Economy of Spain
Cuatro Torres Business Area in Madrid
|Currency||1 euro (€1) = 100 cents|
|EU, WTO and OECD|
$1.536 trillion (nominal, 2016)$1.704 trillion (PPP, 2016)
|GDP rank||10th (nominal) / 12th (PPP)|
|22.93 million (2014)|
Labour force by occupation
|services (70.7%), industry (14.1%), construction (9.9%), agriculture, farming and fishing (4.5%), energy (0.7%) (September 2009)|
|Unemployment||18.9% (Q3 2016)|
|Machinery, machine tools, metals and metal manufactures, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, shipbuilding, automobiles, tourism, textiles and apparel (including footwear), food and beverages.|
|Machinery, motor vehicles, chemicals, shipbuilding, foodstuffs, electronic devices, pharmaceuticals and medicines, other consumer goods|
Main export partners
France 16.8% |
United Kingdom 6.5% (2012 est.)
|Fuels, chemicals, semi-finished goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods, measuring and medical control instruments, machinery and equipment|
Main import partners
Germany 11.8% |
United Kingdom 4.1% (2012 est.)
|$0.7 trillion (31 December 2009 est.)|
Gross external debt
|99.3% of GDP (2014)|
|Revenues||$500 Billion (2010 est.)|
|Expenses||$600 Billion (2010 est.)|
|$0.05 trillion (Aug 2014)|
Spain has the fourteenth-largest economy by nominal GDP in the world, and it is also among the largest in the world by purchasing power parity. The country is a member of the European Union, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the World Trade Organization.
The Spanish economy is the fifth-largest in the European Union, and the fourth-largest in the Eurozone, based on nominal GDP statistics. In 2012, Spain was the twelfth-largest exporter in the world and the sixteenth-largest importer.
Spain is listed 23rd in UN Human Development Index and 30th in GDP (PPP) per capita by the World Bank, thus it is classified as a high income economy and among the countries of very high human development. According to The Economist, Spain has the world's 10th highest quality of life. Spain has also the biggest life expectancy in Europe.
Following the financial crisis of 2007–08, the Spanish economy's plunged into recession, entering a cycle of negative macroeconomic performance. Compared to the EU's and US. average, the Spanish economy entered recession later (the economy was still growing by 2008), but stayed there for longer. The economic boom of the 2000s was reversed, leaving over a quarter of Spain's workforce unemployed by 2012. In aggregated terms, the Spanish GDP contracted by almost 9% during the 2009-2013 period.
The economic situation started improving by 2013-2014. During the boom years, Spain had built up a trade deficit eventually reaching a record amounting to 10% of GDP (2007). Then, during the economic downturn, Spain significantly reduced imports, increased exports and kept attracting growing numbers of tourists; as a result, after three decades of running a trade deficit the country attained in 2013 a trade surplus which has strengthened during 2014 and 2015. Exports in 2014 were 34% of GDP, up from 24% in 2009.
In 2015 the Spanish GDP grew by 3.2%, a rate not seen since 2007, before the crisis struck; such growth rate was the highest among larger EU economies that year. In just two years (2014-2015) the Spanish economy had recovered 85% of the GDP lost during the 2009-2013 recession, which got some international analysts to refer to Spain's current recovery as "the showcase for structural reform efforts".
After a strong recovery from the global recession of the early 1990s, the centre-right government of former prime minister José María Aznar had worked successfully to gain admission to the group of countries launching the euro in 1999. Due to its own economic development and the EU enlargements up to 28 members, by 2007 Spain had achieved a GDP per capita of 105% of EU's average, which placed it slightly ahead of Italy (103%). Three regions were included in the leading EU group exceeding 125% of the GDP per capita average level: Basque Country leading with Madrid and Navarre. According to calculations by the German newspaper Die Welt, Spain's economy had been on course to overtake countries like Germany in per capita income by 2011. Unemployment stood at 7.6% in October 2006, a rate that compared favorably to many other European countries, and especially with the early 1990s when it stood at over 20%.
Perennial weak points of Spain's economy include high inflation, a large underground economy, and an education system, beside UK and the United States, which OECD reports place among the poorest for developed countries.
