* Privatization of gambling company OPAP has stalled
* Opposing business groups haggle over sale terms
* Failure to complete deal would derail asset sale plan
ATHENS, June 27 Conflicting interests between
opposing business groups threaten to unravel the sale of Greek
gambling company OPAP, the head of the country's
privatization agency said on Thursday, risking delivery of a
fatal blow to the country's asset sale program under its
Athens agreed last month to sell a 33 percent stake in OPAP
to Greek-Czech Fund Emma Delta for 652 million euros.
The sale was hailed as a key move to kickstart the country's
ailing privatizations program and reform drive.
But the sale has yet to be completed because Emma Delta has
asked for changes to a previous, but also non-completed OPAP
deal - the 190-million-euro sale of a 12-year state lottery
license to an OPAP-led consortium in which gaming systems
providers Intralot and Scientific Games also
"If the lottery deal ... is not signed, the privatization of
OPAP will effectively blow up," Stelios Stavridis, chairman of
Greek privatization agency HRADF, told Real FM radio.
Emma Delta wants OPAP to pay lower fees to Intralot and
Scientific Games for the services they will provide to operate
the lotteries. Emma Delta also objects to the two companies'
right to veto board decisions on how the lotteries should be
Failure to implement the OPAP deal would completely derail
Greece's already much-delayed privatization program. HRADF
failed to find a single buyer for natural gas company DEPA
earlier this month, blowing a 1-billion euro hole in the
Asset sales are an integral part of Greece's 240 billion
euro bailout program. Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras
suggested this week that the country might use spare cash from
its bailout-funded bank recapitalization plan to plug any
But privatization revenue shortfalls might still have to be
offset by additional budget cuts - a move that Greece's
beleaguered coalition government that has a tiny parliamentary
majority is keen to avoid.
Privatization failure would also allow the country's
lenders, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund,
to ask for HRADF's top management to be replaced.
HRADF and Emma Delta had an emergency meeting to resolve the
impasse on Wednesday and vowed to find a solution to avoid a
The state lottery deal should be signed by July 4 and the
OPAP sale shortly afterward, Stavridis said. Sources on both
sides of the deal told Reuters Emma Delta remained determined to
find a solution.
"Emma Delta is committed to Greece and is committed to
closing the OPAP sale," said one of the officials who declined
to be named.
Asked when he thought the OPAP sale would be wrapped up, he
said: "We hope by the end of August, beginning of September."