Sazka bids for complete control of one of Europe’s largest betting firms


The Czech lottery company Sazka Group has submitted a bid to buy out the remaining shares in the Greek company OPAP, which going by revenue is the fourth largest betting company in Europe.

Sazka said earlier this week that it said it was offering EUR 2.06 billion (CZK 52.6 billion) for the remaining 67 percent of the shares in OPAP.

Sazka is proposing EUR 9.12 per OPAP share, which is below the price they were sold at prior to the announcement. This caused the stock exchange in Athens to weaken and at the end of trading on Monday, when the bid was made, the price had depreciated to EUR 9.65.

Over the previous six months, to July 5, the average stock price of OPAP was EUR 9.114. Compared to the end of last year, and after adjusting for the dividend payment, the offer represents an appreciation of 28 percent for shareholders, Sazka said.

The offer to buy out the shares is valid from Monday. The tender will be valid even if the company fails to acquire all the shares that are in circulation.

Sazka offered assurances that it did not intend to change OPAP’s current strategy and would continue to focus on maintaining the company's position on the Greek market.

Sazka now indirectly owns a 33-percent stake in OPAP. In 2013, as part of a privatization process, Greece sold that stake to EMMA Delta, which is now Sazka's majority shareholder.

Sazka’s owner Karel Komárek said that since May 2013, when the privatisation of OPAP was announced, its shareholders have achieved a total return of over 130 percent. Of that amount, over EUR 1.4 billion was from aggregate dividends paid, he said.

Mr. Komárek said that Sazka’s current offer was the largest voluntary offer to buy back shares seen in Greece in more than a decade.

Reuters reported that OPAP had announced that its board of directors would evaluate Sazka’s offer and then issue an opinion.

The offer must still be approved by the Hellenic Capital Market Commission, Greece’s regulatory authority. Neither Sazka nor OPAP have made public a date for the completion of the transaction.

According to revenues, OPAP is the fourth largest betting company in the whole of Europe.

It offers sports betting and lottery and operates video lottery terminals in Greece and Cyprus. Last year its gross revenues amounted to EUR 1.5 billion (over CZK 38 billion).