Casinos Austria shareholders planning legal action

casinosaustriaReuters is reporting that a group of Czech investors is to take action against Austria’s Finance Ministry after failing to increase its ownership of gaming operator Casinos Austria.

The investors already own 11.3% through a joint venture called Austrian Gaming Holding (AGH) and believed that this shareholding provided them with first refusal on any future sale of stock. AGH is a partnership between Emma Capital, owned by Czech businessman Jiri Smejc, and investment group KKCG.

However a Casinos Austria shareholders’ meeting last month voted to block that right; a move that allowed gaming machine developer Novomatic to increase its own stake by acquiring a 16.8 percent stake from private shareholder MTB.

The group claim that the State discriminated against the Czech investment group through its 33.2 percent stake in Casinos Austria, via an agency called OBIB, and that nationality played a part in the decision.

But OBIB General Secretary Martha Oberndorfer was firm that its legal opinion showed the Czech group was not entitled to right of first refusal and the shareholder decision had nothing to with the investors’ nationality.

Things have also been stirred up by Austrian Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling, who was reported as saying back in September that the operator should remain in Austrian ownership.

Smejc is not happy with the behaviour of the shareholders and is planning action. He told Reuters: “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.”

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