Greece Officially Sells a Third of OPAP

Purchase of OPAP is somewhat of a gamble.

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The deal is officially sealed, a third of Greek gambling monopoly OPAP now belongs to investment group Emma Delta.

Though still subject to approval by other authorities and a ‘preventative audit by the Court of Auditors’ according to the Hellenic Republic Assets Development Fund (HRADF), this is not expected to thwart the sale in any way.

Following last minute negotiations between the winner and HRADF, which saw the final price rise to a EUR 652 million, the successful close has undoubtedly caused some reserved celebrations in Greek government quarters, having taken an important step towards meeting their commitments made in connection with the bailout package.

HRADF was quick to highlight the financially advantageous nature of this privatization. “It is noted, that in the case that OPAP was not privatized, [the country] would only receive a EUR 13 million dividend for the 2013 financial year while the respective present value of the next decade’s dividends were estimated at EUR 360 million, [which is] only around 50 percent of the amount offered for the sale of the 33 percent stake in OPAP,” claimed the agency’s statement.

Celebrations are also likely to be low key among Emma Delta’s owners, considering how the future of Greek gambling laws is far from certain.

With foreign competitors pushing hard to erode OPAP’s monopoly in traditional areas, such as serving those punters who want to bet on sports in Greece, as well as the European Commission expressing discontent over the restriction of such competition, future changes to the laws may not be ruled out.

Another issue is a possible online expansion, whereby OPAP’s monopoly may not be automatically expanded into the virtual realm of
Greek internet casinos, if and when they are legalized.

Since allowing competitors into the market would undercut OPAP’s profits, the Greek government is likely to resist such a move to the very last, unless licensing fees and taxes from revenues are projected to exceed the tax income from the current setup.

“It should also be mentioned that from 2013 onwards [Greece] introduced an additional taxation of 30 percent on gross gaming revenues amounting to an estimated EUR 6.3 billion in the next decade,” said the HRADF press release.

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