Growth during the 1997-2007 period had been led by a property boom fed by historically low interest rates, massive rates of foreign investment (during that period Spain had become a favourite of other European investment banks) and an immense surge in immigration. At its peak in 2007, construction had expanded to a massive 16% of the total gross domestic product (GDP) of the country and 12% of total employment. During that time Spain built up a massive trade deficit, financed by capital inflows –including short term speculative investment– was directed mostly to consumption and property rather than at long term fixed assets such as manufacturing plants and the like.
The downside of the real estate boom was a corresponding rise in the levels of personal debt; as prospective homeowners had struggled to meet asking prices, the average level of household debt tripled in less than a decade. This placed especially great pressure upon lower to middle income groups; by 2005 the median ratio of indebtedness to income had grown to 125%, due primarily to expensive boom time mortgages that now often exceed the value of the property.
Noticeable progress continued until early 2008, when the 'global financial crisis' burst Spain's property bubble.
A European Commission forecast had predicted Spain would enter the world's late 2000s recession by the end of 2008. At the time, Spain's Economy Minister was quoted saying, "Spain is facing its deepest recession in half a century". Spain's government forecast the unemployment rate would rise to 16% in 2009. The ESADE business school predicted 20%.
Economic and financial crisis
Spain had continued on the path of economic growth when the ruling party changed in 2004, maintaining robust GDP growth during the first term of prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, even though some fundamental problems in the Spanish economy were becoming clearly evident. Among these, according to the Financial Times, was Spain's rapidly growing trade deficit, which had reached a staggering 10% of the country's GDP by the summer of 2008, the "loss of competitiveness against its main trading partners" and, also, as a part of the latter, an inflation rate which had been traditionally higher than the one of its European partners, back then especially affected by house price increases of 150% from 1998 and a growing family indebtedness (115%) chiefly related to the Spanish Real Estate boom and rocketing oil prices.
In 2011 the deficit reached a high of 8.5%. For 2016 the deficit objective of the government is around 4%, falling to 2.9% for 2017. The European Commission has demanded 3.9% for 2016 and 2.5% for 2017.
The Spanish government official GDP growth forecast for 2008 in April was 2.3%. This figure was successively revised down by the Spanish Ministry of Economy to 1.6. Retrospective studies by most independent forecasters estimate that the rate had actually dropped to 0.8% instead, far below the strong 3% plus GDP annual growth rates during the 1997–2007 decade. Then, during the third quarter of 2008 the national GDP contracted for the first time in 15 years and, in February 2009, it was confirmed that Spain, along other European economies, had officially entered recession.
In July 2009, the IMF worsened the estimates for Spain's 2009 contraction, to minus 4% of GDP for the year (close to the European average of minus 4.6%), besides, it estimated a further 0.8% contraction of the Spanish economy for 2010.
Property boom and bust (2003-2014)
The adoption of the Euro in 2002 had driven down long-term interest rates, prompting a surge in mortgage lending that jumped more than fourfold from 2000 to its 2010 apex. The growth in the Spanish property market, which had begun in 1997, accelerated and within a few years had developed into a property bubble, financed largely by the cajas (regional savings banks under the oversight of the regional governments) and fed by the historically low interest rates and a massive growth of immigration. Fueling this trend, the Spanish economy was being credited for having avoided the virtual zero growth rate of some of its largest partners in the EU in the months previous to the global Great Recession.
Spain's economy had created more than half of all the new jobs in the European Union over the five years ending 2005. At the top of its property boom, Spain was building more houses than Germany, France and the U.K. combined. Home prices soared by 71% between 2003 and 2008, in tandem with the credit explosion.
The bubble imploded in 2008, causing the collapse of Spain's large property related and construction sectors, causing mass layoffs, and a collapsing domestic demand for goods and services. Unemployment shot up.
At first, Spain's banks and financial services avoided the early crisis of their international counterparts. However, as the recession deepened and property prices slid, the growing bad debts of the smaller regional savings banks, the cajas, forced the intervention of Spain's central bank and government through a stabilisation and consolidation program, taking over or consolidating regional cajas and finally receiving a bank bailout from the European Central Bank in 2012 aimed specifically for the banking business and cajas in particular.
