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Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Almaviva] #2123479
07/26/13 06:12 PM
07/26/13 06:12 PM
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Williamsburg, VA
Piano*Dad Offline
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Please don't presume because of a couple of posts at PW that the Walter family doesn't care about their pianos, or that the firm is on the verge of bankruptcy. I don't know why that interpretation follows. Play the pianos and make a judgment.

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Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Almaviva] #2123482
07/26/13 06:18 PM
07/26/13 06:18 PM
Joined: May 2012
Posts: 7,439
Rochester MN
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Consider that Walter is a hand built, low volume product. They run with a very small, but very skilled, staff. To become a high volume supplier would change their corporate philosophy. Exclusivity and rarity is also a sales draw.

After reading the above comments, it seems to me that the company needs to better educate their existing dealers. The dealers/salespeople need to be sold on the product before they can sell it well. But, if every dealer ordered one grand of each size, could the company match the demand?

It seems that the only people who can answer the questions, are the members of the Walter family.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Piano*Dad] #2123485
07/26/13 06:26 PM
07/26/13 06:26 PM
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Hi Piano Dad,

There is no assumption about "bankruptcy" but there is a concern about lack of support. May be it is the line of work I am in frown .

Whenever suppliers of our engineering firm start to "ignore" a product, be it hardware or software, it means they are about to obsolete that product.

Transferring this experience to piano, it is logical to think that either the Walter company is selling so many grands each year that they can afford to ignore consumer pre-purchase support, or they sell so few that it is not worthwhile to provide any pre-purchase support. The former is OK, the latter is a concern.

In either case, as a consumer, and as a novice piano owner, we are treating the piano like any larger high-priced product. If we buy it, we want to know the company will stand behind it; at least for the length of the warranty.

We have actually read everywhere that Walter seems to take this "laid-back" approach to its grands; so the concern is not based on this single post. Even Del, the designer of the piano stated as much; including dealers of Walter.

If Carnes has the Walter grands on the floor, we will definitely play them. We may even fly to the factory; we will see. wink

Last edited by CalifPianoUser2013; 07/26/13 06:33 PM.
Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Minnesota Marty] #2123487
07/26/13 06:27 PM
07/26/13 06:27 PM
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Thank you very much for that view, MN Marty. I never thought of Walter in that light. Very helpful view.

Walter can make full use of the internet. Just take a look at website of The Piano Works. Nearly every grand has a video clip showing off the sound. Yes, recording is imperfect and cannot do the piano full justice but we are still able to hear the differences between the pianos.

If Walter would do just that much...

Last edited by CalifPianoUser2013; 07/26/13 06:36 PM.
Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Del] #2123503
07/26/13 06:53 PM
07/26/13 06:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Del
...And this should be one of the selling strengths of the Walter grands. The Walter 175 grand (5' 9") takes up about as much floor space as competitive 5' 4" to 5' 6" grands. And a lot less floor space than many 5' 7" grands. Yet I've talked to many dealers who were unaware of this. And if the dealers themselves don't know it you can be sure their salespeople don't know it either.

ddf


What do the measurements measure if not the size?
(Really, I'm not being cheeky, just clueless.)


I've been trying to change my signature quote for weeks.

Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Almaviva] #2123511
07/26/13 07:00 PM
07/26/13 07:00 PM
Joined: May 2012
Posts: 7,439
Rochester MN
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Rochester MN
Hi CPU2013,

Often the websites of the manufacturers are not that great and more info is available through store websites. Actually, digging into the Walter site has lots of good info, and at least, you know what they offer. I've toured the plant and it was a very enjoyable tour. They take the time to answer any questions, and most importantly, their craftspeople seem to be very proud of, and dedicated to, the building fine pianos.

Speaking of websites, at this forum the Cunningham piano is also well respected. Their website is primarily for the store and the info on their own piano is not well represented. It doesn't even have a listing of all of the pianos available. Actually, it is a bit frustrating. You have to turn to "Piano Buyer" to even get the lineup of verticals and grands.

