Saturday 18 November 2017

US bidder for Lotto licence raises €500m in war chest

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin
Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

The US investor hotly tipped as one of the frontrunners to win the 20-year National Lottery licence has raised a €500m war chest on the bond market.

US-based GTech Corporation, which raised the bond, has already indicated its interest in bidding for the National Lottery licence once a formal auction kicks off, probably early next year.

GTech is owned by Italian gaming giant Lottomatica. Its latest bond deal closed on November 28.

Strikingly, the 3.5pc interest that GTech is paying to borrow its bond for eight years is well below the rate that the Government would pay to finance itself in the markets.

Brendan Howlin has hired Davy Stockbrokers to manage the sale of a new licence, and hopes to attract bids of about €400m for the upfront fee he wants to charge for the right to run the licence over the next 20 years.

GTech, along with Australian firm Tatts Group and UK-based Camelot, is among the interested parties understood to have already met officials at Mr Howlin's Department of Public Expenditure in relation to the licence bidding.

The company already operates state lotteries across the US and national lotteries in Europe and Asia.

Its main focus is on the technologies that modern lotteries run on, and it currently supplies the Lotto terminals used by An Post.

There is still no timetable in place for the Lotto rights auction, but it must take place before the current An Post licence expires at the end of June next year.

Draft heads of a bill establishing a legal framework for the new licence went to the Cabinet in July, but an auction process cannot get under way without the legislation. The Government plans to publish legislation later this month.

GTech has the capital needed to mount a bid, as does Canadian owned Camelot in the UK, also widely tipped to be a front runner when the auction proper finally gets under way.

The proceeds raised from the sale of the lottery licence, and from the €855m sale of '4G' telecoms spectrum by the Communication Regulator ComReg are not included in the target to raise €3bn through the sale of state assets set by the EU/IMF.

The troika sales target only includes 'hard' assets, including the planned disposals of parts of the ESB and Bord Gais.

It means the cash from the lottery sale and from the ComReg auction will be available to the Government. Brendan Howlin has already said he plans to use €200m of the lottery proceeds to help finance the new National Childrens' Hospital.

To date, €3.7bn has been raised for good causes since the Lottery's launch. Of the monies raised by the National Lottery during 2010, a total of €718m was returned to the community, which represents 93pc of sales.

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