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Volume 15, Issue 23, July 2, 2015

Inside This Issue:

• You Could Win a New Car Among Other Prizes by Just Calling In for a Quote on Your Auto and/or Home Insurance
• CHHMA Scholarship Program – Deadline for Applications July 15
• Sears Canada Looking for New CEO Again After Ronald Boire Resigns
• Sears Canada’s Chances of Survival are Slim, Analyst Says: It’s ‘Now or Never’
• Sobeys to Cut 1,300 Jobs as it Streamlines Operations
• Wal-Mart to Begin Imposing New Stocking Fees on Suppliers as Costs Rise
• Canadian Economy Shrinks for Fourth Straight Month
• Some Truths About Canada’s Housing Market: CIBC Report
• Latest U.S. Economic News

Association News

You Could Win a New Car Among Other Prizes by Just Calling In for a Quote on Your Auto and/or Home Insurance     

The CHHMA is pleased to offer our members (including spouses and dependent children residing at home or away at school) with a home and automobile insurance program. The program is brought to you by Aaxel Insurance Brokers Ltd. and is underwritten by Economical Select, a subsidiary of Economical Insurance, a wholly owned Canadian company.

Being a member of the CHHMA you have access to exclusive group rates for your home and auto insurance needs through the program. In addition to your group rate, you may be eligible for extra discounts that could save you up to 60% off your insurance premiums.

One call could put YOU in the DRIVER’S SEAT!

Aaxel Insurance and Economical Select are now offering you the opportunity to be entered into a sweepstakes for a chance to win some great prizes including a new vehicle or a $100 gas card by just calling in to get a quote on your home and/or auto insurance. Visit for more details.

Call for a quote: Ontario: 1-855-380-3666; Quebec: 1-888-542-4811; All Others: 1-866-247-7700 and get entered now!

When calling in, please mention that you are a member of the CHHMA.

If your company would like some promotional materials (email attachments, posters, pamphlets) to help communicate the program and the sweepstakes offer, please contact Michael Jorgenson at 416-282-0022 ext. 34,

CHHMA Scholarship Program – Deadline for Applications July 15    

The CHHMA  is once again pleased to be able to offer the opportunity for children of employees of our member companies to apply for a scholarship to help offset the cost of post-secondary education. The Association recognizes the importance of education and therefore encourages children of our member companies to attend University or College.  Five or six scholarships are awarded each year.  Successful candidates receive $1,000 CDN per year for the first two years of study leading to a diploma or degree from an accredited community college or university.

The scholarship program is available to the dependents of any current full-time employees of the CHHMA or member companies.The program is only offered to Canadian companies or divisions of companies based in Canada which are members of the CHHMA. The member company must remain a member in good standing in order for the student to qualify for the second year of the scholarship. The student's parent or guardian must be an active full-time employee with at least one year seniority with the CHHMA or member company as of July 15th in the year of application. Applicants must be preparing to enter an accredited community college or university in the fall term, and attain a minimum average of 75% in the last year of high school (or CEGEP).The decision of the Selection Committee and the CHHMA is final and not open to appeals. The CHHMA reserves the right to withdraw a scholarship should the student's parent(s) or guardian(s) voluntarily leave the employment of the CHHMA or member company, or if employment is terminated for just cause prior to the start of the school year, or if the company terminates its membership in the Association.

Complete details, application forms and information sheets (for bulletin board postings) in English and French can be found at

The CHHMA must receive applications from potential candidates no later than July 15th.

Since 2001, the CHHMA has awarded $150,000 towards scholarships and some 75 young people have benefited from the scholarship program.    

Industry News

Sears Canada Looking for New CEO Again After Ronald Boire Resigns

Sears Canada Inc. is looking for a chief executive officer again, following its announcement Thursday that Ronald Boire will depart at the end of this summer — less than a year after taking on the job.

Boire, former chief merchandising officer and president of the Sears and Kmart stores in the U.S., stepped in last fall after previous Sears Canada CEO Douglas Campbell left the company in September for personal reasons after only about a year in the position.

Campbell got the job after the sudden departure of Calvin McDonald in September 2013 in the midst of a multi-year turnaround plan for the national department store chain.

Sears Canada says the chairman of its board of directors, Brandon Stranzl, will take on a greater leadership role immediately.