I wish you well on your search.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: malkin] #2123515
07/26/13 07:06 PM
07/26/13 07:06 PM
Joined: May 2012
Posts: 7,439
Rochester MN
Minnesota Marty Offline

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Rochester MN
Originally Posted by malkin
Originally Posted by Del
...And this should be one of the selling strengths of the Walter grands. The Walter 175 grand (5' 9") takes up about as much floor space as competitive 5' 4" to 5' 6" grands. And a lot less floor space than many 5' 7" grands. Yet I've talked to many dealers who were unaware of this. And if the dealers themselves don't know it you can be sure their salespeople don't know it either.

ddf


What do the measurements measure if not the size?
(Really, I'm not being cheeky, just clueless.)

The Walter pianos are not as wide as most grands, so they take up less floor space, though the length is the same. Visually, they appear that excess bulk has been removed. Sometimes people don't consider the considerable width of a grand when thinking about the size in a home.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Minnesota Marty] #2123516
07/26/13 07:08 PM
07/26/13 07:08 PM
Joined: Apr 2009
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*sigh* Salt Lake City
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Thanks!
I'm certainly thinking about it now!


I've been trying to change my signature quote for weeks.

Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Del] #2123529
07/26/13 07:45 PM
07/26/13 07:45 PM
Joined: Aug 2008
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Originally Posted by Del
Originally Posted by Radio.Octave
I went to a music store in Dayton and played a Walter grand. I think it was the larger version. From what I read on here, I really wanted to like it. The also had a Kawai RX-6. I don't really get why everyone says the Walters have a warm, mellow tone. I played the Kawai and Walter back to back, and the Walter was a lot brighter. Keep in mind, this is the only Walter grand I've played, so maybe this one was voiced up?

Yes, that would be voicing. And rather inappropriate voicing at that.

The problem is that the Walter grands were never supposed to be presented as “bright” or “powerful” pianos. They certainly do have good power but, as with all pianos that start life with a warmer, more dynamic tone, this becomes more evident when it is placed in an appropriate room.

If a designer wants a bright and powerful piano then he will—should—select the scale and soundboard parameters that will best give that voice and then fit the piano with appropriate hammers. This is the only way to end up with a bright and powerful piano that will still reasonably good timbral dynamics.

If you start with a piano that was designed to have a warmer and more dynamic tone to begin with and then try to “voice it up" about all you can do get where you think you want to be is to make the hammers artificially harder; usually by chemically hardening them. This will make the voice brighter but the resulting spring-like characteristic of on impact will be more linear and timbral dynamics will be lost. Chemical hardeners always affect the non-linear spring characteristic of wool hammers. Heavily voiced hammers—either up or down—are never as satisfactory as hammers that start out appropriate to the design.

If I was looking at this piano with a potential purchaser I would probably advise them to plan on replacing the hammers with something more suitable to the design and, once the new hammers were installed, to make sure that whoever did the voicing on the original hammers was never allowed to be in the same room without adult supervision.



Quote
At any rate, I chose the Kawai, and even it is a little bright in my home. I'm having it voiced down at every tuning, but it's an ongoing process. Loud & bright seems to be the craze with modern pianos, and it's a shame. Maybe that's good for concert halls, but it sucks in a home. It's sort of like the HDTVs. In the showroom, they're all set to "torch mode" with the backlights cranked to the max. I guess that is what sells, but try watching it that way at home in a dim room. You have to turn the brightness waaaay down. It's too bad turning down brightness on a piano isn't so easy!

And that is the problem with hammers that start out some on the hard side. Whether that hardness is added chemically or—as is the case with the hammers on your piano—they come from the press somewhat on the hard and dense side. While the latter is certainly easier to voice and will result is a better overall tone response they do require more frequent and more extensive voicing over time.

ddf


Hey Del,

Thanks for the detailed reply. I'm not sure what kind of prep/voicing was done to the pianos at this particular dealer, but I have the feeling they liked to brighten them up. My Kawai sounded really nice until I got to the treble section of the keyboard, and then it seemed very bright to me. The bass and the rest of the piano sounded so good, I decided to take it, thinking that voicing would take care of it. It has, to some extent, but it's an ongoing process. I remember going back and forth between the Walter and Kawai. When I sat down at the Kawai after playing the Walter, it sounded like I was playing the Kawai with the soft pedal (although I wasn't).

