27 Apr 2013

Greece gives more time for privatisation sale

6:22 pm on 27 April 2013

Greece gave the sole bidder for gambling monopoly OPAP a week extra to raise its terms in a last-ditch attempt to save its first big privatisation from an embarrassing failure that could derail its bailout.

Athens needs to conclude the sale to an investment fund called Emma Delta to kickstart its long-delayed privatisation programme, imposed by European Union and International Monetary Fund creditors.

If it fails to sell the gambling monopoly it will not meet its asset sale target of €2.6 billion this year and would have to meet the shortfall with additional austerity measures or by asking its international creditors to stump up more money to bankroll the country.

The sale drew no interest from big international gaming companies, with analysts citing Greece's economic problems as well as OPAP's uncertain growth prospects as the reason.

Emma Delta, controlled by Czech investor Jiri Smejc and Greek shipowner George Melisanidis, on Monday submitted the only valid bid for the 33% ownership and management rights in OPAP, offering €622 million.

Privatisation agency HRADF initially gave the fund 48 hours to raise its bid to at least €650 million but the agency has now extended the deadline to 1 May, on the fund's request.

An official close to Emma Delta told Reuters the fund needed more time to decide whether and how it would raise its offer.