In the company’s first quarter, Sears Canada had a $59.1-million net loss for the first quarter as revenues dropped 9.7% from the same period a year earlier.

Stranzl says he will work closely with Sears employees and business partners as Sears Canada works to return to profitability.

“We are grateful for Ron’s support as we search for and welcome a new CEO,” Stranzl said in a statement. “In the meantime, the management team and I are fully engaged in executing the current strategy, designed to improve our retail operations so we can best serve Canadian communities from coast-to-coast.”

Mr. Boire has helmed Sears Canada’s turnaround plan. His moves to spend more on profitable merchandise categories and its website as well as exit money-losing product lines helped the company report its slowest same-store sales decline in five quarters in May.

“I think that this is an unfortunate event for Sears Canada as Ron Boire was starting to build some positive momentum,” Bruce Winder, an independent retail consultant said.

“He was a merchant and I think that was what Sears was in need of.”

Boire is moving over to Barnes & Noble Inc, owner of the largest U.S. bookstore chain, as chief executive of the company after the spin off its college books business.

He will first become CEO of Barnes & Noble’s retail division, effective Sept. 8, the company said in a statement on Thursday.

Once the college books business is spun off, expected by the end of August, Mr. Boire will replace Michael Huseby as head of the remaining Barnes & Noble, the company said.

Barnes & Noble will be left with its retail bookstores and Nook businesses after spinning off the fast-growing college books business.

The new company, Barnes & Noble Education, will continue to be led by its current CEO, Max Roberts, Barnes & Noble has said.

Barnes & Noble is fighting to reverse a slump in sales and store traffic due to stiff competition from online retailers such as and a shift towards reading e-books.

Source: The Canadian Press, Reuters

Sears Canada’s Chances of Survival are Slim, Analyst Says: It’s ‘Now or Never’

Time is running out for struggling department store chain Sears Canada to improve its financial results and the chances of survival are slim, says one retail analyst.

Keith Howlett of Desjardins published a report last Friday saying it’s “now or never” for the money-losing company to make headway on a turnaround that has dragged on for several years with little progress.

“The next seven quarters are ’make it or break it’ for Sears Canada,” he wrote.

“Our current view is that an operating turnaround is improbable.”

Howlett’s prediction suggests the fate of the company will be determined some time around the 2016 holiday shopping season.

The company declined to comment on the analyst report.

The stark outlook comes after Sears Canada made dramatic reductions to its operations, laying off 2,200 employees last year — with the brunt of the cuts at outsourcing call centres — while thousands more were eliminated in 2013.

Widespread cost-cutting was rolled out as Sears dealt with the arrival of Target Canada as a new competitor. The retailer also scaled back its operations, selling leases on numerous properties and closing some stores.

Howlett said Sears Canada still has the financial resources to operate but signs point to further trouble ahead.

He has a sell rating on the stock and maintains a target price of $8.50 a share.

Howlett noted that even when fewer direct competitors were in the marketplace, Sears wasn’t able to improve its sales in any notable way. In late 2012, Zellers closed about 180 stores while they were being converted into Target Canada.

In May, Sears Canada Inc. posted a $59.1-million net loss for the first quarter as revenues dropped 9.7% from the same period a year earlier.

Source: Article by David Friend, The Canadian Press

Sobeys to Cut 1,300 Jobs as it Streamlines Operations

The Sobeys grocery business expects to eliminate 1,300 jobs over the next year or two as it moves to open new distribution centres in Ontario and Alberta and continues to integrate Safeway Canada’s operations.

The head of Sobeys parent company told analysts in a quarterly conference call last Thursday that the jobs cuts will be implemented starting in late 2016 and will be primarily back-office functions.

Empire Co. president and CEO Marc Poulin says some of the jobs losses will be from closing of a support centre in Milton west of Toronto after a new automated distribution centre is opened in October 2016 in Vaughan to the north of Toronto.

Other jobs will be eliminated when a support centre in Calgary is closed, once an automated distribution centre in Rocky View, Alta., comes on line in mid-2017. This is the facility bought last month from insolvent Target Canada for $50-million.

The closings and job losses resulted in Empire recording a $103-million charge in its latest quarter.

