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Taking a closer look at the start-up industry in Europe, card processing specialists, Paymentsense, have conducted research to find out which countries have seen the most significant rise in start-ups between 2013 -2017.

 The data has been mapped out across Europe allowing users to uncover the industries that each country specialises in and how fast those industries are growing.

Paymentsense analysed 30 European countries and ranked each one of them based on how many new businesses have been registered in that 5-year period and which business types have been the most popular in these countries.

Turkey tops the list with the most start-ups registered, followed by France and then the United Kingdom. However, data reveals that the UK is the fastest growing start-up nation in Europe and has brought more than a few successful companies to Europe, including Transferwise and Deliveroo.

Top 10 countries fuelling the European start-up industry:


Among all these countries, the UK has seen the biggest growth in the number of start-ups between 2013 and 2017 at 5.09%, followed by Romania and Portugal. What all of them have in common is a business-friendly environment that gives founders the possibility to grow and nurture their company over time.

When looking at what type of start-ups have dominated Europe in the last few years, wholesale and retail have the largest presence with 3.7 million new businesses started up.

This is surprising to see when in recent years we have seen a retail crash with companies like Woolworths and ToysRUs go bust.

The type of companies that have started up in Europe between 2013-2017


Guy Moreve, Chief Marketing Officer at Paymentsense, says: “It’s interesting to see that the UK ranks among the top five countries with the highest numbers of registered new businesses. It shows that the country offers a great setting for those interested in founding their own company.

Further afield, it’s fascinating to see how Europe has changed in recent times. A number of countries are now placing more emphasis on technology which has helped create a ‘golden era’ for tech startups.

“In order to thrive a business in your respective country, make sure you analyse the market you’re addressing – what works best and what doesn’t; It’s also worth looking at the legal and environmental conditions in order to make sure your business idea is a success”.

(Source: Paymentsense)

At some point, most companies will need to borrow money, whether it’s to fund the growth of the business, to manage cash flow or to purchase new equipment. There are plenty of business loan lenders in the market, but it’s important that you take your time to find the right product for your business. Below, Gary Hemming, expert at ABC Finance, outlines for Finance Monthly the basic considerations to make when looking into getting a business loan.

Finding the Right Type of Business Loan

The first step in securing funding is to take time to understand the different types of business loan products. The easiest way to do this is by speaking to an experienced business finance expert, ideally a whole of market, fee-free broker.

The different products available tend to have very different costs, both in terms of monthly repayments and the total charge for credit.

Calculate Your Budget Upfront – and Stick to it

Most lenders use computerised risk profiling systems to calculate the interest rate of each loan. This means that the rate charged can end up much higher than the lenders advertised ‘headline rate’.

As the expected costs can gradually creep up as the lender sees things that they feel increase their risk, setting a budget is key. A number of small steps up in the proposed monthly repayments can lead to you taking on a payment that is really stretching the limits of being affordable.

You can protect yourself against this by setting a maximum repayment upfront and sticking to it. Be prepared to walk away if the risk of taking out the loan outweighs the benefits.

Make Sure You Have the Documents Needed to Apply

Although each lender has their own requirements, there are some common documents that are almost always needed. These are your business bank statements and trading accounts.

Lenders will usually need 3 months business bank statements. These can either be scanned and certified by a suitable professional, or PDF copies downloaded via online banking.

2 years accounts are requested by most lenders, with PDF or scanned versions usually accepted. If your business does not have 2 years accounts, the lender will usually want as much evidence of trading performance as possible.

Management accounts will strengthen your application where accounts are either unavailable or if the latest accounts are more than 9 months old.

Be Clear on How Long You Need the Money for

There are a number of unsecured business finance products available and they all work in slightly different ways. It’s important that you’re clear upfront why you need the money and for how long.

If a cash injection is needed into the business and there is no large event upcoming that will be used to repay in full then a business loan is a strong option.

Where funds are being used to specifically fund a large one-off order, or contract, then there may be better options available, such a trade finance.

Equally, if you’re looking for a facility that can be used longer term and that will grow with your business, a business loan may prove too inflexible. In that case, revolving credit facilities and invoice finance may well be better suited to your needs.

An experienced broker will be able to advise you on some of the most suitable finance products for your needs within a few minutes of your initial chat.