I wish I would've gotten to try one of the Walter grands with the Ronsen hammers. I bet they sound nice and mellow smile


Kawai RX-6 BLAK
Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Caowner2013] #2123538
07/26/13 08:17 PM
07/26/13 08:17 PM
Joined: Sep 2003
Posts: 5,531
Olympia, Washington
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Originally Posted by CalifPianoUser2013
There is no assumption about "bankruptcy" but there is a concern about lack of support. May be it is the line of work I am in frown .

Whenever suppliers of our engineering firm start to "ignore" a product, be it hardware or software, it means they are about to obsolete that product.

Transferring this experience to piano, it is logical to think that either the Walter company is selling so many grands each year that they can afford to ignore consumer pre-purchase support, or they sell so few that it is not worthwhile to provide any pre-purchase support. The former is OK, the latter is a concern.

In either case, as a consumer, and as a novice piano owner, we are treating the piano like any larger high-priced product. If we buy it, we want to know the company will stand behind it; at least for the length of the warranty.

We have actually read everywhere that Walter seems to take this "laid-back" approach to its grands; so the concern is not based on this single post. Even Del, the designer of the piano stated as much; including dealers of Walter.

If Carnes has the Walter grands on the floor, we will definitely play them. We may even fly to the factory; we will see. wink

Don’t misunderstand me, here. I’d like to see the pianos presented in a more aggressive manner but that has nothing to do with how the pianos are supported. One of the things that sets this company apart from most others is the fact that when you call the company for whatever reason you will probably talk directly with one of the family members and that person will spend as much time with you as necessary to answer your questions or help you with any problem you may be having.

And about their financial stability: A year or two back I was having a conversation with one of the Walters when he brought up the subject of rumors about the imminent bankruptcy of the firm. This rather surprised me since I’d not heard this particular rumor. It was pointed out that it is pretty difficult for a company to go bankrupt when that company has no debt. I thought it was a good point and, knowing the people running the company, I doubt it has changed. It’s a matter of personal philosophy and belief.

ddf


Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon
Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: SBP] #2123546
07/26/13 08:35 PM
07/26/13 08:35 PM
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California, USA
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Originally Posted by SBP
The large open spaces in the house, combined with my parents' love for minimalist/arts and craftsy type furniture (idk what you call it-it's that basic, simplistic Ikea/Ethan Allen type stuff you see in upscale suburban homes on HGTV or whatever), definitely contribute to the problem.

LOL, well that certainly builds a mental image. Yes, those furniture decisions could contribute to the problem. They might contribute to other problems as well. smile


Pianist and Piano Teacher
Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Almaviva] #2123583
07/26/13 10:16 PM
07/26/13 10:16 PM
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It does. Let's just say that the decision on the K3 was more motivated by aesthetics than any of my preferences :P

Last edited by SBP; 07/26/13 10:16 PM.

2012 Kawai K3
Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: SBP] #2123597
07/26/13 10:57 PM
07/26/13 10:57 PM
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 2,073
California, USA
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Yeah. Worst thing in that scenario is that it sounds like your music took a back seat to lesser things. One bright side - a K3 is a real instrument, not a PSO.


Pianist and Piano Teacher
Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Piano*Dad] #2123605
07/26/13 11:12 PM
07/26/13 11:12 PM
Joined: Mar 2013
Posts: 1,269
Richmond, Virginia
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Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
Originally Posted by Guapo Gabacho
Originally Posted by Norbert
...will be orientals, especially Chinese.


You might want to refer to them as Asians. Many find the label "orientals" to be offensive.


Quite true. But Norbert may have an excuse as a non-native English speaker. I suspect "oriental" has been used to describe "east" for a rather long time in Germany and other European locales. And PC hasn't fully descended on that continent. smile


And there is this comment from SBP:
Well, at least this cracker didn't call 'em Chinks or Chinamen :P



Yikes, how did this thread ever evolve into a discussion about race? Talk about hijacking! eek

That said, Norbert does have a point. The Chinese piano market is huge - there are 30 million Chinese children taking piano lessons - and I understand that almost all of the pianos being sold in the domestic Chinese market can be politely described as "not being up to Western standards of touch, tone, fit/finish, and longevity" - in other words, cheap junk. High-quality piano manufacturers should find a ready market for their instruments.

Walter Piano would certainly be considered a high-quality manufacturer. However, I have never visited China, nor do I sell merchandise in China, so I am not an expert on the Chinese market.

