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60 Business Groups Bid for Parnitha Casino

Owners of the profitable Parnitha Casino, Hellenic Tourism Properties, have called for bids of interest from international investors interested in taking over the management of the casino on Mount Parnes. So far, some 60 company groups have expressed initial interest.

The complex includes two hotels with 443 beds, 3,000 stremma of property and the mount’s cable car. The ideal strategic investor will be offered the opportunity to buy a stake ranging from 19.9 percent to 51 percent in the company. If 51% is sold, the remaining 49% would be slated for an eventual listing on the Athens Stock Exchange.

The properties company, which manages all of the Hellenic Tourism Organization‘s holdings, said the tender for non-binding expressions of interest will run until September 7. Bidders, it said, can become stakeholders in Hellenic Parnitha Casino via a share purchase or capital increase. The casino itself will eventually be listed on the Athens Stock Exchange. The bidders will need to have a casino license in another country and experience in the field.

Government promises no other casino license will be offered to the Athens area.

The call for interest is another in the recent race to diversify Hellenic Tourism Organization holdings, which include state-controlled beaches and marinas, through long-term lease agreements and the sale of shares. In essence the government wants the private sector to play a more prominent role in revamping the state’s run-down tourism facilities.

Meanwhile, the Parnitha casino is expected to see profits exceeding 25 billion drachmas this year, against 15 billion drachmas in 2000 (30% of all casino profits go to the tourism organization for advertising and promotion abroad). It held a 16-percent share of the local casino market in the first half of this year, up from 10 percent in the same period in 2000. The strategic investor will be called on to transform the casino into a facility of international standing.

Referring to the two hotels within the complex which have a total of 433 beds, the properties company said one will be upgraded to luxury class targeted at casino customers and upper-class travelers while the other will be raised to one-star category, providing accommodation for 2004 Olympic Games visitors. And in addition to bringing in much-needed funds for the state coffers, the move is intended to upgrade the amenities in time for the 2004 Olympic Games.

Meanwhile, Casino and hotel operator Hyatt Regency has emerged as the first suitor for Mount Parnes Casino Resort outside Athens, a Hyatt official said last month.

Greece’s development minister, Nikos Christodoulakis, said he does not yet have an estimate of the sale price or the amount of funds needed to upgrade the complex, according to a spokesman. The ministry, however, did say it expects the privatization to be completed by the end of the year.

The sale of the complex has been in and out of the papers for years. Analysts say that had the casino been privatized earlier, the government would have earned tens of billions of drachmas by now and we would also have had an upgraded tourism and entertainment unit in the capital.

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