Two suitors bid for OPAP’s 33 pct stake

The two binding bids submitted on Wednesday for the 33 percent government stake in gaming company OPAP satisfied the state privatization fund (TAIPED) in terms of bidders, according to sources.

The offers came from Emma Delta Ltd and US investment company Third Point LLC. They were sealed in order to be opened during the TAIPED board meeting that will likely take place on Monday. This process has been chosen to secure the greatest possible transparency on the part of the fund.

The question now is about the consortiums behind the bids. Well-informed sources say that the two suitors appear to be working alone, although TAIPED is unaware of who is behind them. A Greek businessman said he is a minority shareholder in Emma Delta, as is an Italian gaming company, but this has not been officially confirmed.

What is certain at this stage is that both suitors will seek to secure partners who are familiar with OPAP’s business activities, among other things. Third Point, for instance, will have to find someone who is acquainted with the gaming market as well as being familiar with the Greek market overall. As a result it is near certain there will be agreements for cooperation with Greek entrepreneurs who have betting industry know-how.

TAIPED officials refused yesterday to name a price for the stake that is up for grabs. The fund has hired consultancy firm Duff & Phelps aiming at getting a fair price for OPAP. Based on its stock price, the 33 percent stake in the country’s betting monopoly is valued at some 700 million euros, although OPAP shares suffered significant losses at the end of yesterday’s trading session.

TAIPED officials downplayed the drop, saying that some investors are trying to disengage themselves from OPAP ahead of the transaction.

According to a high-level TAIPED official, the sale of the state’s stake is practically the first major privatization that the fund is conducting.

“Its outcome will determine to a considerable extent the course of the privatizations program for 2013,” he stated, adding that the OPAP sell-off along with that of gas companies DEPA and DESFA should be adequate to cover the majority of the revenues targeted for this year.