Being in Vancouver, Norbert has a lot of Chinese customers. Norbert, are you saying that the Chinese people have a predilection for a certain kind of piano touch and tone? If so, what is that "kind", and would Charles Walter pianos appeal to such customers?

Last edited by Almaviva; 07/26/13 11:16 PM.
Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Del] #2123606
07/26/13 11:12 PM
07/26/13 11:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Del
Originally Posted by Radio.Octave
I went to a music store in Dayton and played a Walter grand. I think it was the larger version. From what I read on here, I really wanted to like it. The also had a Kawai RX-6. I don't really get why everyone says the Walters have a warm, mellow tone. I played the Kawai and Walter back to back, and the Walter was a lot brighter. Keep in mind, this is the only Walter grand I've played, so maybe this one was voiced up?

Yes, that would be voicing. And rather inappropriate voicing at that.

The problem is that the Walter grands were never supposed to be presented as “bright” or “powerful” pianos. They certainly do have good power but, as with all pianos that start life with a warmer, more dynamic tone, this becomes more evident when it is placed in an appropriate room.

If a designer wants a bright and powerful piano then he will—should—select the scale and soundboard parameters that will best give that voice and then fit the piano with appropriate hammers. This is the only way to end up with a bright and powerful piano that will still reasonably good timbral dynamics.

If you start with a piano that was designed to have a warmer and more dynamic tone to begin with and then try to “voice it up" about all you can do get where you think you want to be is to make the hammers artificially harder; usually by chemically hardening them. This will make the voice brighter but the resulting spring-like characteristic of on impact will be more linear and timbral dynamics will be lost. Chemical hardeners always affect the non-linear spring characteristic of wool hammers. Heavily voiced hammers—either up or down—are never as satisfactory as hammers that start out appropriate to the design.

If I was looking at this piano with a potential purchaser I would probably advise them to plan on replacing the hammers with something more suitable to the design and, once the new hammers were installed, to make sure that whoever did the voicing on the original hammers was never allowed to be in the same room without adult supervision.



Quote
At any rate, I chose the Kawai, and even it is a little bright in my home. I'm having it voiced down at every tuning, but it's an ongoing process. Loud & bright seems to be the craze with modern pianos, and it's a shame. Maybe that's good for concert halls, but it sucks in a home. It's sort of like the HDTVs. In the showroom, they're all set to "torch mode" with the backlights cranked to the max. I guess that is what sells, but try watching it that way at home in a dim room. You have to turn the brightness waaaay down. It's too bad turning down brightness on a piano isn't so easy!

And that is the problem with hammers that start out some on the hard side. Whether that hardness is added chemically or—as is the case with the hammers on your piano—they come from the press somewhat on the hard and dense side. While the latter is certainly easier to voice and will result is a better overall tone response they do require more frequent and more extensive voicing over time.

ddf


Hi Del,

See if I'm understanding you right. It sounds like you're saying if a piano was designed to be mellow, don't try to voice it up (too much) or vice-versa otherwise you'll lose "timbral dynamics." I have a new RX-5 and I love the tone on this instrument. If I play the higher registers loud it can be a tiny bit piercing, but I think that has more to do with the room: wood floors, no rugs.



Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Del] #2123616
07/26/13 11:39 PM
07/26/13 11:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Del
Originally Posted by CalifPianoUser2013
There is no assumption about "bankruptcy" but there is a concern about lack of support. May be it is the line of work I am in frown .

...

We have actually read everywhere that Walter seems to take this "laid-back" approach to its grands; so the concern is not based on this single post. Even Del, the designer of the piano stated as much; including dealers of Walter.

If Carnes has the Walter grands on the floor, we will definitely play them. We may even fly to the factory; we will see. wink

Don’t misunderstand me, here. I’d like to see the pianos presented in a more aggressive manner but that has nothing to do with how the pianos are supported. One of the things that sets this company apart from most others is the fact that when you call the company for whatever reason you will probably talk directly with one of the family members and that person will spend as much time with you as necessary to answer your questions or help you with any problem you may be having.

