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Austria – Czech investors stunned by Austrian ‘discrimination’

By - 5 November 2015

Investment fund Emma Capital, the company with a controlling shareholding in Greek betting firm OPAP, has criticised the Austrian finance ministry for discriminatory treatment as it looked to raise its stake in Casinos Austria.

Czech-based investors in Emma attempted to increase their share of Casinos Austria, claiming that their 11.3 per cent existing stake secured first refusal if more shares were being issued.

It claims however that a Casinos Austria shareholders’ meeting in October voted to block that right, allowing Austrian slot manufacturer and operator Novomatic to instead increase its own shareholding by purchasing a 16.8 per cent stake from private shareholder MTB.

Emma Capital’s Jiri Smejc claimed that his company had been mistreated by Austrian authorities. Speaking to Reuters, he said: “The situation really seems outrageous to us. We have the feeling that we are being discriminated against by the steps of the Austrian finance ministry. This is something which is basically unacceptable in the European Union.”

The situation has been inflamed by Austrian Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling, who was quoted in Austrian newspaper Kurier as saying Casinos Austria should be owned by Austrians.

Mr. Smejc again said this was discrimination however OBIB General Secretary Martha Oberndorfer claimed legally the Czech group should not be granted first refusal and that the shareholder decision was nothing to do with nationality.

Emma Capital is expected to take legal action.

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