Ant Financial raises MoneyGram bid by 36% to fend off Euronet

Ant Financial’s revised bid for MoneyGram is worth $18 a share in cash, up from a previous offer of $13.25


Ant Financial used to be a part of Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd but is now a separately owned business. Photo: Reuters
Ant Financial used to be a part of Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd but is now a separately owned business. Photo: Reuters

Beijing: Ant Financial raised its agreed offer for MoneyGram International Inc. by 36% as the financial-services company controlled by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma tries to top a competing offer and overcome security concerns.

The revised bid is worth $18 a share in cash, up from a previous offer of $13.25, the companies said in a joint statement.

The new deal, which has the backing of MoneyGram’s board, values all the common and preferred stock at $1.2 billion, it said. Euronet Worldwide Inc. last month offered $15.20 a share for the Dallas-based payments company.

By raising its bid such a large amount, Ant Financial is making clear its intention of completing a deal, said Doug Feagin, Ant’s international president. But the Chinese company could still face potential political obstacles, with American lawmakers urging the powerful Committee on Foreign Investment in the US to conduct a “ full and thorough” review of the deal.

“You have two issues; what are MoneyGram shareholders going to receive? And that’s what Ant Financial is addressing with a revised bid,” said Kirk Boodry, an analyst at New Street Research. “Politics is the other issue that really stands out here and Chinese companies have struggled to get deals done in the US.”

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Euronet has said its offer has a better chance at regulatory approval. The Leawood, Kansas-based company didn’t immediately respond to calls and emailed requests for comment outside normal business hours. Shares of MoneyGram closed Thursday at $16.51.

President Donald Trump has taken a hard stance on China since assuming office, increasing the chance Ant Financial’s bid will be closely scrutinized by CFIUS, an inter-agency panel that examines acquisitions of companies by foreign investors. The White House can stop the deal, and treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin is the chairman of the panel.

Ant Financial’s bid is a clear shot across the bow against Euronet, which directly raised security concerns with Mnuchin and has said doubts around approval are a key reason why MoneyGram shareholders should reject its Chinese rival’s offer.

“We wanted to speak with conviction that this is something strategic for us,” Feagin told Bloomberg News. “We intend to move to get closed and to be successful here.”

He added that while regulatory approval process had been “constructive” thus far, the company couldn’t provide a specific time frame on when the deal would be closed. Some provisions, such fees to be paid if the deal falls apart, have changed to match the increased value of the new offer.

MoneyGram chief executive officer Alex Holmes said Euronet’s binding bid came in on Friday, allowing his board to consider it alongside Ant Financial’s improved offer.

“It made lot of sense to us at $13.25 and certainly it makes the same amount of sense, if not more now, for shareholders now at $18,” he said. “If Euronet chooses to continue forward or make another offer it’s really entirely up to them.”

Holmes said price and approval risk were the key points of contention for both bids. While CFIUS approval is more of an issue for Ant Financial, antitrust regulators from the US and Europe could slow or scuttle Euronet’s offer.

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Ant Financial first announced its move in January as it steps up an international expansion to build on its strength in China. Formally known as Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services Group Co., it has hundreds of millions of users and provides wealth management, insurance, credit checks and consumer loans. It also owns Alipay, the dominant payments platform on China’s largest e-commerce operator.

MoneyGram would help anchor a global expansion for Ant Financial and enjoy strong growth once integrated with its pool of over 600 million Chinese users, Feagin said.

Ant Financial used to be a part of Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd but is now a separately owned business. It was valued at $75 billion by CLSA Ltd. in September and is said to be considering an initial public offering as soon as this year.

Euronet has a network of more than 35,000 ATMs and 800,000 point-of-sale terminals and has twice bid for MoneyGram, with offers in 2007 and again in 2013.

MoneyGram will hold a special stockholder meeting on May 16 to vote on Ant Financial’s latest bid. Bloomberg

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