OPAP first-quarter net up 45.4 pct against the odds

Greek gaming monopoly OPAP said yesterday first-quarter net profit rose 45.4 percent, beating analysts’ forecasts, thanks to higher Kino lottery revenue and lower costs. Europe’s biggest betting firm said net profit grew to 208.5 million euros, compared with an average forecast of 181.4 million in a Reuters poll of analysts. Earnings were also boosted relative to the corresponding period a year ago as OPAP had then booked one-off costs of 25.8 million euros paid to Greek gaming systems provider Intralot for advisory services for its sports betting game Pame Stoichima. Excluding that cost, net profit rose 32.2 percent year-on-year. «The growth in our numbers is due to the continuous satisfactory performance of our most important games, Kino and Pame Stoichima and the containment of part of our operational expenses,» OPAP Chief Executive Christos Hadjiemmanouil said in a statement. Sales from Kino, which accounted for about half of total revenue, rose 21.7 percent to 678.4 million euros after OPAP leased more terminals for the lottery, speeding up coupon processing at peak hours. The group’s revenue rose 19.8 percent to 1.38 billion euros, with Pame Stoichima bets up 21.9 percent to 577.2 million in the quarter. OPAP shares trade about 12 times 2008 estimated earnings, compared with a multiple of 11 for British bookmaker Ladbrokes and nine for William Hill, according to Reuters Estimates. The stock is down 5.25 percent since the start of the year, outperforming a 21.7 percent retreat in the broader Greek market. Analysts attribute the outperformance to OPAP’s strong growth potential from possible expansion at home and abroad. (Reuters)