OPAP set to bid for Turk lottery

OPAP, Europe's biggest betting firm, plans to bid for Turkey's national lottery Milli Piyango in a joint venture with Turkish business groups, according to chief executive Christos Hadjiemmanuil. «We want this project, we want to get into the largest market in southeast Europe, we have the ability to take over (the lottery) but we are not prepared to do it at any cost,» Hadjiemmanuil told Sunday's Kathimerini in an interview. «We want to take part in it (the tender) on the right terms and at the right price.» As betting markets around the world are deregulated, OPAP is looking for expansion opportunities to offset any loss of local market share after its monopoly rights expire in 2020. The privatization of Turkey's national lottery Milli Piyango is expected to go ahead in the coming weeks. Apart from OPAP, other companies believed to be interested in the tender include Lottomatica division GTech, Intralot, Turkey's Koc Group, Austrian Lotteries and US firms Scientific Games and Camelot. The CEO said Turkish authorities were open to the idea of the gaming group, 34 percent owned by the Greek government, possibly taking over the lottery. «The climate we met was positive. .. there was a friendly mood and open doors,» Hadjiemmanuil said. OPAP picked Turkish groups Dogus, which owns GarantiBank, FIBA and contractor ALARCO as its local partners and will set up a joint venture to bid in the tender next month. «We have chosen excellent partners both from a business and financial adequacy perspective. Their 50 percent participation (in the joint venture) will have political and psychological significance,» he said. Details concerning the joint venture are expected to be announced in the coming days. OPAP will hold 50 percent of the company - enabling it to consolidate the joint venture's figures into the OPAP group - while the remaining stake will be shared by the other partners. The Greek company will run the operational side of the company by providing its technical know-how. OPAP, with a market capitalization of some 7.6 billion euros, has exclusive rights to sports betting and lotteries in Greece until the year 2020.