Once You’re Completely Comfortable - Apply

Once you’re completely comfortable, and only then, apply for your business loan. If you apply with multiple lenders, you will be credit searched by each one on application.

Although it can seem like a smart move as you will get quotes from more than one lender, too many credit searches can actually reduce your credit score. To prevent this from happening, it’s important that you take a more measured approach.

You can do this by understanding the lender's criteria and interest rate bands – the rates charged depending on the risk presented to them – upfront.

Once you’ve found what seems like the most suitable, and likely cheapest option, apply with them first, while your credit score is at its strongest.

To hear about all things joint ventures, Finance Monthly connected with David Ernst, Managing Director of Water Street Partners - a company that he co-founded in 2008.  David is a leading adviser to global companies on strategic transactions and governance, especially JVs and partnerships. In addition to a book, Collaborating to Compete, David has published articles in the Harvard Business Review, CFO Magazine, the Financial Times, McKinsey Quarterly, and a number of other publications. David was previously a Partner at McKinsey & Company, Vice President at Evans Economics Inc., and an Economist at Chase Econometrics.

Water Street Partners advises clients on transactions and governance. The firm’s transaction work specialises in joint ventures and other non-M&A partnerships, both in new deal formation and restructuring. Water Street Partners advises clients on corporate and joint venture governance, working with corporate and joint venture boards, management teams, and individual shareholders.

Since its establishment a decade ago, the company has worked on hundreds of transactions valued at more than $500 billion - supporting clients around the world and across industries.

 

What are the right and wrong reasons to use a joint venture?

There are several ‘right reasons’ to use joint ventures, and some situations when a JV is a bad idea. First, JVs are an appropriate strategic vehicle to combine complementary capabilities of two companies – for example, when one company brings product/technology, and the other company brings distribution or sales. Second, JVs are a good way to enter new geographic markets at lower risk than go-alone strategies. And third, joint ventures can be good ways to combine activities into ‘shared utilities’ – such as when multiple health-insurance or credit-card companies create a jointly-owned company to support their processing needs. JVs are also a reasonable fallback strategy when an outright acquisition would be attractive, but isn’t possible either because of national regulations which prohibit foreign ownership, or because the target company isn’t available for sale. In these cases, JVs can be a way to enter a relationship that can be a stepping-stone to a later full combination.

As for the ‘wrong reasons’ to use a JV, they include: using a JV principally as a way to access capital; venturing with a partner to try to fix a weak company; and using a JV to avoid selling a business that doesn’t fit in the corporate portfolio.

 

Once a company has decided to use a JV, what ‘killer questions’ should dealmakers ask to ensure the venture is successful, and to avoid doing a bad deal?

When clients come to us in the deal strategy phase, we aim to ensure that the JV negotiation process leads to either a ‘quick no’ or a ‘good yes’. Joint venture dealmakers should ask themselves five questions – if the answer to any of these is ‘no’, they should not proceed with a JV deal.

 

How long do JVs last, and are there ways to ensure a long-lived partnership?

 

The average span of JVs is about 8 to 9 years. JVs need to evolve to thrive and survive. Ventures are often scoped as fairly narrow-purpose entities – initially conceived to operate in well-defined product markets, with specific technologies. But the world is a dynamic place. For many JVs, there is a need to consider fundamental changes in strategy, scope or structure after three to five years, driven by technology disruption, emergence of new competitors, or the achievement of initial objectives.

The ability to evolve a venture’s strategy – and dynamically adapt to changes on the landscape – is clearly correlated with financial and strategic outcome performance: roughly 80% of JVs that have materially evolved their strategy and scope meet or exceed the performance expectations of their parent companies, whereas those JVs that have remained essentially unchanged have only a 33% success rate.

 

How should venture partners approach exit or termination? Should a ‘pre-nuptial’ be put in place?

Yes, a ‘pre-nup’ is essential. Few JVs last more than 15 years – so having an exit clause is definitely a good idea, though the discussions can be sensitive. Recognising that an eventual termination is the inevitable outcome of most ventures, most JV agreements do include exit provisions in some form. But these provisions often take the shape of boilerplate legal language, with symmetric buy-sell agreements. This is fine if both shareholders are equally able to acquire and operate the venture. More often, one of the shareholders is a ‘natural owner’, and a more tailored approach to exit clauses would provide more protection.