The Euro debt crisis
In the first weeks of 2010, renewed anxiety about the excessive levels of debt in some EU countries and, more generally, about the health of the euro has spread from Ireland and Greece to Portugal, and to a lesser extent in Spain and Italy.
Many economists recommended a battery of policies to control the surging public debt caused by the recessionary collapse of tax revenues, combining drastic austerity measures with higher taxes. Some senior German policy makers went as far as to say that emergency bailouts should include harsh penalties to EU aid recipients such as Greece. It has been noted that the Spanish government budget was in surplus in the years immediately before the GFC and that its debt was not considered excessive.
At the beginning of 2010, Spain's public debt as a percentage of GDP was still less than those of Britain, France or Germany. However, commentators pointed out that Spain's recovery was fragile, that the public debt was growing quickly, that troubled regional banks may need large bailouts, growth prospects were poor and therefore limiting revenue and that the central government has limited control over the spending of the regional governments. Under the structure of shared governmental responsibilities that has evolved since 1975, much responsibility for spending had been given back to the regions. The central government found itself in the difficult position of trying to gain support for unpopular spending cuts from the recalcitrant regional governments.
As of September 2011, Spanish banks hold a record high of €142 billion of Spanish national bonds. December 2011 bond auctions are "very likely to be covered" according to JPMorgan Chase.
Till Q2 2012, Spanish banks were allowed to report real estate related assets in higher non-market price by regulators. Investors who bought into such banks must be aware. Spanish houses cannot be sold at land book value after being vacant over a period of years.
Even though the sheer size of Spain's underground economy masks to some extent the real situation, employment is a long term weakness of the Spanish economy. By 2014 the structural unemployment rate was estimated at 18%.
After having completed large improvements over the second half of the 1990s and during the 2000s, Spain attained in 2007 its record low unemployment rate, at about 8%, with a few regions on the brink of full employment, but others still showing rates over 10%. Although interest rates were historically low, investments were not encouraged sufficiently by entrepreneurs. Then Spain suffered a severe setback from October 2008, when it saw its unemployment rate surge to 1996 levels. During the period October 2007 – October 2008 the unemployment surge exceeded that of past economic crises, including that of 1993. In particular, during the month of October 2008, Spain suffered its worst unemployment rise ever recorded.
By July 2009, it had shed 1.2 million jobs in one year. The oversized building and housing related industries were contributing greatly to the rising unemployment numbers. Since 2009 thousands of established immigrants began to leave, although some did maintain residency in Spain due to poor conditions in their country of origin. In all, by early 2013 Spain reached an unprecedented unemployment record at about 27%.
In May 2012 a radical labor reform had made for a more flexible labor market, facilitating layoffs with a view to enhancing corporate's confidence. By the second quarter of 2014, the Spanish economy had reversed its negative trend and started creating jobs for the first time since 2008. The second quarter reversal was sudden and extraordinary considering that the number of jobs created set an absolute positive record since such quarterly employment statistics are maintained (the series starts in 1964). Labor reform seemed to play an important role; one piece of evidence cited was that Spain had started creating jobs at lower rates of GDP growth than before: in previous cycles, employment rose when growth hit 2%, this time the gain came during a year when GDP had expanded by just 1.2%.
Greater than expected GDP growth (over 3% in 2015) paved the way for further declines in the unemployment rate. In 2015 Spain registered the third consecutive annual fall in the official jobless figure and the biggest decline to date in the current statistical series that begun in 1996. In less than 3 years, the unemployment rate had decreased by more than 6%, 2014 ended with an unemployment rate of 23.7%, while on the 3rd quarter of 2015 the official unemployment rate was 21.2% Employment has kept improving steadily: by Q3 2016 Spanish unemployment had fell to 18.9%, the lowest rate in more than six years.
Reduction of European Union funds
Capital contributions from the EU, which had contributed significantly to the economic empowerment of Spain since joining the EEC, have decreased considerably in recent years due to the economic standardization in relation to other countries and the effects of the EU's enlargement. On the one hand, agricultural funds from the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union (CAP) are now spread across more countries.
On the other hand, with 2004's and 2007's enlargement of the European Union, less developed countries joined the UE, lowering the average income per capita (or GDP per capita), so that Spanish regions which were considered to be relatively less developed, became in the European average or even above it. Spain has gradually become a net contributor of funds for less developed countries of the Union as opposed to receiving funds.
