Update: Urgency Crucial in OPAP Privatisation

OPAP privatization urgent due to poor situation of the Greek economy

It seems that the privatization of the Greek state gambling monopoly OPAP, which has been announced for a while now, may occur sooner than initially planned due to the poor state of the Greek economy, which desperately needs to fill its coffers.

This speculation has been confirmed by the government at the end of the week, when they announced a three-year privatization plan which should bring EUR7 billion (around $9.3 billion), by selling and utilizing state companies and other assets including OPAP. It was stated by the finance ministry on Dec. 16 that the Socialist government plans to turn partial sale, joint management or outright privatization of hundreds of properties into "at least one billion euro" in 2011.

The ministry spokesman told AFP news agency that "the aim of the state asset management and privatisation programme, which is in line with Economic and Financial Policy Programme of Greece, is the inflow of revenue amounting to 7 billion euro within the 2011-2013 period, of which at least one billion euro in 2011.' He also added that handling of the extension of concession right for the operation of Athens International will be assigned to financial and legal advisors, and that the whole process will require finding a strategic investor for state defense contractor EAS and exploitation of state holdings in gas operators DEPA and DESFA.

It was also stated that Greece will manage its holdings in the well-to-do state betting operator OPAP but also call for private investments in two state lotteries and state racetrack operator ODIE.

With the country attempting to down its losses from a great deal of state-owned companies whose combined deficits in 2009 exceeded EUR1.7 billion, there is a long list of other state interests and assets to be reviewed and offered in a variety of agreements. This is a part of a tough strategy taken by the Greek government as the state came to the verge of bankruptcy and had to receive help from the EU and the IMF, which in addition caused a great public unrest from unhappy citizens.

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