 

Contact details:
Email: David.Ernst@waterstreetpartners.net
Website: www.waterstreetpartners.net

Investors on the Assetz Capital platform are expecting to feel a negative impact from the UK’s economic situation in the next three months, despite the government lauding growth of 0.8% in Q4 2017.

The peer-to-peer lending platform canvassed the views of its investors in the Q1 Assetz Capital Investor Barometer. Asked how the economic situation would impact their lives in the next three months, only 13% said it would have a positive impact. 51% expected no impact, but 36% thought it would have a negative impact.

When asked how the economy had affected them in the three months prior, investors were again gloomy, with only 15% saying they have felt a positive impact. 60% said it had no impact, while 25% reported a negative impact.

Stuart Law, CEO at Assetz Capital said: “In contrast to the positive outlook which is expected to be announced in the Spring Statement, there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of optimism about the economy at the moment, with a growing number of our investors anticipating a negative impact in the next quarter. As Brexit creeps closer and the reality of a no-deal outcome seems more likely, uncertainty about the future of the economy seems to have taken its toll.

“Interest rates remain low while inflation remains relatively high, so many people are effectively losing money each day. It is no surprise, therefore, that alternative financial investments are continuing to gain traction, as people become willing to take on a little more risk – as with any investment – in order to see potentially fairer returns.”

(Source: Assetz Capital Investor Barometer)

Venture capital trusts (VCTs) remain front of mind for both SMEs and investors. In the 2016/17 tax period, fundraising stood at £542m – the highest figure in more than a decade – according to the Association of Investment Companies (AIC). Also, measures in last year’s budget and recommendations in the Patient Capital Review indicate that policymakers continue to see the strong value VCTs provide for both SMEs and investors and so, for 2018, the signs point to another strong year for the sector.

Here, Bill Nixon, Managing Partner at Maven Capital Partners, looks at the growth of VCTs as an asset class, their appeal to investors, and gives his view on the continuing value of VCTs as a source of SME finance.

The success of new share offers by the leading managers over the past few years illustrates how VCTs have increasingly been recognised as a mainstream asset class in investment planning and are becoming a common part of tax efficient and income-focused portfolios. Fundraising across the VCT sector as a whole has climbed steadily in each of the past five years, including a rise by around a fifth in 2016/17.

This burgeoning demand for VCT investments has been driven by strong long-term returns. Research by the AIC last year revealed that the top 20 VCTs returned on average 82 per cent by share price total return (a measure which takes into account both capital returns and dividends paid to shareholders) over the past decade. The very best performers achieved overall returns well into triple digits: for example, Maven’s Income and Growth VCT returned 187 per cent in that period. Top up share offers by Maven VCT 3 and Maven VCT 4 remain open, for both 17/18 and 18/19 tax years, with around £27m already raised from more than 1500 investors.

VCTs are attractive partly because they enable investors to enjoy significant tax benefits when putting their money into smaller, entrepreneurial UK businesses and participating in their growth. Investors in VCTs receive a 30 per cent upfront tax break, as well as tax free capital gains and dividends – provided they are willing to remain invested for at least five years.

The Government's aim in providing these reliefs is to encourage more capital to flow into riskier, early-stage companies. While this investment risk is an inherent feature of VCTs, it can be managed effectively for an investor by carefully choosing the VCT manager. The leading managers have up to 20 years’ experience of VCT investment and will employ a range of measures to achieve significant diversification and robust asset selection. An experienced manager will work closely with every business it backs, providing strategic counsel and operational expertise as the business grows.

Despite some concerns ahead of last year’s Budget that the levels of tax relief might be reduced, it instead adjusted investment criteria to ensure than VCT schemes continue to focus on investment in companies for long-term growth and development, rather than ‘lower risk’ investment primarily aimed at preserving capital. These changes confirm the position of VCTs as a vital means of drawing private investor capital to the SME sector and should ensure that VCTs remain attractive for investors. The continuing availability of long-term patient capital, at what is an increasingly important time for the UK economy, should give comfort to dynamic smaller businesses that they can continue to access vital equity finance, whilst allowing investors a route to participate in their success.

