March 7, 2013 / 4:46 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-Austerity hits Greek betting monopoly OPAP's profit

* 2012 net profit dropped by six percent to 505.5 mln euros

* Figure broadly in line with company’s outlook

* OPAP is key to Greece’s privatisation scheme (Adds figures, updates throughout)

ATHENS, March 7 (Reuters) - Greece’s betting monopoly OPAP , a flagship asset in the country’s privatisation plan, said its 2012 profit fell by six percent.

Greece is stuck in its sixth year of recession after the country hiked taxes and cut wages in return for aid from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Austerity has hurt the country’s appetite for gambling and OPAP’s revenues dropped by 8.9 percent last year to 3.97 billion euros ($5.16 billion).

In a bid to cut its debt the country is selling 33 percent of OPAP. Seven investors including a Chinese conglomerate and a big private equity fund have been short-listed and have until April 5 to submit binding bids.

On Thursday OPAP said its net profit dropped to 505.5 million euros from 537.5 million euros in 2012. The figure was broadly in line with the company’s earlier guidance for net profit of 496 million euros.

OPAP said it will pay a dividend of 0.57 euros a share, down 21 percent compared to the previous year.

In a presentation of its 2013-2022 business plan to potential investors last month, OPAP said its net profit was likely to drop 77 percent to 116 million euros in 2013, due to higher taxes and investment.

OPAP, the fourth largest betting firm in Europe based on its market value of 2.2 billion euros, has the monopoly in sports betting until 2020 and in lotteries until 2030. It also holds the exclusive right to operate video lottery terminals in the country.

It plans to roll-out new gaming halls to house its first 16,500 video lotteries and start offering online betting in 2014.

The stock has gained 29 percent since the start of the year, outperforming a gain of six percent for the Athens Stock Exchange index and bringing it back to the level it was trading at 12 months ago.

$1 = 0.7692 euros Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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