“We remain committed to reducing costs wherever possible across the organization,” Poulin said.

Changes to the Sobeys distribution system are part of ongoing expansion and reorganization of the national grocery chain, headquartered with Empire in Stellarton, N.S.

Among other things, Sobeys is consolidating its presence in Western Canada after acquiring the Safeway chain in late 2013 and absorbing some of the Co-op Atlantic food and fuel retailing operations under an agreement that closed June 21.

Co-op Atlantic also announced last Thursday that it would lay off 400 employees and close four of its food stores in Moncton, N.B., Labrador City, N.L., Grand Bay-Westfield, N.B., and Charlottetown.

Sobeys cut $145-million in costs in the past fiscal year, Mr. Poulin said. It set a goal in 2013 of generating $200-million of “synergies” in three years.

Last year, the retailer announced it was shutting 50 stores, about 60% of them in Western Canada, and axing what industry insiders estimated were “thousands” of jobs. The moves triggered $169.8-million in restructuring costs.

It closed an ice cream and cheese manufacturing plant in Winnipeg, consolidating production in a facility in Edmonton and cutting 50 jobs.

It also eliminated last year about 50 to 60 accounting and other jobs in regional offices in Calgary and Rouyn, Que.

In its fourth quarter, the company reported same-store sales, excluding fuel sales, rose 2.1%.

Source: The Canadian Press, The Globe and Mail

Wal-Mart to Begin Imposing New Stocking Fees on Suppliers as Costs Rise

Reuters has reported that Wal-Mart Stores will begin charging fees to almost all vendors for stocking their items in new stores and for warehousing inventory, raising pressure on suppliers as the world’s largest retailer battles higher costs from wage hikes.

The company said it started informing suppliers about the fees and other changes to supplier agreements two weeks ago. The changes, which also include amended payment terms, will affect 10,000 suppliers to its U.S. stores [not sure about Canadian stores yet].

While the chain has sometimes imposed such fees in the past, they were not applied uniformly. Some but not all suppliers were charged, spokeswoman Molly Blakeman said without providing details.

The changes are aimed at bringing "consistency to the collection of allowances related to the growth of our business and suppliers' use of the Walmart supply network," it said in a letter to suppliers, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

The new agreements mean a larger number of vendors will likely start paying fees, passing some of the retailer's costs onto suppliers, analysts said. It was unclear how much money Wal-Mart would receive as a result of the changes.

For instance, Wal-Mart is seeking to charge a food supplier 10% of the value of inventory shipped to new stores and to new warehouses, both one-time charges, and 1% to hold inventory in existing warehouses, according to a copy of amended terms seen by Reuters.

It is not clear from the document whether the one-time charges apply only to the initial shipment or cover a certain period of time. Currently, the supplier is not charged anything, the document shows.

The move marks a shift of sorts by Wal-Mart, which unlike other retailers has sought to limit such fees in return for demanding suppliers give it the lowest price, said Kurt Jetta, head of consumer and retail analytics firm Tabs Group Inc.

“It is not the way Walmart has done business in the past," Jetta said. "This approach suggests that they are seeking areas to offset their increased investment in wages, as well as offset their lack of organic revenue growth."

The fees for new stores and for warehousing goods are a way of sharing the costs of growth and keeping prices low, Wal-Mart spokeswoman Deisha Barnett said: "The changes we have outlined will help us ensure that we are operating at everyday low costs that yield everyday low prices."

The company said late last year it planned to open between 260 and 290 new stores in the fiscal year to January 2016.

Wal-Mart executives have indicated changes were coming. In April, U.S. division head Greg Foran told analysts that the company was looking at investments in marketing and other areas of the supplier relationship to squeeze costs.

While Wal-Mart has achieved three straight quarters of same-store sales growth in the United States, its margins have been weighed down by big investments in its e-commerce operations and a move to increase wages for half a million workers earlier this year.

Charges like the new-store and warehouse fees are common in the retail industry but their broad application across all suppliers is a new step for Wal-Mart, said a consultant who has talked with multiple vendor clients about the changes.

"Not doing these things has helped Walmart get the lowest cost from vendors historically," said the consultant, speaking on condition of anonymity so as not to harm relations with the company. "You can't increase the cost of doing business and expect to get the best cost."