And about their financial stability: A year or two back I was having a conversation with one of the Walters when he brought up the subject of rumors about the imminent bankruptcy of the firm. This rather surprised me since I’d not heard this particular rumor. It was pointed out that it is pretty difficult for a company to go bankrupt when that company has no debt. I thought it was a good point and, knowing the people running the company, I doubt it has changed. It’s a matter of personal philosophy and belief.

ddf


THank you very very much, Del, and to all who made me think hard on this. I am beginning to get a better picture. Piano is truly NOT my "world" and it takes a few round to understand.

Please know that I was NEVER worried about "financial insolvency", it was about support. The pieces now are coming together.

Walter is a small company that aggressively but carefully manages its size and revenue to ensure long term viability. To grow and expand too rapidly, management of supply and demand will become less predictable. Walter will risk needing to take on debt (unused supplies, unsold inventory), so the family charts a path that eliminates that scenario. This is why the whole family is involved and why a call for support gets to a family member. I can understand this now and appreciate the overall scenario. This also explains Marty's point about carefully managing demand. It makes sense. Walter is using a very different business model but one that is effective for its business.

Given this fact, it also makes sense why the marketing strategy is so "laid back". It is likely "just enough" and just right for Walter's business practices.

We will be calling Carnes tomorrow as planned to see if they have a 190. If necessary, we will visit the factory. We may do it anyway just to learn more about this family business.

Thanks again everyone!

Last edited by CalifPianoUser2013; 07/26/13 11:40 PM.
Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Almaviva] #2123621
07/26/13 11:58 PM
07/26/13 11:58 PM
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Vancouver B.C. Canada
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I'm up in the woods camping and reading this on my IPhone.
Glad I can get 3G. This will be my only coment till Monday on this.
First I have had a local dealer telling clients lies about the Walter and the family's financial situation. Let me just say they are just fine. As Del pointed out their financial situation is to be commended in this age.
Second the last 3 Walters I sold were to Asian clients.
A Walter 175 and a 1520 and 1500.
The Walters have a dealer in China and they are working on that market.
Yes the Walters are casual in their marketing. No hipe.
They make a great product and stand behind it. If you are worried about long tern care I would put your worry into others before the Walters.
Ok back to my camp fire.


Verhnjak Pianos
Specializing in the Restoration, Refinishing & Maintenance
of Fine Heirloom Pianos

www.pianoman.ca
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Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Del] #2123623
07/27/13 12:29 AM
07/27/13 12:29 AM
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New York
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New York
Originally Posted by Del
....The Walter 175 grand (5' 9") takes up about as much floor space as competitive 5' 4" to 5' 6" grands. And a lot less floor space than many 5' 7" grands....

Very interesting about the smaller overall size. I had no idea that any grands were like this.

I had the same wonderment as Malkin -- how could pianos of the 'same' size be different sizes? -- and I see from Marty's later post that the explanation is that Walters are narrower than other grands.

However, via some googling, it appears that they're only about 1 inch narrower. (The exact width isn't easy to find. There's even this site that says the width is 38.5", which would be 17" less than other pianos, but I'm figuring that's just a mistake.) Assuming the 1-inch difference is accurate, I don't see how this translates into anything quite like what you're saying.

Going by the proportionality of the lesser width, I would think the 5'9" Walters would take about as much space as usual 5'8" pianos (or more accurately, a fraction less than 5'8" but quite close to it) but more than those smaller grands you mentioned.

So, what's the story? smile

BTW, for the sake of comparison, if anyone can give the actual width of the Walter: My Steinway B is 55 5/8" wide.

Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Almaviva] #2123631
07/27/13 12:55 AM
07/27/13 12:55 AM
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Oakland
An 88 key keyboard is about 48" wide, so a piano has to be wider than that. The widest point of a grand piano is probably about at the lid prop. It depends on how you measure.

My Steinway measures 56" across the keyboard, and 59" across the front of the folded-back flap to the edge of the lid underneath. The Mason & Hamlin is 57" across the keyboard, and 61" across the flap. For those of you who are sticklers, neither of the measurements are perpendicular to the long side of the piano.


Semipro Tech
Re: Why don't Charles Walter grand pianos sell? [Re: Almaviva] #2123686
07/27/13 06:42 AM
07/27/13 06:42 AM
Joined: Jun 2001
Posts: 14,228
Louisiana
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Jolly  Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Joined: Jun 2001
Posts: 14,228
Louisiana
Word is, the Walter trucking company is doing very well.

I don't think I'd worry too much about their financials...


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