OPAP sale to Emma Delta inked, at last

The government signed on Monday the sale of 33 percent of the country’s listed betting monopoly OPAP to the Greek-Czech consortium Emma Delta – a much-needed signal of progress in its privatizations program.

Emma Delta, OPAP’s only suitor, will pay 652 million euros, of which 622 million will come upfront and the remaining 30 million in installments over 10 years. It will also assume the company’s management.

The conclusion of the sale was made possible by a change of stance on the part of the buyer, which had threatened to back out if the commissions designated for OPAP’s lottery ticket suppliers, Hellenic Lotteries SA, were not downscaled by 50 percent.

In a final letter to the government’s privatization fund (TAIPED) on Friday, Emma Delta reiterated its reservations but without making them a condition for consenting to the deal. According to sources, at a meeting late last Thursday evening, participants in the consortium expressed concern that any further delays in the signing of the deal held the risk of a negative fait accomplis, leading to the prevalence of the opinion that it was preferable to pursue changes after assuming the management.

At the signing, Emma Delta’s Greek partner and representative Dimitris Melissanidis, a shipping magnate, ended his statement by commenting that “OPAP is turning a page,” after the betting company’s managing director Costas Louropoulos had called on the buyer to “assume the management as soon as possible.” He noted that Emma Delta was acquiring control of OPAP at the best possible moment, when it was endowed with a “rich and ambitious portfolio of new opportunities for development and progress.”

According to sources, the participants in the consortium include Melissanidis’s Geonama with 157 million euros, Czech MEF Holdings with 145 million euros, Russian Alexander Nesis’s Vital Peak with 145 million, Slovak Pavel Komarek’s Roubindiam with 145 million, Slovak investment group Helixsor with 31 million and Helvasor, of Greece’s Copelouzos Group, with 26 million euros.

According to other sources abroad, the stakes have not been finalized and the buyer is looking for funding to the tune of 200 million euros through a bond or syndicated loan. Members of the consortium, however, have provided assurances that the money is already available.