Friday June 28,2013 : OPAP PRIVATISATION AT RISK SAYS ADMIN AGENCY (Update)
Conflicting interests between opposing business groups threaten to unravel the sale of Greek gambling monopoly
The privatisation and sale of Greek's partly state-owned gambling monopoly OPAP is threatened by conflicting interests between opposing business groups, the head of the country's privatisation agency said on Thursday, claiming that this could deliver a fatal blow to the country's asset sale program under its international financial bailout obligations.
The Greek government agreed last month to sell a 33 percent stake in OPAP to Greek-Czech Fund Emma Delta for Euro 652 million.
However, the Reuters news agency advises that the sale has yet to be completed because Emma Delta has asked for changes to a previous, but also non-completed OPAP deal – the Euro 190-million sale of a 12-year state lottery licence to an OPAP-led consortium in which gaming systems providers Intralot and Scientific Games also take part.
"If the lottery deal … is not signed, the privatization of OPAP will effectively blow up," Stelios Stavridis, chairman of Greek privatisation agency HRADF, told Real FM radio this week.
Reuters reports that Emma Delta wants OPAP to pay lower fees to Intralot and Scientific Games for the services they will provide to operate the lotteries. Emma Delta also objects to the two companies' right to veto board decisions on how the lotteries should be run.
"Failure to implement the OPAP deal would completely derail Greece's already much-delayed privatization program," Reuters notes, adding that HRADF failed to find a single buyer for natural gas company DEPA earlier this month, blowing a Euro 1-billion hole in the country's finances.
Asset sales are an integral part of Greece's Euro 240 billion bailout programme. Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras suggested this week that the country might use spare cash from its bailout-funded bank recapitalisation plan to plug any privatisation shortfalls.
HRADF and Emma Delta had an emergency meeting to resolve the impasse on Wednesday and vowed to find a solution to avoid a collapse.
The state lottery deal is due for signature July 4 and the OPAP sale shortly afterward, Stavridis said. Sources on both sides of the deal told Reuters that Emma Delta remained determined to find a solution.
Asked when he thought the OPAP sale would be wrapped up, a source said: "We hope by the end of August, beginning of September."