Greek monopoly betting operator OPAP saw earnings rise 50% in the second quarter thanks to aggressive cost-cutting measures and its new online sportsbook and scratch-card operations. Revenue in the three months ending June 30 rose 8% to €947.3m, while earnings rose to €68.6m, nearly €7m above analysts’ forecasts.
The first half of the 2014 FIFA World Cup played a significant role in boosting revenue for OPAP’s Stihima sports betting game. OPAP’s new GTECH-powered online sportsbook launched just two weeks before the football tournament kicked off and the online access is credited with helping drive a 31.5% year-on-year sales increase to €363m. Existing numerical games revenue fell 5.1% to €549m thanks to a decline in Kino revenue while the new Hellenic Lotteries vertical contributed €20m in just two months of operation, three-quarters of which came via scratch tickets.
Despite the good showing, OPAP’s net profit fell 44.5% to €15.7m. Profit would have risen 56% to €44.2m but the company announced on Tuesday that it had been hit with a €21.6m retroactive tax bill. The charges date back to fiscal 2010, following a recalculation of the former state asset’s tax assessment. OPAP paid €8m in incremental taxes that year, while the state now says the company’s actual obligation was €29.6m. OPAP says it has “strong arguments” for lodging an appeal to have at least 50% of the outstanding tax obligation refunded.
In keeping with its new life as a privately held firm with a sharp eye on the bottom line, OPAP embarked on a dramatic reducing program this summer. In July, the firm’s new owners launched a voluntary redundancy program at its retail subsidiary OPAP Services that targeted over 600 staffers – three-quarters of the division’s total payroll. The cuts came on top of 140 positions OPAP eliminated earlier this year, the effects of which boosted administrative expenses 16.2% to €8.6m during the quarter.