Greece gets Chinese, private equity interest for betting firm sale

Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:08am EST

* Eight possible bids for Greek sports betting monopoly OPAP

* Suitors include Fosun, BC Partners, TPG Capital, Playtech

ATHENS Nov 10 (Reuters) - Eight potential investors, including a Chinese conglomerate and private equity funds, have expressed interest in buying a major stake in Greek gambling monopoly OPAP, the country's privatisation agency HRADF said on Saturday.

Among the firms responding to a Nov. 9 deadline to express interest was a unit of Fosun International, one of China's largest business groups whose main shareholder is billionaire Guo Guangchang.

Athens is selling 33 percent, almost its entire stake in OPAP, one of Europe's biggest-listed gambling firms with a total market capitalisation of 1.5 billion euros ($1.9 billion) on the Athens Stock Exchange.

Other potential bidders include private equity firms BC Partners and TPG Capital LP. Estonia-based Playtech, the world's biggest provider of online gaming software, teamed up with German gaming equipment maker Gauselmann AG to consider a bid.

OPAP is the crown jewel in Greece's privatisation programme for 2013, when the debt-laden country plans to raise about 2.6 billion euros by selling a string of state companies as part of its international bailout.

Activist investor fund Third Point, whose hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb built a major position in distressed Greek government bonds in September, also expressed interest.

The other three bidders are a group advised by Greek shipping tycoon George Melisanidis and Czech investor Jiri Smejc; Greek gaming software firm Intralot, which is OPAP's technology provider; and Triple Five World Group Properties Limited.

Greece, which aims to pick an investor for OPAP early in 2013, is advised by Deutsche Bank and National Bank of Greece.