* Emma Delta only valid bidder in OPAP sale-source
* Offers 622 million euros for 33 pct stake
* Privatisation agency asks for more
(Recasts, adds offer price, details)
By Harry Papachristou and Angeliki Koutantou
ATHENS, April 22 Greece is seeking a higher
offer for the sale of a stake in gambling monopoly OPAP
after a Greek-Czech investment fund made a bid of 622
million euros ($810.50 million), less than the company's market
The sale of a 33 percent stake in OPAP, Greece's most
profitable company, is considered a test case for a
privatisation programme under the country's international
But the sale attracted little international interest,
highlighting Greece's economic problems and uncertain prospects
for OPAP, which faces tax rises and whose monopoly is being
Emma Delta, the sole bidder, made an offer of 622 million
euros, officials with direct knowledge of the sale told Reuters
on Monday. Greece then gave Emma Delta until Thursday morning to
raise its offer, two officials close to the talks said.
The fund is backed by Czech investor Jiri Smejc and Greek
ship-owner George Melisanidis. Helvason, a firm controlled by
Greek businessman Dimitris Copelouzos, is also part of the joint
bid. Greece had earlier received only two binding bids for the
stake, which has a market value of about 740 million euros ($964
Emma Delta's only rival, U.S. activist investment fund Third
Point, was disqualified on Monday because it insisted on a right
to re-sell its shares to other investors at any point in the
future, another official close to the sale said.
The privatisation agency confirmed Emma Delta was now the
sole valid bidder and that it was seeking a higher offer from
it. Emma Delta declined to comment.
Athens has been slow to move on privatisations since its
initial European Union/International Monetary Fund rescue in
2010. The pressure is on Greece to show its international
lenders it is speeding up reforms and can meet a 2.6 billion
euro target in proceeds from state asset sales this year.
OPAP is supposed to account for a large part of that target
and any shortfall would mean that the EU and the IMF would need
to stump up more money to cover Greece's funding needs.
Greece's advisors National Bank and Deutsche Bank have
estimated the value of the 33 percent OPAP stake, plus
management rights, at 610 million euros and an independent
advisor at a minimum 650 million, one of the officials said.
Emma Delta's offer represents a discount of 16 percent based
on OPAP's closing share price of 7.08 euro on Monday. Another
official close to the sale said that privatisation agency would
ask for an improved offer exceeding 650 million euros.
"We will definitely not sell below 650 million," the first
Shares in OPAP have gained 30 percent so far this year,
outperforming Athens bourse's general index which rose 2
percent in the same period.
But the country's debt crisis since 2010 has hurt the stock.
OPAP's total market value has dropped to about 2.2 billion euros
from an all-time high of about 10.5 billion euros in 2006.
Greeks are still among Europe's most ardent gamblers,
despite the crisis. OPAP is free of debt and Greece's most
profitable company by far, with a return on equity ratio of
49.2, according to ThomsonReuters data. It generated free cash
flow of 531 million euros last year, according to Thomson
But the company's outlook is uncertain. Analysts expect
future profitability to be hit by a 30 percent tax on gross
gaming revenue that the Greece's government introduced in
January. Net income in 2013-2016 is expected to shrink to an
average annual 184 million euros from 553 million in 2009-2012,
according to analysts' forecasts and historical data collected
The company's expansion plans in electronic and online games
could be also at risk if competitors such as William Hill
and Stanley Bet succeed in a court challenge against its
sports betting and lottery monopoly rights, which expire in 2020
and 2030 respectively.
($1 = 0.7674 euros)
($1 = 0.7674 euros)
(Reporting by Harry Papachristou and Angeliki Koutantou;
Editing by David Goodman and Jane Merriman)