In the letter Wal-Mart said the changes are aimed at working with suppliers to serve "shared customers" and achieve the low prices "they expect and deserve."

Source: Reuters

Economic News

Canadian Economy Shrinks for Fourth Straight Month

Canada extended its economic skid in April, delivering a fourth straight monthly decline that is sure to rekindle concerns that the country may have slipped into a mild recession.

Statistics Canada reported Tuesday that real GDP (i.e. adjusted for inflation) shrank by 0.1% in April from March. The economy was hit hard by a 3.4% drop in oil and gas extraction, as the Alberta oil sands, battered in recent months by sharply lower oil prices, was hit by maintenance shutdowns and other production delays. Manufacturing, retail sales and construction also took a step backward in the month.

The April decline was something of a shock to economists and market watchers, who had anticipated a turnaround from March’s 0.2% decline, and from a dismal first-quarter in which the economy contracted at an annualized rate of 0.6% – its weakest quarter since the Great Recession. Most economists had forecast 0.1% growth in April. The oil price shock, harsh weather and U.S. port strikes weighed down activity in the quarter, but those factors appeared to have eased with the arrival of spring.

The Canadian dollar slumped about four-tenths of a penny against its U.S. counterpart on the news, to about 80.5 cents (U.S.).

Goods production fell 0.8% in April, down for a fourth consecutive month, primarily as a result of a contraction in mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction. Decreases were also recorded in manufacturing, utilities and construction. In contrast, the agriculture and forestry sector increased.

The output of service-providing industries grew 0.3% in April, a third consecutive monthly increase. The gain in April was led by wholesale trade. There were also increases in the public sector (education, health and public administration combined), accommodation and food services and professional services. On the other hand, there were notable declines in the finance and insurance sector and retail trade.

After increasing 0.9% in March, wholesale trade rose 1.6% in April. The gain in April was a result of increases in machinery, equipment and supplies, motor vehicle and parts as well as miscellaneous wholesaling (which includes agricultural supplies). In contrast, the wholesaling of food, beverage and tobacco was down.

Retail trade fell 0.2% in April, following increases of 1.5% in February and 0.3% in March. Declines were notable at food and beverage stores, electronics and appliance stores as well as health and personal care stores. Conversely, increases occurred at motor vehicle and parts dealers as well as clothing and clothing accessories stores.

Manufacturing output declined 0.2%, down for a fourth consecutive month.

Non-durable goods manufacturing declined 0.3%, primarily because of decreases in food and paper manufacturing. In contrast, beverage and tobacco, textile, clothing and leather as well as plastic and rubber products manufacturing were up.

Durable-goods manufacturing edged down 0.1% in April. Machinery, transportation equipment and, to a lesser extent, miscellaneous manufacturing were down. On the other hand, gains were notable in the manufacturing of computer and electronic products, primary metal as well as furniture and related products.

Construction edged down 0.1% in April as an increase in repair construction was more than offset by declines in residential and non-residential building and engineering construction.

The output of real estate agents and brokers increased 5.4%, up for a third consecutive month.

After increasing for four consecutive months, the finance and insurance sector fell 0.6% in April. Financial investment services were notably down in April, following increases in February and March. Banking and insurance services were also down in April.

Utilities declined 0.7% in April, after falling 1.7% in March. Natural gas distribution as well as electricity generation, transmission and distribution were both down in April.

The public sector (education, health and public administration combined) increased 0.2% as education and health services as well as public administration increased.

Accommodation and food services were up 1.2% in April, mainly as a result of an increase in the food services and drinking places industry.

The extension of the economic slump into April suggests that the economy hasn’t bounced back from the oil slump as well or as quickly as many experts, most notably those at the Bank of Canada, had anticipated. Stephen Poloz, the governor of the central bank, has said repeatedly in recent months that the oil shock’s impact appeared to be “front-loaded,” meaning that he believed most of the damage had arrived early, setting the stage for a solid bounce-back in the second quarter. The Bank of Canada had forecast that the economy would expand at a 1.8% annualized rate in the second quarter.

But that target now looks unlikely in the wake of the April decline that has kicked off the quarter. Indeed, the decline renews fears that the economy could be headed for a second straight negative quarter – the technical definition of a recession. More importantly, it raises questions about weather the Bank of Canada may need another interest-rate cut, to go along with its surprise cut in January, to stimulate a moribund economy.

