China's Ant is said to be renewing U.S. review of MoneyGram sale

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Ant Financial is expected to make a third try for U.S. approval of its takeover of MoneyGram International Inc. as a secretive national security panel throws up hurdles for Chinese investors seeking to buy American companies.

The former affiliate of Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is preparing to resubmit the $1.2 billion deal for review before the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment, or CFIUS, said people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the process isn’t public.

The preparations underscore the trouble Chinese buyers face in persuading the panel that investigates foreign acquisitions to greenlight takeovers. President Trump recently killed a Chinese investment fund’s purchase of Lattice Semiconductor Corp., which went before CFIUS three times without winning approval. The panel is now considering at least two other major deals involving Chinese acquirers.
Ant failed to win security clearance from CFIUS for its MoneyGram deal announced in January after an initial 75-day review period. It resubmitted its request and now faces the expiration of a second 75-day period for consideration.

“We are not commenting on the CFIUS process, but we are continuing to work with the various regulatory agencies and remain focused on closing the transaction by the end of the year,” Ant said Friday in an emailed statement.

A representative for MoneyGram declined to comment. CFIUS reviews are confidential and the panel doesn’t confirm or comment on its work.

The prolonged review comes amid heightened political tensions. The Trump administration has upheld a hard line against Chinese takeovers of American businesses, even as it seeks China’s aid to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis.

Two members of the House of Representatives have urged CFIUS to conduct a “ full and thorough” investigation of the deal, arguing it could give China access to critical U.S. financial infrastructure. In addition to collecting and retaining confidential information from customers, wire transfer services such as MoneyGram handle confidential requests from the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network about transactions that may be linked to terrorism or money laundering.

Ant has disputed assertions that U.S. security would be compromised, citing its plans to keep MoneyGram’s headquarters, management team and employees in Dallas. The company said MoneyGram’s servers -- and the data stored -- would also remain in the U.S.

Bloomberg News
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