ATHENS Greece sealed on Tuesday a long-delayed deal to sell its state lotteries, the head of the country's privatizations agency said, clearing the way for the privatization of gambling monopoly OPAP (OPAr.AT).
The deal was crucial for Greece to show its European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders it was making progress in meeting the goals of an ambitious but slow moving asset sales program.
"Concluding the state lotteries deal paves the way for the successful completion of OPAP's privatization," Stelios Stavridis said, confirming what a source told Reuters earlier on Tuesday.
Greece will cash in 190 million euros ($251.82 million) from the sale of the lotteries to an OPAP-led consortium and a further 652 million by selling a 33 percent stake in OPAP, bringing the country closer to meeting its target to raise 1.6 billion euros from privatizations this year.
The consortium, which includes gaming systems provider Intralot (INLr.AT) and Scientific Games (SGMS.O), will run the lotteries for 12 years.
Greece agreed to sell the lotteries last year. In May, it also clinched a deal to sell a 33 percent stake in OPAP to Greek-Czech fund Emma Delta, an important move for the country to kick-start its slow-moving privatization program. The program is a condition of the country's 240-billion-euro bailout.
But wrangling among opposing business groups over the fees OPAP will pay its partners for technology and printing services had hindered the completion of both the lotteries deal and the sale of OPAP.
A Greek-Czech fund which is buying OPAP, Emma Delta, has asked the partners to lower the fees, but Greece's privatization agency has said the terms will not change and has warned that if the deal was not signed, the privatization of OPAP would blow up.
(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Louise Heavens)