our homeoffice, our technology teams. And so there's this great groundswell. When 2.2million people work together, it's amazing the ideas they can come up with. Andreducing expense-- I see so many ideas. Some of them seem little, but when theyroll up to Walmart scale, they become millions of dollars in savings. It can beutility and energy savings, packaging savings, so many ideas that our homepeople are the innovators that-- to create those.

MARIA BARTIROMO: And that'sthe culture of Walmart. I mean, you know, this meeting here reminded me of theSaturday morning meeting that I attended so many years ago with-- Lee Scott,actually. And it just isn't ra-ra sessions. So what did you learn--

MIKE DUKE: Exactly.

MARIA BARTIROMO: --from those4,000 store operators today?

MIKE DUKE: Today, about howcustomers need us and are really looking and shopping in our stores. Usingtechnology, comparing prices, they see Walmart low prices. And they want moreof it. And the-- so the manager's focus would be on, again, "How do we--how do we get that productivity loop? How do we lower prices for customers? Howdo we sell produce so families can be fed at lower prices?" And that'swhat they are so energized about. Our business model, everyday low prices, themanagers are leaving, going back to their stores today, even more committed tooperate efficiently, so they can lower prices for their customers.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Everycompany in the world is trying to do what you guys do. But this is your mantra.And you do it. And you do it best. Now wait a second, we're headed over to theset right now. And I see Christmas trees. We're not really going to talk aboutback to school and the holidays, are we?

MIKE DUKE: Oh, this is goingto be holidays. We will love to talk about holidays. The Christmas trees andthe inflatables. When you see the big, tall, blowup Santa and all of theChristmas, frankly, it lifts my spirits. So here in this meeting, we want a setlike the Christmas season. So store managers leave here with that holidayspirit. And that's what this area of the-- of the floor is all about. So--

MARIA BARTIROMO: Let's go do it. I want to talk holidays with Mike Duke.

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