BUSINESS

Intralot to run one-horse race for betting permit

By Vangelis Mandravelis

State privatization fund TAIPED is expected to launch another tender with just one bidder, as it has done on several occasions since it started operating, on Thursday. At stake is the operating license for horse-race betting. Until Wednesday there had been some interest from PMU and from Greece’s Intralot but sources say the French bidder has withdrawn and will not be submitting an offer on Thursday.

The tender is scheduled for 5 p.m., and up until late on Wednesday there were no signs suggesting a change in the situation, meaning that Athens-listed Intralot will likely be the sole participant in the bidding process. TAIPED had originally said it could have granted an extension by a few days for the tender, provided there was demand.

The withdrawal of PMU, according to sources, was due to the cost of leasing the racecourse at Markopoulo in eastern Attica in order to put on races. Although TAIPED reduced the original price to 2.5 million euros per year, this was apparently deemed unsatisfactory by the French investors. They had expected a lease rate proportionate to the revenues or the profits they would generate from Greek horse racing.

Market experts have criticized TAIPED for linking the development of this huge property belonging to the state-owned Horse Racing Organization (ODIE) and valued at 200 million euros, with the auction of the operating license. They also argue that the price is too high, given that an investor could build a new, more efficient and more accessible (from Athens) racecourse for around 20-25 million euros.

The remaining bidder for the permit does not appear too concerned about the level of the lease. If Intralot gets the license for horse-race betting it will attempt to offset the annual lease rate with the money owed to it by ODIE, which Intralot calculates at over 20 million euros. The company has informed TAIPED of the debts.

Cash-strapped ODIE has reportedly planned an auction for the Markopoulo racecourse on September 23, just six days before the deadline set by the European Commission demanding that Athens makes a final decision on the property.

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