During the past couple of years it had also become clear that significant improvements were needed to HMRC’s Advance Assurance process, which had resulted in unnecessary delays to receiving VCT clearance on a large number of potential VCT deals. Streamlining Advance Assurance had been highlighted by managers across the sector as an important step in more efficiently directing capital to entrepreneurial businesses, and potentially boosting returns for investors. It was therefore encouraging that the Budget also announced that HMRC aims to enhance that approval process during the early part of 2018, which should help to improve the rate of new investments receiving VCT clearance and allow VCT managers to provide funding to the best available companies in a timescale that suits their growth plans.

Overall, VCTs have shown their worth from both an SME and investor perspective and this year’s fundraising is going well, with one or two VCT offers having already closed to investments. In the three years to mid-2017, VCTs had injected around £1.4bn of investor money into SMEs, illustrating their role as growth company funders and their performance and returns should see them further consolidate their position as an increasingly mainstream asset class in tax efficient and income-focused investment portfolios.

Sustained economic growth and the fall in the Sterling exchange rate have put record pressure on British businesses to increase the amount of money tied up in working capital, leaving them at risk if growth were to weaken in the months ahead, according to the latest report from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

Firms across Britain now have around £535bn tied up in excess working capital – up seven per cent from £498bn since the last report was released in May – meaning that firms could struggle to free up cash either to grow or to weather turbulent financial conditions.

The sustained growth seen in the past 12 months – particularly in manufacturing and in the services sector – has increased the amount of cash tied up in the day-to-day running of businesses, with the impacts from the fall in Sterling, forward purchasing of inventory and a rise in input costs, being fully realised.

At the same time, one in four businesses said their customers had taken longer to pay during the past 12 months, increasing the value of firms’ outstanding invoices.  This comes as businesses are continuing to rapidly build up inventory, leading to more cash being locked up in stock, which is then unable to be used for growth.

With as many as one in three firms saying they are concerned by economic uncertainty or a fall in sales during the next 12 months, these factors could spell trouble for British businesses if economic conditions declined.

Adrian Walker, managing director, head of Global Transaction Banking at Lloyds Bank, said: “Increasing pressure for British businesses to hold more working capital has to date largely been driven by economic growth fuelled by the fall in Sterling. But, if there were any economic obstacles on the horizon this could be a double-edged sword.

“By locking up cash in this way, it stops investment in other more productive areas of the business, whether that be investing in new people, creating new products or targeting new markets.

“With as many as one in three businesses telling us that their greatest concerns for the next 12 months are economic uncertainty or a fall in sales, this reliance on future growth prospects is concerning.”

The findings come from Lloyds Bank’s second Working Capital Index, a six-monthly report that uses Lloyds Bank Regional Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) data to calculate the pressure British businesses are under to either increase or decrease working capital.

Working capital is the amount of money that a company ties up in the day-to-day costs of doing business. Growing businesses tend to use more working capital, while pressure falls when firms realise they are facing challenges.

The current Index reading of 108.0 is an increase of almost four points, from 104.1 at the end of 2016, and is just below the highest point seen since the research started in 2000.

The Index highlights that with the UK’s domestic outlook looking weaker, businesses are increasingly going to need to rely on exports for future growth.

While the current relative weakness of Sterling makes conditions for international trade benign, the practicalities of exporting mean that it often places even greater stress on working capital through shipping times and slower payments.

Mr Walker added: “Whether businesses expect to grow through exporting, or they anticipate challenges due to weakening domestic demand, UK firms could benefit from the operational efficiency and cash flow boost that comes from working capital improvements.

“In the past, previous highs in this Index have coincided with improving financial conditions. The fact that the Index is currently climbing while financial conditions remain relatively low means businesses are taking on more and more risk.

“Our experience is that businesses that undertake a programme of working capital improvements can typically release around three to five per cent of turnover in additional cash, allowing them much more freedom to invest in growth, trade internationally, expand their product set or to give themselves a buffer to see them through more troubling times.

“But doing so successfully isn’t easy. It requires change across a number of business functions, and so the time to undertake that work should be done ahead of embarking on further growth, a new exports programme, or before any possible future storm hits.”

Manufacturing under pressure

The manufacturing sector has been a source of hope and opportunity for the British economy in recent months as the fall in Sterling made British manufactured goods more competitive overseas.