Economic recovery (2013- )
With a 3.2% increase in 2015, the Spanish GDP growth was the highest among larger EU economies that year. By Q2 2016 the Spanish economy is accumulating 12 consecutive quarters of growth, managing to consistenly outperform the rest of the Euro area and the country is set to achieve one of the fastest growth rates in the Eurozone in 2016.
Another front of economic recovery is international trade. During the boom years, Spain had built up a trade deficit eventually reaching a record amounting to 10% of GDP (2007). Then, during the economic downturn, Spain significantly reduced imports, increased exports and kept attracting growing numbers of tourists; as a result, after three decades of running a trade deficit the country attained in 2013 a trade surplus which has strengthened during 2014 and 2015 due to the positive trends about exports and tourism still remaining in place.
Spanish private commercial banks played a central role in Spain's economic development, benefitting from their role as the state's creditor in the 19th century, from their ability to monetize public debt, and from state-sanctioned oligopolistic arrangements that lasted from the beginning of the 20th century until the late 1980s, when European rules forced a liberalization of the sector. It has been argued that the favorable treatment received by the main Spanish commercial banks and their close relationship to the Bank of Spain following the end of the Franco regime allowed for a public-private partnership to restructure the large commercial banks into two superbanks (Santander and BBVA) with the purpose of preparing the private institutions for international competition and external expansion once the European banking market was integrated in 1992 Alongside this financial mercantilism benefiting the commercial banking sector, Spanish regulators also allowed for the vast expansion of not for profit savings banks sponsored by regional governments who became heavily exposed to the housing mortgage and real estate development sectors during the Spanish economic boom of 1999–2007.
Prior to 2010, the Spanish banking system was credited as one of the most solid of all western banking systems in coping with the ongoing worldwide liquidity crisis, thanks to the country's conservative banking rules and practices. Banks were required to have high capital provisions and to demand various guarantees and securities from intending borrowers. This allowed the banks, particularly the geographically and industrially diversified large banks like BBVA and Santander, to weather the real estate deflation better than expected. Indeed, Spain's large commercial banks have been able to capitalise on their strong position to buy up distressed banking assets elsewhere in Europe and in the United States.
Nevertheless, with the unprecedented crisis of the country's housing crisis, smaller local savings banks ("caja") even though representing a small portion of banking system, are known to have delayed the registering of bad loans, especially those backed by houses and land, to avoid declaring losses. This has occurred despite the fact that these credits are backed by the borrower's present and future assets.
CCM (Caja Castilla la Mancha), is still the only local savings bank to have suffered a run by depositors. The central bank Banco de España (equivalent of the US Federal Reserve) forcibly took over CCM to prevent its financial collapse. The international accounting firm, PriceWaterhouseCooper, estimated an imbalance between CCM's assets and debts of €3,500 million, not counting the industrial corporation. There were errors leading to the present situation. On 22 May 2010, the Banco de España took over another "caja", CajaSur, as part of a national program to put the country's smaller banks on a firm financial basis.
In early June 2012, Spain requested European funding of €100 billion "to recapitalize Spanish banks that need it." It is not a "rescue" because a real rescue would reach ten or twelve times that amount. In return for aid, there will be no tax or macroeconomic conditions. The interest from the loan would pay the banks themselves. This plan will be overseen by the IMF, which would not place any money. According to the statement of European Ministers of Finance, the Eurogroup will closely monitor "the correction of economic imbalances." The news of funding led to a rise in risk premium Spanish to very high levels and a strong fall of the stock exchange in Madrid in June and July 2012. It was definitely an overreaction of the markets, according to what rightly stated by the Spanish economy minister. It almost certainly will come some very strong reactions from the markets, nevertheless in the medium term despite all these financial reactions must moderate and the economic performance of Spain and Europe should return to normal and growth.
Due to the lack of own resources, Spain has to import all of its fossil fuels. Besides, until the 2008 crisis, Spain's recent performance had shown an inflationary tendency and an inflationary gap compared to other EMU countries, affecting the country's overall productivity. Moreover, when Spain joined the euro zone, it lost the recourse of resorting to competitive devaluations, risking a permanent and cumulative loss of competitivity due to inflation. In a scenario of record oil prices by the mid 2000s this meant much added pressure to the inflation rate. In June 2008 the inflation rate reached a 13-year high at 5.00%.
