Spain takes first step in national lottery sale

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Spain's state lottery has named advisors to sell a 30-percent stake in the firm, the first step in a listing reportedly worth up to 7.5 billion euros ($10.6 billion).

Spain's government first revealed plans for the lottery sale in December as it scrambled to cut the public deficit and soothe fears of a looming debt crunch and international financial rescue.

"Sociedad Estatal Loterias y Apuestas del Estado has chosen the advisors who will coordinate the upcoming stock market listing of 30 percent of the company," the firm said in a statement Wednesday.

The lottery chose Rothschild SA as financial advisor; Clifford Chance SL as international legal advisor; Uria Menendez Abogados as national legal advisor; and PricewaterhouseCoopers Asesores de Negocios as strategy advisor.

State lottery chairman Aurelio Martinez told the Wall Street Journal this week that Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's government hoped to raise 6.5-7.5 billion euros in the offering.

The float could value the whole of the Spanish state lottery at 23-25 billion euros, making it the world's second-largest gaming company in terms of market value after Las Vegas Sands Corp., the paper said.

Best known for running the world's richest game, El Gordo, or the Fat One, every Christmas, the lottery posted a net profit of 2.99 billion euros in 2009, up 3.5 percent from the year before despite an economic crisis.

Spain traces its fascination with the lottery back to the creation of the royal lottery in 1763, whichh used profits for social causes such as hospitals. The national lottery was approved in 1811 and held its first draw the following year.

The listing forms part of a government privatisation program including the sale of a 50-percent stake in airport management company AENA, which runs the main Madrid and Barcelona gateways.

The asset sales form an important part of the government's plan to slash the public deficit.

Spain's public deficit last year amounted to 9.2 percent of total economic output, or gross domestic product, well above the European Union's agreed ceiling of 3.0 percent.

The government has vowed to slice the deficit progressively to 6.0 percent of GDP this year, 4.0 percent in 2012, 3.0 percent in 2011 and 2.1 percent in 2014.

© 2011 AFP

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