But the sector’s growth, together with rising import costs and pre-purchasing of materials in expectation of inflation, has pushed the sector’s working capital index to 126.1, which could be hampering growth amongst manufacturing businesses.

This compares with readings of just 105.0 and 104.8 in the services and construction sectors respectively.

Regional variations

The pressure to increase working capital grew in every region apart from the East of England, where the Index fell from 112.0 to 107.8. Although, the East of England still saw high pressure on businesses to hold more working capital.

Scotland, where a reading of 99.5 indicated pressure to reduce working capital six months ago, saw the biggest increase, with the Index reading rising more than five points to 105.2.

Wales remained the region with the highest pressure to increase working capital with the Index climbing from 113.7 in April to 114.3 now.

(Source: Working Capital)

With the impending prospect of Article 50, how should the savvy prepare? Here Finance Monthly benefits from an expert answer, authored by István Bodó, Amaury DeMoor and Karan Lal of REL, a division of The Hackett Group.

The British referendum vote makes a mark in the European Union’s history, as the United Kingdom has taken the decision to leave the EU and will become the first nation to ever leave the union.

Brexit’s impact on remaining EU countries

This slightly unexpected outcome of the vote prompted jubilant celebrations among Eurosceptics around the continent and sent shockwaves throughout the global economy causing a new “Black Friday” across the major European financial markets. Stock exchanges in Germany and France ended down 6.8% and 8% respectively. Since the British, Italian and Spanish stock markets also had losses above 12%, this was the worst drop in a day since the 2007-2008 global financial crisis.

Though financial markets soon recovered, uncertainty remains amongst both the European Union and United Kingdom, as a big question mark lies on the future of their relationship and the synergies that lie within.

From the perspective of the remaining EU countries, the United Kingdom has been a very strong and influential member. The UK is often considered to be the bridge between the EU and the rest of the world due to its historic Commonwealth and political strength around the world. With this relationship now at risk and major decisions in the hands of politicians, this is creating nervousness amongst organisations. Failure to sustain current relationships and trade deals could be damaging for both sides.

Many argue that the EU is a more important trading partner for the UK than the UK is for the EU. However, with the UK’s strong demand for imports from the EU, with special emphasis on the pharmaceutical and manufacturing industry, this is an important factor that needs to be taken into consideration.

In value terms the trade surpluses with the UK are concentrated in a small number of EU countries – Germany, in particular, as the UK is its third most important business partner with 120 billion euros in different goods and services being sold to the UK. Trading with the UK after a formal Brexit may become difficult and more expensive for German and other European companies as new customs and regulations may be implemented. This could have significant impact on the German automobile and engineering industry, considering that every fifth car sold abroad goes to the UK.

Whether the long-term impact of Brexit will cause a shift in European Union business to the rest of the world or will result in a genuine loss in business is unclear for the time being. It is therefore imperative for organisations to be strategically flexible and prepared for either outcome. By capitalising on opportunities to release working capital, organisations can weather economic downturns, as well as fund new opportunities that may be on the horizon.

Importance of working capital and cash

Working capital is the amount of cash that is tied up in a company’s day-to-day operations. It is important that all three components (accounts receivable, accounts payable and inventory) receive focus to realise maximum cash benefit opportunities and identify and tackle inefficiencies in processes and procedures (Fig. 1).

Organisations across Europe have significant opportunities, not just to strengthen their balance sheet but also to move towards world-class working capital performance – in fact, companies could release more than 229 million euros within their receivables, payables and inventories per 1 billion euros of sales.

By highlighting days inventory on-hand and days payables outstanding, median- performing companies have an above 50% improvement opportunity, which can yield and support substantial cost optimisation opportunities, whilst also releasing cash to help fund acquisitions, product development or other investments (Fig. 2).

Another important aspect of shifting from median performer to world class is the higher focus on continuous improvement and sustainable results that becomes part of the company culture, making the whole organisation more effective and efficient. Companies achieving world-class working capital performance are likely to be high performers in other operational areas as well. They are the businesses that not only respond and adapt to changes in competition and customer preferences, but they are also leading the change and capitalising on emerging growth opportunities.

Although the unknown potential impact of Brexit cannot be directly compared to the global financial crisis of 2007-2008, key lessons can be learnt from that period, as poor total working capital management was a key factor in several liquidations. In these situations, cash reserves were not sufficient enough to run operations and whilst at the same time banks were reluctant to increase credit.

