OPAP Getting Close to Licensing Deal in Greece?

Preliminary agreement expected soon

It seems like a licensing deal between the cash-strapped Greek government and Greek gambling company OPAP is to come sooner than initially expected, as reports came this week that OPAP believes it will be closed by the end of September, in time for Greece to meet a state revenue deadline set by international lenders.

What Greece needs is EUR1.7 billion in privatization receipts by the end of this month to comply with the terms of its EU/IMF bailout, so awarding the new license to OPAP and extending its sports betting monopoly beyond 2020 would make a great contribution.

However, there may be a problem. According to OPAP CEO Yannis Spanoudakis, after the signing of a memorandum of understanding by the end of the month, full contract with final details would be inked later on, but it's still not resolved when money would be transferred.

He specified: "It will be a document that guarantees the outcome of the negotiations." Yet, Greece may not receive the money by Sept. 30, because the company would need to request an approval for the deal from its other shareholders in a general meeting. "That's the main delay for us, everything else is just a question of bureaucracy," Spanoudakis said.

The money earned by the state from the deal could range between EUR750 and 925 million, a part of which would have to be borrowed by OPAP from banks or financial markets.

The government plans to sell the rest of its stake in the company by the end of 2011.

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