OPAP un­der pres­sure from Emma Delta

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXAN­DRA KASSIMI

The cor­po­rate war around the OPAP gam­ing com­pany is rag­ing while the time to find a so­lu­tion is run­ning out, with hun­dreds of mil­lions of eu­ros at stake for the state cof­fers.

State pri­va­ti­za­tion fund TAIPED is said to have is­sued an­other ul­ti­ma­tum to the head of OPAP, stress­ing that by Mon­day the com­pany will need to have signed the now in­fa­mous con­tract for the 12-year op­er­a­tion of state lot­ter­ies, oth­er­wise the po­si­tion of OPAP pres­i­dent Costas Louropou­los will be un­der threat.

Yet re­plac­ing him would not be an easy de­ci­sion to make as that could lead to more delays in the two very im­por­tant pri­va­ti­za­tion projects that are un­fold­ing, those for the state lot­ter­ies and OPAP.

Louropou­los did not re­fute a re­port in the Fi­nan­cial Times ac­cord­ing to which he came un­der strong pres­sure from the Dim­itris Melis­sani­dis fam­ily which con­trols 33.3 per­cent of the Emma Delta con­sor­tium, the con­trac­tor in the OPAP ten­der. “You dare to sign [the In­tralot and lot­tery con­tracts] and I will take your head off,” Melis­sani­dis is re­ported to have told Louropou­los last month, ac­cord­ing to the FT.

“The ref­er­ences in the Fi­nan­cial Times ar­ti­cle that in­volve my name con­cern busi­ness ri­val­ries,” Louropou­los stated yes­ter­day, stop­ping short of re­ject­ing what the

Louropou­los did not re­fute a re­port in the Fi­nan­cial Times ac­cord­ing to which he suf­fered came un­der pres­sure from the Melis­sani­dis fam­ily, which con­trols 33.3 per­cent of the Emma Delta con­sor­tium. Bri­tish news­pa­per had re­ported.

In re­sponse to the FT ar­ti­cle, Emma Delta stated that it main­tains its in­ter­est in OPAP even though in re­cent days there had been leaks from the Greek-Czech con­sor­tium that it was about to opt out of the deal for the 33 per­cent stake in the Greek gam­ing com­pany. It stressed that it does not in­tend to in­ter­vene in law-abid­ing ex­ist­ing or fu­ture agree­ments by OPAP or in its en­tre­pre­neur­ial be­hav­ior, mean­ing it is not ap­ply­ing pres­sure for the con­tracts to change.

“The sole con­cern of Emma Delta refers to se­cur­ing that the le­gal frame­work ap­ply­ing to ev­ery deal con­cern­ing OPAP, in­clud­ing cor­po­rate gov­er­nance, is absolutely re­spected by all par­ties in­volved,” said Emma Delta, thereby fo­cus­ing its ob­jec­tions on the fact that two of the mi­nor­ity stake­hold­ers (In­tralot and Sci­en­tific Games) in the OPAPled con­sor­tium to ac­quire the lot­tery li­cense re­serve the right to veto the de­ci­sions of the main share­holder, whom they also sup­ply on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

The sit­u­a­tion is there­fore as fol­lows: Louropou­los will not sign the con­tract re­gard­ing the lot­ter­ies, which has caused Sci­en­tific Games to threaten to de­part, lead­ing to the can­cel­la­tion of the deal for the lot­ter­ies. If he does sign it, along with the other agree­ments among the three par­ties (OPAP, In­tralot and Sci­en­tific Games), there is noth­ing that can guar­an­tee Emma Delta will not aban­don the OPAP pri­va­ti­za­tion pro­ject.

TAIPED wishes to have the lot- ter­ies con­tract signed so as to have at least one of the two deals com­pleted. On the other hand, if Emma Delta’s de­mand for a change in the con­tracts is sat­is­fied, the con­ces­sion of the lot­ter­ies con­tract will likely be can­celed, as will the sale of OPAP due to the ob­jec­tions that will be raised. One would rightly ar­gue that with the changes to the con­tract for the lot­ter­ies and the tech­nol­ogy sup­plier, it will be an­other OPAP that will be sold, with dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter­is­tics, and not the one the ten­der was about.

In the mean­time, TAIPED yes­ter­day ap­proved the pro­ce­dure, the timetable and the terms for the con­ces­sion of 100 per­cent and con­trol of rail­way ser­vice op­er­a­tor Trainose to an in­vestor who will be cho­sen via an in­ter­na­tional open ten­der.

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