UPDATE 1-New tax hits Greek betting firm OPAP's 2013 profit

Mon Mar 31, 2014 1:31pm EDT

* 2013 net profit drops 72 pct to 141 million euros

* Government levy shaves 345 mln euros off profit

* Q4 sales rise for second quarter in a row (Adds CEO comment, details)

ATHENS, March 31 (Reuters) - Greek gambling monopoly OPAP posted a bigger-than- expected drop in its 2013 net profit, hurt by a new tax the country imposed on the firm to help plug its budget shortfall.

Greece slapped a 30 percent levy on OPAP's gross gaming revenue last year to meet the terms of its 237 billion euro ($327 billion) international bailout. The move shaved 345 million euros off OPAP's 2013 profit, the company said on Monday.

OPAP reported net profit of 141 million euros, down 72 percent on the year, missing an average forecast of 152.7 million euros in a recent Reuters poll of analysts.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) fell 67 percent to 221.7 million euros, below market expectations and lower than the company's guidance of 242 million euros.

Although sales fell 6.6 percent to 3.7 billion euros last year, they improved marginally in the third quarter for the first time in three years and the positive trend continued in the last quarter of the year, leading to a 4 percent rise.

"Within an overall difficult year for the Greek economy, OPAP's financial results in the fourth quarter mark an encouraging trend," Chief Executive Kamil Ziegler said in a statement.

OPAP plans to launch new products, including video lotto and scratch cards, by the end of the year.

The new business along with a planned debut into a still unregulated online betting market are expected to boost revenue.

The company said it would pay a dividend of 0.25 euros per share for 2013, down from 0.57 euros the previous year. ($1 = 0.7256 Euros) (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Erica Billingham)

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