It looks like Greek gambling firm OPAP is one of the more attractive investment that foreign value hedge funds can find in Greece these days. The highest level of interest has been shown by Seth Klarman of Baupost Group who amassed a 5.19 percent stake on Jan 24th; a press release a few days later confirmed Klarman’s controlling stake in OPAP. Baupost Group owns 16,554,553 shares of OPAP.
Some Greek news outlets are also reporting that Klarman has increased the stake to 5.5 percent and there have been further reports that the hedge fund is targeting to cross 10 percent ownership in OPAP’s outstanding shares. A report also states that one third of all the stock’s volume comes from Baupost purchases. The largest stakeholder is the Greek government itself with a 33 percent stake.
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OPAP is the foremost practical application of Greece’s privatization program which wants to raise 1 billion euros from OPAP’s privatization to support the debt laden economy. The government intends to shell out its entire stake in OPAP by the end of this year.
Despite some unfavorable court rulings which called its gambling rules illegal, the interest in buying OPAP is not cooling off. Dan Loeb’s Third Point, TPG Capital and BC Partners put forward expressions of interest back in November to buy shares in OPAP. The decision on new stakeholders in OPAP is expected to finalize in the next few months. Fidelity Investments and Silchester Investments, each owns 5 percent stake in the company.
Greece’s privatization plan, coined TAIPED which is Fund for the Development of Private Property Bills will also sell Astir Palace, a luxury hotel, DEPA, DESFA (oil and natural gas suppliers) and Athens International Airport, to raise money. Other assets that are up for sale are several government properties, including Athens Police HQ.