Ant fires a warning shot over MoneyGram's fate

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China-based Ant Financial is preparing to fight for MoneyGram despite a rival bid from Euronet Worldwide, based on signals the company sent today in an open letter to the money-transfer company’s management, employees and customers.

Ant is seeking to reassure MoneyGram’s stakeholders about its proposed deal, vowing that if its $880 million bid to buy Dallas-based MoneyGram is accepted, all existing processes and security policies will continue as usual, and Ant will invest in the business, as it’s done with Kansas City, Mo.-based EyeVerify, which Ant purchased last year.

If Ant wins MoneyGram, it will also enrich technology and solutions available to MoneyGram customers and expand the company’s services beyond remittances, said Doug Feagin, president of Ant Financial International, in the letter.

“As we make progress toward closing, our commitment to completing this agreed merger is unwavering,” Feagin said.

If observers wondered how important the MoneyGram deal is to Ant, this letter made the company's intentions known.

“It’s clear that Ant Financial really wants MoneyGram,” said Larry Berlin, an analyst with Chicago-based First Analysis. “MoneyGram fits Ant’s vision for global expansion, because it provides a 200-country network, a good mobile offering and a good system for compliance and technology that would give Ant a huge push in the direction it wants to go.”

Leawood, Kan.-based Euronet, however, is pushing equally hard to win MoneyGram with its higher bid of $1 billion and a strategy touting the benefits of retaining U.S. ownership of MoneyGram.

Euronet executives have been meeting with lawmakers in Washington, D.C. to discuss possible national security risks surrounding Ant Financial’s purchase of MoneyGram. Last week Reps. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., and Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, wrote a joint letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Seth Mnuchin raising concerns about whether Ant Financial can adequately protect U.S. consumer data and provide appropriate bulwarks against money laundering and terrorist financing.

“Euronet is playing a very interesting game by going after congressmen with one-on-one meetings raising security questions, and it could mean this will be a long, drawn-out process,” Berlin said.

MoneyGram is contractually obligated to consider Ant’s offer, unless its board decides Euronet’s deal is superior. If MoneyGram rejects the first deal, Ant has four business days to counter-offer.

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