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SALE OF GREEK GAMBLING MONOPOLY DELAYED UNTIL 2012
Monday, October 24,2011 : SALE OF GREEK GAMBLING MONOPOLY DELAYED UNTIL 2012
But tenders out for piecemeal sale of lottery interests
Cash-strapped and deeply indebted Greece's plan to sell off gambling monopoly OPAP to help relieve its massive national deficit is behind schedule and will be delayed until next year, the top privatisations official revealed Friday.
However, tenders will be invited this week to try and raise Euro 1.7 billion through the disposal of the state lottery, he said.
"Next week we will announce a public tender for the state lottery. Then, more announcements will follow at about two-week intervals," Costas Mitropoulos, CEO of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRAF), told the Reuters news agency in an interview.
"We will invite expressions of interest for the Hellenikon airport redevelopment, followed by the DEPA-DESFA gas company privatisation tender and the sale of real estate, which will be contingent on market conditions," he said.
Under the terms of the European Union - International Monetary Fund bailout loans, the Greeks must raise Euro 50 billion by 2015 from selling state assets and cutting government costs so as to help to pay down a debt mountain expected to hit 162 percent of GDP this year.
The sale of the government's 34 percent stake in OPAP was initially planned for the fourth quarter of 2011. It was seen as one of the biggest sources of cash from the privatisation plan this year, but will have to wait, said Mitropoulos, adding that it would not take place until 2012. He declined to say why the sale was postponed.
Adding to the pressure on the government, OPAP shares have shed 53 percent in the last six months, in line with the Greek stock market's sharp decline, meaning its market cap has shrunk to Euro 2.13 billion. Selling the government's full stake now would fetch only Euro 727 million at best.
Privatisations in 2011 have seen the government raise Euro 392 million from the sale of a 10 percent stake in OTE to Deutsche Telekom. It expects another Euro 849 million by end-December from a 10-year extension of gaming licenses at OPAP.
Mitropoulos said that five other asset sell-offs this year would include four Airbus aircraft.
"Proceeds from each of these projects are expected to be multiple hundreds of millions of euros. I refrain from stating specific prices because this could affect the behavior of markets," he added.
"Possibly by the end of the year we will tender the horse-racing and betting organization ODIE. The telecoms regulator is in the process of renewing mobile telephony licences and selling additional spectrum for new products. Hopefully this will be done by November," he said. "We will also sell some small state shareholdings in banks."
The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund is also considering the best way to put the country's 12 ports, including the two largest - Piraeus and Thessaloniki - on the market. It is also looking at selling off the government's 55 percent interest in Athens International Airport in Q1 of 2012.
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