* Gambling monopoly to be privatised next year
* Q3 net profit down 16 pct, narrowly beats forecast
* Sales down 11 pct year on year
ATHENS, Nov 20 Greece's OPAP, one of
Europe's biggest betting firms, reported a 16 percent fall in
third-quarter profit on Tuesday, weighed down by the recession
in its Greek home market.
Cash-strapped Greece plans next year to sell almost its
entire 34 percent stake in OPAP, its most profitable company, as
part of its international bailout agreement. But higher taxes
and doubts about OPAP's most precious asset, its gambling
monopoly, may undermine the company's value.
Revenues dropped 11 percent to 891.3 million euros ($1.14
billion) as the country's worst recession since World War Two
dampened punters' gambling appetite.
Net profit stood at 113.6 million euros, down from 135.4
million euros a year earlier but above an average forecast of
108.9 million euros in a Reuters poll of analysts.
Eight potential investors, including a Chinese conglomerate
and big private equity funds, have expressed interest in buying
a 33 percent stake in OPAP, which has a total market value of
about 1.5 billion euros on the Athens Stock Exchange.
However, OPAP's profitability will suffer next year after
the government decided to impose a 30 percent levy on the
company's gross earnings from Jan. 1.
The company's sports betting monopoly may also be repealed
after potential competitors, including Britain's William Hill
, challenged it in court.
Despite the challenges facing the company, its chief
executive said on Tuesday that he was optimistic about its
prospects now that uncertainty around taxation had been settled.
OPAP is expanding into online gaming and video lotteries and
is a candidate to buy a Greek state lottery this year.