| ATHENS, April 6
ATHENS, April 6 Greece's betting monopoly OPAP
said it won shareholder approval on Saturday for a
disputed IT services contract with Intralot, a move
that could complicate the sale of the country's stake in the
Greece's privatisation agency, HRADF, is selling all but 1
percent of the government's 34 percent stake in OPAP as part of
Greece's efforts to raise 2.6 billion euros in privatisation
proceeds this year..
The OPAP sale, along with the privatisation of Greece's
natural gas distributor DEPA, is among the biggest sales Greece
is expected to conclude as part of an EU/IMF bailout.
But two of the seven potential suitors for the OPAP sale - a
bid vehicle called Emma Delta backed by Greek shipping tycoon
George Melisanidis and Czech investor Jiri Smejc, and a
consortium led by gaming equipment company Gauselmann
and gaming software group Playtech - have threatened
legal action if the contract for a new central hardware and
software system was approved.
They say that the contract would involve OPAP paying more
than it had stated and that the buyer of the government's stake
would be bound to it for five years without any say. Both
would-be buyers have called on OPAP and HRADF not to formalize
But OPAP shareholders who attended the meeting on Saturday
voted in favour of the Intralot deal, the company said in a
bourse filing. It did not say how many investors voted in favour
of the deal.
HRADF did not take a position on the contract and cast a
blank ballot at the meeting, saying that it was up to OPAP's
management to decide on the deal.
"HRADF is not, in any case, in a position to evaluate the
terms of the deal," it said in a statement read out to
shareholders. "The approval of these terms is an issue for
OPAP's management, which has the specific knowledge of the
respective technical and economic parameters."
"For these reasons, HRADF is attending (the meeting) but is
not voting in favour or against."
Some small shareholders criticised HRADF's neutral stance,
while others complained about the cost of the deal.
OPAP's chairman Constantinos Louropoulos reiterated that the
cost of the renewed contract would be about 36 percent lower
than the previous deal and that this was close to what other
European peers were paying for technology.
"The investment is around 1.25-1.26 percent of the company's
total revenues," he told shareholders. "So this number is
considered pretty competitive in the sense that that's what we
are seeing in several other lotteries."
Intralot, one of the world's biggest gaming software
providers, has been OPAP's IT contractor since at least 2001,
when OPAP was listed on the Athens bourse.
Its latest contract expires in July and OPAP considers its
renewal, which it said would cost 109 million euros for services
and capital expenditure plus at least 46 million euros for
terminals maintenance, as vital for its uninterrupted operation.
The shareholder meeting, initially scheduled for March 26,
was postponed to April 6 to give OPAP's biggest shareholder,
HRADF, more time to study the agenda.
OPAP, in which big U.S. hedge and investment funds
including Baupost Group own a stake, holds a national monopoly
on sports gambling until 2020 and on lotteries until 2030. The
company, with annual sales of about 4 billion euros, also has
the exclusive licence to launch video lotto terminals in Greece.
(Editing by Susan Fenton)