ECONOMY

OPAP and Intralot come to odds over Cyprus lots

Gaming systems and equipment manufacturer Intralot has been the privileged supplier in Greece of state-controlled lottery and sports betting firm OPAP, with which they are partners in the most successful fixed-odds game, Pame Stihima. In Cyprus, however, the two companies are truly at odds and rumors have it that the clash of interests involves even practices of industrial espionage. After its recent indirect acquisition of Cyprus Stock Exchange-listed Royal Highgate, through its subsidiary Intralot Betting Operations (Cyprus) Ltd, Intralot is said to be launching an all-out effort to antagonize OPAP’s existing operations and recent expansion efforts on the island, which hold the prospect of weakening their relationship of dependence at home. The story began early last summer but took its final shape only recently, when the Cyprus stock market authorities officially announced that the public offer by Intralot Betting Operations for a majority stake in Royal Highgate had been approved by shareholders and the deal concluded successfully. Intralot’s ensuing moves have left little doubt regarding its intentions about OPAP. Head of Royal Highgate was appointed Andreas Papoulias, also general manager of Intralot subsidiary Betting Company in Greece which manages particular sectors of Pame Stihima. Papoulias now heads a management team which includes a number of other senior Intralot executives. In their new tasks, the new appointees now have to manage interests competing with those of OPAP – a partner at home! At the end of last June, OPAP announced two separate agreements with Cyprus-based firms Royal Highgate and Quantum Corporation for the purchase of their fixed-odds betting activities in the local market. But a month later OPAP informed Royal Highgate that after a financial audit and examination of legal details it had decided to cancel the particular deal. On the contrary, it proceeded at a fast pace to implement the agreement with Quantum Corporation for the purchase of its subsidiary Glory Leisure. Indeed, instead of an initially agreed 55 percent stake, OPAP decided to acquire a 90 percent interest and an additional 20 percent in Glory Technology, another member of the same group and a rival of Intralot, in the supply of betting systems and applications to a number of other markets. The move was apparently seen as a casus belli by Intralot, and the now «orphaned» Royal Highgate ultimately accepted its offer through Intralot Betting Operations. The deal was finalized on January 16. According to sources in Cyprus, the package included Malta-based Royal Highgate.com, a fixed-odds betting concern on the Web which also has Greek clients.