May 1 deadline looms for Emma Delta to submit improved offer for 33% stake in OPAP

Investment Fund Emma Delta, the only surviving bidder for a major share in state gambling firm OPAP, has until the end of Wednesday to meet an extended deadline to improve its offer for the holding.

Emma Delta, controlled by Czech investor Jiri Smejc and Greek ship owner George Melisanidis, on April 22 submitted the only valid bid for the 33 percent stake and management rights in OPAP, offering 622 million euros.

Privatisation agency HRADF initially gave the fund 48 hours to raise its bid to at least 650 million euros, but the agency then extended the deadline to May 1, on the fund’s request.

HRADF’s valuation is based on a minimum as estimated by an external assessor and is a discount to its stock market value, though Deutsche Bank and National Bank, Greece’s main sale advisors, have put the stake’s value at just 610 million.

Other investors in the group are Greek entrepreneur Christos Copelouzos, Russian investment firm ICT Group, Czech Republic-based investment fund KKCG and Slovak investment fund J&T Finance.

Out of eight investors which had expressed initial interest for OPAP, only Emma Delta and U.S. hedge fund Third Point submitted binding bids. Third Point was disqualified because it insisted on the right to resell OPAP shares at any time.

OPAP was Greece’s most profitable company last year, with net income of 505.5 million euros and a return on equity of 49.2 percent, but this is set to change as the company faces a number of issues.

Greece slapped a 30 percent tax on gross gaming revenue from this year, OPAP’s monopoly is subject to a legal challenge from rivals such William Hill (WMH.L), and OPAP’s planned video-lottery and online betting businesses are subject to regulatory uncertainty.

In addition, the company controversially decided earlier this month to renew an IT deal with its long-standing technology provider Intralot (INLr.AT) just weeks before its privatisation.

Emma Delta and Gauselmann/Playtech (PTEC.L), a German-Israeli group which withdrew from the race, had loudly protested at the Intralot contract renewal.

[Kathimerini English Edition & Reuters]