Then, with the dramatic decrease of oil prices that took place in the second half of 2008 plus the manifest bursting of the real estate bubble, concerns quickly shifted over to the risk of deflation, as Spain recorded in January 2009 its lowest inflation rate in 40 years, followed shortly afterwards, in March 2009 by a negative inflation rate for the first time since the gathering of these statistics started. Subsequently, apart from temporary minor oil shocks, the Spanish economy has generally oscillated between slightly negative to near-zero inflation rates during the 2009−early 2016 period. Analysts reckon that this is not synonymous with deflation, due to the fact that GDP has been growing since 2014, domestic consumption has rebounded as well and, especially, because core inflation remains slightly positive.
Since the 1990s some Spanish companies have gained multinational status, often expanding their activities in culturally close Latin America. Spain is the second biggest foreign investor there, after the United States. Spanish companies too have expanded into Asia, especially China and India. This early global expansion is a competitive advantage over its competitors and European neighbors. The reason may be primarily due to the booming interest toward Spanish language and culture in Asia and Africa, but also a corporate culture that learned to take risks in unstable markets.
Spanish companies invested in fields like renewable energy commercialisation (Iberdrola is the world's largest renewable energy operator), technology companies like Telefónica, Abengoa, Mondragon Corporation, Movistar, Gamesa, Hisdesat, Indra, train manufacturers like CAF, Talgo, global corporations such as the textile company Inditex, petroleum companies like Repsol and infrastructure, with six of the ten biggest international construction firms specialising in transport being Spanish, like Ferrovial, Acciona, ACS, OHL and FCC.
In the 2012–13 edition of the Global Competitiveness Report Spain was listed 10th in the world in terms of first-class infrastructure. It is the 5th EU country with best infrastructure and ahead of countries like Japan or the United States. In particular, the country is a leader in the field of high-speed rail, having developed the second longest network in the world (only behind China) and leading high-speed projects with Spanish technology around the world.
The Spanish infrastructure concession companies, lead 262 transport infrastructure worldwide, representing 36% of the total, according to the latest rankings compiled by the publication Public Works Financing. The top three global occupy Spanish companies: ACS, Global Vía and Abertis, according to the ranking of companies by number of concessions for roads, railways, airports and ports in construction or operation in October 2012. Considering the investment, the first world infrastructure concessionaire is Ferrovial-Cintra, with 72,000 million euros, followed closely by ACS, with 70,200 million. Among the top ten in the world are also the Spanish Sacyr (21,500 million), FCC and Global Vía (with 19,400 million) and OHL (17,870 million).
The port of Valencia in Spain is the busiest seaport in the Mediterranean basin, 5th busiest in Europe and 30th busiest in the world. There are four other Spanish ports in the ranking of the top 100 busiest world seaports; as a result, Spain is tied with Japan in the third position of countries leading this ranking.
Exports grow steadily
During the boom years, Spain had built up a trade deficit eventually amounting a record equivalent to 10% of GDP (2007) and the external debt ballooned to the equivalent of 170% of GDP, one of the highest among Western economies. Then, during the economic downturn, Spain reduced significantly imports due to domestic consumption shrinking while – despite the global slowdown – it has been increasing exports and kept attracting growing numbers of tourists. Spanish exports grew by 4.2% in 2013, the highest rate in the European Union. As a result, after three decades of running a trade deficit Spain attained in 2013 a trade surplus. Export growth was driven by capital goods and the automotive sector and the forecast was to reach a surplus equivalent to 2.5% of GDP in 2014. Exports in 2014 were 34% of GDP, up from 24% in 2009. The trade surplus attained in 2013 has been consolidated in 2014 and 2015.
Despite slightly declining exports from fellow EU countries in the same period, Spanish exports continued to grow and in the first half of 2016 the country beat its own record to date exporting goods for 128,041 million euros; from the total, almost 67% were exported to other EU countries. During this same period, from the 70 members of the World Trade Organization (whose combined economies amount to 90% of global GDP), Spain was the country whose exports had grown the most.
