July 28, 2011 / 11:01 AM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 1-Greece may not sell OPAP stake -finmin

* New gaming law increases value of company - finmin

* Cash could also be raised from selling management rights

* EU/IMF privatisation plan sees sale of 34 pct OPAP stake

* Greece targets 400 mln euros from extension of licence

(Adds quotes, details)

ATHENS, July 28 (Reuters) - Greece may not sell its full stake in gaming monopoly OPAP (OPAr.AT), the key asset on the 2011 privatisation list, but it still plans to meet revenue targets set by the EU and the IMF, the finance minister said.

Debt-choked Greece has agreed with its international lenders to sell its 34 percent stake in Europe’s biggest betting company in the fourth quarter of this year, as part of a drive to raise 50 billion euros from privatisations by 2015.

But contrary to what is stipulated in the EU and IMF reports, Venizelos said Greece might not sell the stake because there could be alternative ways to raise money from the company.

“We have not pledged to sell OPAP; we have pledged that we will have revenues from OPAP (to reduce) the public debt,” Venizelos told lawmakers. “The cabinet will appraise what is the best way to raise the revenues targeted.”

Venizelos said a draft gaming law will considerably strengthen OPAP and the premium that goes with appointing the management of the company, which the government currently does through its controlling stake.

“This premium is very large,” Venizelos told lawmakers. “OPAP’s value is not only its shares but also the value of exercising its management,” he added.

He also said the government expected to raise about 400 million euros from extending OPAP’s licence, which currently expires in 2020.

Unlike most of the assets earmarked for sale in Greece’s privatisation plan, OPAP is debt-free and profitable. The state’s 34 percent stake has a market value of about 1.17 billion euros.

Venizelos said that country stood by its EU/IMF privatisation targets.

“We have a clear and insurmountable target to present 1.7 billion euros from privatisations by the end of September and 5 billion euros by the end of the year. If we don’t come up with this we won’t be credible and put the support package at risk,” he said.

As part of measures to boost OPAP’s value, Venizelos said that it will receive an exclusive licence to operate all the 35,000 videolotto machines (VLTs) to be set up in the country as part of gaming liberalisation.

OPAP will operate 16,500 of these machines itself and sub-contract the rest to between four and 10 other operators.

OPAP shares were down 2.2 percent at 1047 GMT. (Reporting by Harry Papachristou; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Will Waterman)

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