How will Brexit shift business?

Britain leaving the union could lead to a shift or loss in business for EU companies. The pound falling to historic low levels against the euro has significantly dented the purchasing power of the United Kingdom. It is for this reason that many UK companies will look to source domestically, as well as outside Europe in an attempt to hedge against the fall in pound sterling.

Although Article 50 has not formally been put into motion and formal negotiations with the EU have not yet begun, the UK already is turning towards her Commonwealth, as Prime Minister Theresa May has already visited India in late 2016. The British prime minister was also the first to formally visit US President Donald Trump in January 2017, as part of the special and historical relationship both nations share with each other. Meanwhile, the EU has also turned its attention to the rest of the world by entering a free trade agreement with Canada in October 2016.

With such sudden political shifts, European-based companies are at potential risk to face a loss of business, as the majority of UK imports currently come from Europe, with Germany, Netherlands and France being the top three exporting countries to the United Kingdom (Fig. 3).

Whether Brexit translates to a shift or loss of business for European-based companies, in either scenario it is imperative for businesses to have a well-managed working capital programme and a well-embedded cash culture that enables smooth adaptation to the new economic environment Europe will face. Achieving a healthy level of total working capital proves to be the less risky option, especially in times of economic uncertainty, and provides companies the ability to stay flexible and resilient against sudden changes. Therefore, initiating total working capital improvement programmes covering accounts receivable, accounts payable and inventory are strongly recommended.

Bracing for industry impact

London is heavily backed to remain the top financial centre in Europe despite exiting the EU. This is largely due to the fact that other European cities such as Frankfurt, Paris and Dublin simply do not have the capacity, resources, culture and educational infrastructure to become a London-like city. With the United Kingdom’s strong political connections to the rest of the world, London also remains the stronger candidate for foreign capital investment.

It is for this reason that the shift in jobs and business is likely to remain minimal for the financial services industry but might be different for core European industries such as manufacturing and pharmaceuticals. With the United Kingdom largely importing from both the manufacturing and pharmaceutical sector (Fig. 4), these industries, in particular, are likely to face either a decrease or loss in business, assuming the risk that the United Kingdom will no longer be part of the single market and the continuous weakening of the pound.

Due to its capital intensive nature and sensibility to economic swings, the working capital requirements of the manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries are generally higher in comparison to industries such as consumer goods and services. This is largely driven by the complexity of the supply chain and the varying working capital performance across sub-sectors, such as plastics, metals, machinery, fabricated products, building products, etc. In addition, the high cost of goods sold directly affects payables and inventories, making working capital performance even more important. To withstand the potential impacts ahead, detailed analysis and assessments must be made in the receivables, payables and inventory areas in order to implement strategies to optimise working capital and use the extra cash to cushion volatility.

Low inflation within eurozone

On the path to recovery from the global financial crisis, interest rates in the eurozone have hit their lowest point in recent history. The decisions made by the European Central Bank (ECB) and backed by ECB president Mario Draghi are largely driven to encourage borrowing across the eurozone, in order to grow and stimulate the economy following the financial crisis. Though the eurozone has by a close margin recovered from the crisis, interest rates have remained low due to inflation targets of 2% not being met.

The currently low price of oil is a major contributing factor to low inflation, as oil is the eurozone’s biggest import; thus, a future increase in oil prices could put the eurozone back at higher inflation rates and increase the likelihood of higher interest rates.

With interest rates currently low and business loans looking attractive, many businesses take the easy route to borrowing money, instead of optimising their working capital. Though many organisations benefit from such a low interest climate in the short run, working capital optimisation proves to be a more sustainable path for the long term, as it shows managerial efficiency, attracts investors and, most importantly, frees up cash. Having the ability to free up cash by improving internal processes always adds value, as it allows organisations to eliminate inefficiencies and remain flexible and dynamic in facing economic uncertainties such as Brexit.

Summary

The unknown impact that Brexit will have on the European Union and the United Kingdom further adds to the uncertainty and nervousness of businesses affected by the move and may lead to delays in investment decisions. Though the UK will hope to retain access to the European Common Market, major European companies will be watching closely as this could have significant impacts on the products they export to the United Kingdom.

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