Although the terms of the agreement have not been disclosed, the agreement will be subject to relevant regulatory requirements and approvals as well as approval from other CASAG investors.
Sazka Group said it will ensure that Österreichische Beteiligungs (ÖBAG), an agency that oversees public investment in companies playing a key role in Austria, will be represented on the CASAG supervisory and executive boards.
Novomatic will maintain its 11% interest in Österreichische Lotterien, a branch of CASAG, following the deal.
After 2016, when the pair negotiated “a strategic partnership of equals” to run both CASAG and Österreichische Lotterien, the operator has been jointly operated by Novomatic and Sazka. Nevertheless, each participant recognized that the expected outcomes were not achieved by this design.
“The previous ownership structure has not led to a satisfactory development of Casinos Austria and, as the smallest major shareholder, we have decided to sell our shares in order to provide CASAG with a transparent and stable ownership structure so that the company can face the long-term demands of the domestic and international markets for global markets,” said Novomatic CEO Harald.
Robert Chvatal, CEO of the Sazka Group, added:
“We are persuaded that this is the company’s best option. In a long-term relationship between its two largest shareholders, we want to ensure sustainable and successful growth of CASAG.
“We are committed to working with ÖBAG and the CASAG team to ensure that our customers, employees and business partners benefit from sustainable development. We are prepared to focus on the core business of CASAG and bring innovation to market. “After Austria’s leading gambling trade group last month called for an end to its monopoly in view of the political scandal currently engulfing the operator, the acquisition comes at an uncertain time for Casinos Austria.
The Austrian Association for Betting and Gambling (OVWG) spoke in response to an investigation into the relationship between Casinos Austria, its chief financial officer Peter Sidlo, who is also a district councilor in Vienna for the Freedom Party of Austria (FPO), and Novomatic.
Sidlo’s appointment is believed to be related to licensing awards in Vienna, but Sidlo and Novomatic deny any wrongdoing.
Following initial searches back in August, officers of the Economic and Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (WKStA) carried out further raids as part of their investigation.
Since 2016, when three other operators had their licenses revoked, Casinos Austria has had a monopoly on casino operations in Austria.
Apart from Casinos Austria, Sazka Group recently raised its interest in OPAP to nearly 40% following the completion of an offer period during which it tried to acquire all the outstanding shares of the Greek operator.
During the bid phase, which expired on 29 October, Sazka Group reached an agreement with approximately 7.25 percent of OPAP investors. Before the offer period, it owned about 33 percent of OPAP, having purchased a major stake in 2013 through the Emma Delta venture when the operator was first privatized.
In total, it agreed to buy 23,323,179 shares at € 9.12–€ 212.7 million (£ 178.9 million/$235.7 million). It had set aside € 2.06 billion for the total outstanding securities.