DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland has agreed to sell a 20-year national lottery operating licence for 405 million euros ($552 million) to a joint venture that includes the owner of British operator Camelot, Ireland's spending minister said on Friday.
The deal is the first step in a privatisation drive agreed under Ireland's EU-IMF bailout that aims to bring in 3 billion euros, which will be used to pay down debt and to fund a jobs stimulus programme.
A joint venture between Ireland's state-owned postal service, An Post, and Camelot's owner, the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, has been selected as the preferred bidder with a deal due to be finalised by the end of the year, a government statement said.
An Post currently runs the lottery alone.
Half of the proceeds of the licence sale will be used to fund a new children's hospital in Dublin while the remainder will be put in the privatisation fund to pay down debt and help fund jobs programmes, spending minister Brendan Howlin told state broadcaster RTE.
The government hopes to meet most of the 3 billion-euro privatisation target by selling the retail unit of state-owned gas firm Bord Gais.
Howlin said the sale of Bord Gais should be agreed before the end of the year.
Half of the 405 million euros due from the lottery sale will be paid when the deal is signed later this year and the other half when the licence comes into effect in late 2014, Howlin said.
(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Greg Mahlich)