“The hit from oil to the Canadian economy doesn’t appear to be as ‘front-loaded’ as the BoC and Governor Poloz had expected,” said CIBC economist Andrew Grantham in a research note. “And thus far, we are yet to see the positives that should be offsetting weakness in the energy sector … Lower gasoline prices are doing little thus far to spur retail spending, while the weaker loonie is doing little to boost manufacturing.”

“The economy is struggling to recover from the slump in oil prices,” said David Madani, the Canada economist for U.K-based Capital Economics. “With a technical recession now quite likely, it’s now clear that the single 25-basis-point interest rate cut in January wasn’t enough after all.”

But others still believe the economy is on sufficiently firm underlying footing to avoid a recession and return to solid growth for the rest of the year.

“As bad as this may appear, the economy is not on the verge of recession,” said National Bank of Canada senior economist Matthieu Arseneau in a research note. “Employment was very strong in May, as were auto sales and home starts. With full-time jobs at a record high and an upcoming boost to disposable income from tax cuts in July (equivalent to 0.7% of GDP), consumption spending should bounce back. Exports should also perform better, in sync with a resurgent U.S. economy.”

“We still expect above potential growth in the card for [the second half of the year]. There is no need for further monetary stimulus in Canada at this juncture,” he argued.

Source: Statistics Canada, The Globe and Mail 

Some Truths About Canada’s Housing Market: CIBC Report

CIBC World Markets says people frequently ask about Canada’s housing market in client meetings.

The answer: “It is a multi-dimensional market and a blanket statement will not do.”

Economists Benjamin Tal and Andrew Grantham put some meat on those bones in a report last week, noting that much has to do with “truths, lies and averages.”

Every region is different, and the market segments are different, they said, concluding that “the market will adjust, but given the many faces of the market, the adjustment will not be uniform.”

Averages, on which so much is based, can “mask” many factors. And thus a national average is pointless.

For example, Calgary’s market had been surging, but in the wake of the oil shock “prices have now started to move downwards, prompting concerns of a hard landing for that market,” Mr. Tal and Mr. Grantham noted.

“But, aided by even lower interest rates, other high-flying markets aren’t seeing any sort of landing yet,” they added.

“In fact, the annual rates of house price growth in Vancouver and Toronto have if anything accelerated since the start of the year.”

Where do they see things headed?

“The lack of supply of low-rise housing in places such as Toronto and Vancouver suggests that most of the adjustment will be felt in the high-rise segment of the market. Excess supply of condo units in Toronto along with potential increases in resale activity by domestic condo investors in a reaction to higher borrowing cost suggests that this market will slow down in the coming years.”

The report also lashed out at people who compare the Canadian housing market to its American counterpart and is downplaying fears of foreign investment.

“One reason why it’s unwise to compare the Canadian housing market of today to the U.S. market before it crashed is that, unlike the situation stateside, there isn’t anywhere near the same degree of overbuilding in Canada relative to household formation. In fact, the ratio of housing starts to household formation is not far from its long-run average of 1.03,” Grantham said.

The economists also took dead aim at the issue of foreign investors in the housing market which has so spooked Canadians that even the mayor of Vancouver is now calling for a special tax aimed at speculators.

“The issue of foreign investors is largely misunderstood.The share of those investors in total activity is much smaller than perceived. The more significant portion is coming from a situation in which the money is coming from abroad but the family lives in Canada. Is that foreign or domestic investment? Tal and Grantham write.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. has only studied the issue from the condominium perspective but found only 2.4% of buyers in Toronto were foreign.

The report also notes a long-held standard in the development community which usually requires a down payment of least 30% from foreign buyers because of the difficulty in seeking legal recourse should they walk away from an investment.

Nevertheless, the economists can see some cracks forming in the condominium market, namely competition from so-called purpose built apartment buildings directly aimed at renters. Condominiums have turned out to be a bit of a hybrid, some bought by end users but a significant portion purchased by investors whose goal is to rent the property out to cover their costs.

