Following several years of speculations and going back and forth, OPAP, the gambling monopoly operating under Greek gambling laws, is finally being privatized. Although the controlling stake will still remain in Greek government’s hands, large shares of the company are up for grabs.
One of the first investors was ICT Group, a Russian private equity firm founded and headed by Alexander Nesis. The investors diversified from their usual business of financial, commodities and engineering, to acquire a major stake in OPAP, operating various gaming facilities including online casinos in Greece.
ICT Group has managed to overtake a long list of potential buyers, who were looking to purchase a share in one of the biggest gambling groups in Europe. Instead of the bidding war, the biggest buyers agreed to form an investment fund – Emma Delta and acquire one third of the publicly owned shares for EUR 650 million, and then distribute them among members of the fund according to already agreed percentage.
The biggest stakeholder will be Geonama with EUR 157 investment, owned by shipping magnate Dimitris Melissanidis, while Alexander Nexis and his ICT Group is second with EUR 145 million. Slovakian investors Roubindiam, and MEF Holdings from Czech Republic have also invested EUR 145 each. Other minor stakeholders from Slovakia and Greece have invested around EUR 30 million.
Dimitris Melissanidis, had the following words for Greek gambling news after the deal was signed: “OPAP is turning a page.” He also revealed that the agreement to take over active management of the company was being put in place at the best possible moment. Melissanidis opined that OPAP has prepared a rich and ambitious portfolio for its new shareholders, full of new opportunities for growth and development.
OPAP is Europe’s largest betting company, founded in 1958 as a state-owned monopoly, but later it has underwent a major re-organization in 1999 to become a joint stock enterprise. The gambling group operates lotteries and sports betting services throughout Greece and Cyprus and currently has around 5,000 land-based outlets. Their revenue in 2012 amounted to almost €4 billion, with net profits reaching €505.5 million.