Sectors of the economy
The Spanish benchmark stock market index is the IBEX 35, which as of 2016 is led by banking (including Banco Santander and BBVA), clothing (Inditex), telecommunications (Telefónica) and energy (Iberdrola).
Traditionally until 2008, most exports and imports from Spain were held with the countries of the European Union: France, Germany, Italy, UK and Portugal.
In recent years foreign trade has taken refuge outside the European Union. Spain's main customers are Latin America, Asia (Japan, China, India), Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Egypt) and the United States. Principal products are imported in Asia Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan. In African countries producing oil and gas (Nigeria, Algeria, Libya) and Morocco, and the Latin America Argentina, Mexico, Cuba (tourism) Colombia, Brazil, Chile (food products) and Mexico, Venezuela and Argentina (petroleum).
After the crisis that began in 2008 and the fall of the domestic market, Spain (since 2010) it has turned outwards widely increasing the export supply and export amounts. Have diversified the traditional destinations and have grown significantly in product sales of medium and high technology, including highly competitive markets like the US and Asia.
During the last four decades Spain's foreign tourist industry has grown into the second-biggest in the world and was worth approximately €40 billion – about 5% of GDP, in 2006. The total value of foreign and domestic tourism came to nearly 11% of the country's GDP and provided employment for about 2 million people. In August 2012 Spain beat its own record of monthly arrivals, having registered 7.9 million visitors.
By 2013, Spain was the third most visited country in the world: it was visited by 60.6 million tourists. In 2015 the country remained the third most visited country in the world, recording 68.1 million tourists which marked the third consecutive year of record-beating numbers
The automotive industry is one of the largest employers in the country. In 2015 Spain was the 8th largest automobile producer country in the world and the 2nd largest car manufacturer in Europe after Germany.
By 2016, the automotive industry was generating 8.7 percent of Spain's gross domestic product, employing about nine percent of the manufacturing industry. By 2008 the automobile industry was the 2nd most exported industry while in 2015 about 80% of the total production was for export.
German companies poured €4.8 billion into Spain in 2015, making the country the second-largest destination for German foreign direct investment behind only the U.S. The lion’s share of that investment —€4 billion— went to the country’s auto industry.
In 2008, Spanish electricity consumption was an average of 6,523 kWh/person. Spanish electricity usage constituted 88% of the EU15 average (EU15: 7,409 kWh/person), and 73% of the OECD average (8,991 kWh/person).
Spain is one of the world leaders in renewable energies, both as a producer of renewable energy itself and as an exporter of such technology. In 2013 it became the first country ever in the world to have wind power as its main source of energy.
Agribusiness has been another segment growing aggressively over the last few years. At slightly over 40 billion euros, in 2015 agribusiness exports accounted for 3% of GDP and over 15% of the total Spanish exports.
The boom was shaped during the 2004-2014 period, when Spain´s agribusiness exports grew by 95% led by pork, wine and olive oil. By 2012 Spain was by far the biggest producer of olive oil in the world, accounting for 50% of the total production worldwide. By 2013 the country became the world's leading producer of wine; in 2014 and 2015 Spain was the world's biggest wine exporter. However, poor marketing and low margins remain an issue, as shown by the fact that the main importers of Spanish olive oil and wine (Italy and France, respectively) buy bulk Spanish produce which is then bottled and sold under Italian or French labels, often for a significant markup.
Spain is the largest producer and exporter in the EU of citrus fruit (oranges, lemons and small citrus fruits), peaches and apricots. It is also the largest producer and exporter of strawberries in the EU.
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Cristina Salgado; Amanda Mars (1 October 2012). "España es el país con mayor desigualdad social de la eurozona" (wap html). El País. Madrid. Retrieved 26 September 2013.
(...) Y no es esta la única estadística que muestra que la desigualdad está creciendo en España. Otro de los indicadores recogidos por Eurostat, el llamado ratio 80/20, establece una relación entre el 20% de la población que más ingresa y el 20% de la que menos ingresa. Los valores más altos indican mayor desigualdad. Y aquí España bate récord: saca un 7,5. Es la nota más alta de los Veintisiete, que obtuvieron de media un 5,7. Ni Letonia en este caso supera a España, ya que se quedó en 2011 en el 7,3. Alemania tiene un 4,6. En Noruega baja al 3,3. (...)
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