ECONOMY

OPAP under pressure from Emma Delta

The corporate war around the OPAP gaming company is raging while the time to find a solution is running out, with hundreds of millions of euros at stake for the state coffers.

State privatization fund TAIPED is said to have issued another ultimatum to the head of OPAP, stressing that by Monday the company will need to have signed the now infamous contract for the 12-year operation of state lotteries, otherwise the position of OPAP president Costas Louropoulos will be under threat.

Yet replacing him would not be an easy decision to make as that could lead to more delays in the two very important privatization projects that are unfolding, those for the state lotteries and OPAP.

Louropoulos did not refute a report in the Financial Times according to which he came under strong pressure from the Dimitris Melissanidis family which controls 33.3 percent of the Emma Delta consortium, the contractor in the OPAP tender. “You dare to sign [the Intralot and lottery contracts] and I will take your head off,” Melissanidis is reported to have told Louropoulos last month, according to the FT.

“The references in the Financial Times article that involve my name concern business rivalries,” Louropoulos stated on Friday, stopping short of rejecting what the British newspaper had reported.

In response to the FT article, Emma Delta stated that it maintains its interest in OPAP even though in recent days there had been leaks from the Greek-Czech consortium that it was about to opt out of the deal for the 33 percent stake in the Greek gaming company. It stressed that it does not intend to intervene in law-abiding existing or future agreements by OPAP or in its entrepreneurial behavior, meaning it is not applying pressure for the contracts to change.

“The sole concern of Emma Delta refers to securing that the legal framework applying to every deal concerning OPAP, including corporate governance, is absolutely respected by all parties involved,” said Emma Delta, thereby focusing its objections on the fact that two of the minority stakeholders (Intralot and Scientific Games) in the OPAP-led consortium to acquire the lottery license reserve the right to veto the decisions of the main shareholder, whom they also supply on a regular basis.

The situation is therefore as follows: Louropoulos will not sign the contract regarding the lotteries, which has caused Scientific Games to threaten to depart, leading to the cancellation of the deal for the lotteries. If he does sign it, along with the other agreements among the three parties (OPAP, Intralot and Scientific Games), there is nothing that can guarantee Emma Delta will not abandon the OPAP privatization project.

TAIPED wishes to have the lotteries contract signed so as to have at least one of the two deals completed. On the other hand, if Emma Delta’s demand for a change in the contracts is satisfied, the concession of the lotteries contract will likely be canceled, as will the sale of OPAP due to the objections that will be raised. One would rightly argue that with the changes to the contract for the lotteries and the technology supplier, it will be another OPAP that will be sold, with different characteristics, and not the one the tender was about.

In the meantime, TAIPED yesterday approved the procedure, the timetable and the terms for the concession of 100 percent and control of railway service operator Trainose to an investor who will be chosen via an international open tender.