It’s a good thing Jack Ma’s back. And with more money, too

Late Sunday, Ant Financial Group, an affiliate of Jack Ma’s Alibaba, announced it would increase its bid for MoneyGram by 36% to $18 per share


A file photo Alibaba chairman Jack Ma. Photo: Reuters
A file photo Alibaba chairman Jack Ma. Photo: Reuters

Taipei: Finally, Jack Ma has offered a price for MoneyGram International Inc. that he should have three months ago.

Late Sunday in the US, Ant Financial Group, an affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, announced it would increase its bid by 36% to $18 per share.

Four weeks ago I predicted this would happen, and political pressure from rival bidder Euronet Worldwide Inc., as well as US lawmakers, forced the Alibaba founder’s hand.

This should be a knock-out blow to Euronet. However a cornered dog growls the loudest, so expect the Kansas-based, Hungary-founded payments provider to turn up its lobbying efforts that proclaim such a deal would be a threat to US national security.

If Euronet’s lucky, the issue will appear on the radar of President Donald Trump, who’s the only person with power to kill the transaction over such concerns. While the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US reviews and makes recommendations on foreign takeovers, POTUS is the ultimate decider.

But for Euronet, putting all its eggs in the Trump basket would be a risk. The president just let China off the hook over currency manipulation because Asia’s biggest economy is helping him deal with North Korea. The alternative is for Euronet to meet and beat Ant’s latest offer, a scenario that should scare shareholders (although that doesn’t mean Euronet won’t do it).

And there’s no point appealing directly to MoneyGram investors in the hope they’d vote in favour of patriotism. According to data compiled by Bloomberg, MoneyGram is majority owned by private equity firm Thomas H Lee Partners LP and hedge fund Abrams Capital Management LP.

Perhaps a low-ball opening bid was part of Ma’s plan to smoke out other offers. Or perhaps the Chinese billionaire thought he could get MoneyGram for a song. Either way, the offer that’s on the table now looks far more credible. Bloomberg

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