Thursday March 28, 2013 : TWO OPAP BIDDERS CHALLENGE SALE PROCESS
Not objective or transparent
The process of the Greek Government's sale of its 33 percent stake (estimated to be worth around Euro 660 million) in betting monopoly OPAP is being challenged by suitors Emma Delta and the Gauselmann-Playtech consortium according to Reuters news agency.
Both bidders have reportedly written independently of each other to OPAP and the HRADF, the Greek privatisation agency handling the sale, expressing their dissatisfaction on a process they say is not objective nor transparent and have indicated that they will consider legal action if necessary.
The issue surrounding OPAP is a contentious one as readers will recall the Greek Government flying in the face of the European Commission with its recent plan to extend OPAP's monopoly to include online products and the Remote Gaming Association (RGA) subsequently challenging the proposal.
Emma Delta, which is backed by Greek shipping tycoon George Melisanidis and Czech investor Jiri Smejc, said in an excerpt from the letter published by Reuters, "Our company certainly reserves any and all of its rights to use any legal possible means, including the possibility of submission of indictments and notices for the investigation of possible punitive acts".
Reuters said the letters which were dated earlier this month include complaints on OPAP's decision to renew an IT services contract with Greek firm Intralot, who is also a bidder for the Government’s 33 percent stake. They called on both OPAP and the HRADF not to approve the contested contract.
The Gauselmann-Playtech consortium said the contract for the provision and maintenance of a new central hardware and software system would involve OPAP paying more than it had stated and the buyer of the government's stake should have a say in it.
Emma Delta has taken issue with the legality of companies linked to Intralot, given its history as a provider, participating in the OPAP privatisation process.
"OPAP, which is the target company, ‘gives a bonus' to the technical provider by a new agreement and reinforces the financial and cash liquidity of the group and the related group companies, giving in such a way an advantage in the competition process," the letter said.
Intralot defended its position saying the IT services agreement was based on an international tender and was won without any complaint for the transparency of the process at the time. It intimated the complaint from bidders currently involved with the privatisation process "may serve other motives".
An OPAP shareholder meeting scheduled Tuesday to vote on the IT services contract was postponed to allow the HRADF board of director’s additional time to study the meeting's agenda. The meeting is now expected to be held on April 6, 2013.