June 11, 2008 / 1:12 PM / 10 years ago

Greek OPAP puts off charter changes ahead of deregulation

ATHENS, June 11 (Reuters) - Greek betting monopoly OPAP (OPAr.AT) failed on Wednesday to get shareholders approval to amend part of its charter, as the firm braces for a possible opening of the Greek gaming market.

Europe’s biggest betting firm is changing its charter in a bid to become more competitive amid mounting EU pressure to lift gaming restrictions.

But the approval of changes in OPAP’s mission which will allow the firm to operate and offer consulting services outside Greece was put off for a repeat shareholders meeting on June 25 due to a lack of the necessary quorum.

OPAP has said it wants to amend its mission to enhance its profile as a private firm which protects consumers from gambling addiction.

“To change OPAP’s mission we need a quorum of two thirds of the shareholders,” OPAP Chief Executive Christos Hadjiemmanuil told shareholders. He said the changes are a response to EU demands to Greece to lift restrictions in its gaming market.

OPAP, 34.4 percent owned by the state, currently offers sports betting and lotteries in Greece through about 5,400 outlets and has exclusive rights to do so until 2020.

Hadjiemmanuil also said OPAP will restructure operations and renegotiate agent agreements in a bid to secure its place in a competitive environment. Details will be announced next week, he said.

OPAP’s shareholders approved the distribution of a 1.74 dividend on 2007 results. The firm has already paid an interim dividend of 0.60 euros and the stock will trade ex dividend as of June 17. (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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