“Condos have also been acting as an important counterbalance in the rental market in Canada’s major cities. In recent years, the proportion of condos made available to rent has steadily increased. But rather than a disturbing trend suggesting that private investors are being overly optimistic regarding the safety of housing, it helped offset a very subdued trend in purpose-built apartment buildings,” the report says.

The problem is demand for rental units is dropping at a time when rental construction is rising. They say the annual increase in demand for rental units likely peaked in 2012 and is now slowly moderating and expects rents to stay flat in the coming year.

“That moderation in rent inflation and the eventual increase in borrowing cost is probably the most significant challenge that will face the condo market,” the economists write.

Overall, they say the real test for the Canadian housing market will come if interest rates start to rise. “Higher interest rates probably will lead to a wave of defaults as feared by many, but could act as a major drag on overall economic activity via the impact on consumer spending (as more income is devoted to servicing debt) and the potentially significant impact on job creation in real estate-related sectors,” say Tal and Grantham.

Source: The Financial Post, The Globe and Mail

Latest U.S. Economic News

U.S. Job Growth Slows in June, Labour Force Shrinks
U.S. job growth slowed in June and Americans left the labour force in droves, according to a government report on Thursday that could tamper expectations for a September interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve.

Nonfarm payrolls increased 223,000 last month, the Labor Department said. Adding to the report’s soft note, April and May data was revised to show 60,000 fewer jobs were added than previously reported.

With 432,000 people dropping out of the labour force, the U.S. unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a percentage point to 5.3%, the lowest since April 2008.

The labour force participation rate, or the share of working-age Americans who are employed or at least looking for a job, fell to 62.6%, the weakest since October 1977. The participation rate had touched a four month high of 62.9% in May.

In addition, average hourly earnings were unchanged, taking the year-on-year increase to a tepid 2.0%.

Source: Reuters

U.S. Home Prices Rise in April

U.S. single-family home prices rose in April from a year earlier but at a slower pace than forecast, a closely watched survey said on Tuesday.

The S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas in April gained 4.9% year over year. A Reuters poll of economists forecast a rise of 5.5%.

Denver and San Francisco posted the strongest year-over-year gains, with prices in Denver up 10.3% and prices in San Francisco rising 10%.

Price rises slowed in 11 cities, according to the index.

“Home prices continue to rise across the country, but the pace is not accelerating,” David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in a statement.
“Moreover, consumer expectations are consistent with the current pace of price increases.”

Source: Reuters

U.S. Pending Home Sales Hit Nine-Year High
Contracts to buy previously owned U.S. homes rose to their highest level in just over nine years in May, in a further boost to the housing market and the broader economic outlook.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) said on Monday its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed last month, increased 0.9% to 112.6, the highest level since April 2006. Contracts have now increased for five straight months.

Pending home contracts become sales after a month or two, and last month’s increase pointed to further gains in home resales after they hit a 5-1/2-year high in May. Economists had forecast pending home sales rising 1.2% last month.

“The recent trend suggests that we will see continued strength in resales in the months ahead. However the current low inventory levels, which are placing upward pressure on home prices, remain a downside risk,” said Derek Lindsey, an analyst at BNP Paribas in New York.

The U.S. housing market recovery is back on track after being slammed by bad weather at the start of the year. It is being bolstered by a tightening labour market, which is helping to spur some pick-up in wage growth.

U.S. financial markets were little moved by the report, with investors warily watching developments in Greece as Athens moved closer to a defaulting on its debt. U.S. stocks fell at the open, while the dollar was little changed against a basket of currencies. Prices for U.S. government debt were higher.

The pending home sales report added to robust building permits, housing starts, new home sales and home resales data in painting a bullish picture of the housing market.

It also joined strong retail sales, consumer sentiment and employment data in suggesting a building up of momentum in the U.S. economy after a mild contraction in output in the first quarter.

Pending home sales increased 10.4% from a year ago.

Contracts increased 6.3% in the Northeast and rose 2.2% in the West. They slipped 0.8% in the South and dipped 0.6% in the Midwest.

Source: Reuters


 Upcoming CHHMA Events 

Industry Memorial Golf Classic
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Blue Springs Golf Club, Acton, Ontario

CHHMA Industry Calendar

To register for all events visit our website at or call Pam Winter at (416) 282-0022 ext.21.


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