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Mergers & Acquisitions

US shoots down MoneyGram’s sale to China’s Ant Financial

Alibaba’s financial affiliate drops US$1.2 billion deal to buy MoneyGram after US panel raised national security concerns over the acquisition.

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 January, 2018, 7:23am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 January, 2018, 11:27am

A US government panel rejected Ant Financial’s acquisition of MoneyGram International Inc over national security concerns, the companies said on Tuesday, the latest Chinese deal torpedoed under the administration of US President Donald Trump.

The US$1.2 billion deal’s collapse represents a blow for Jack Ma, the executive chairman of Chinese internet conglomerate Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, who owns Ant Financial together with Alibaba executives. Ma promised Trump in January 2017 that he would create 1 million US jobs.

MoneyGram shares were down 8.5 per cent at US$12.06 in after-market trading.

The companies decided to terminate their deal after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) rejected their proposals to mitigate concerns over the safety of data that can be used to identify US citizens, according to sources familiar with the confidential discussions.

A standard CFIUS review lasts 75 days, and the companies had gone through the process three times to address its concerns. Additional security measures and protocols that the companies suggested failed to reassure CFIUS, the sources said.

The US government has toughened its stance on the sale of companies to Chinese entities, at a time when Trump is trying to put pressure on China to help tackle North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and be more accommodative on trade and foreign exchange issues.

The MoneyGram deal is the latest in a string of Chinese acquisitions of US companies that have failed to clear CFIUS. They include China-backed buyout fund Canyon Bridge Capital Partners LLC’s US$1.3 billion acquisition of US chip maker Lattice Semiconductor Corp, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co Ltd’s US$2.7 billion acquisition of US life insurer Genworth Financial Inc, and Chinese buyout firm Orient Hontai Capital’s US$1.4 billion acquisition of US mobile marketing firm AppLovin.

“Despite our best efforts to work cooperatively with the US government, it has now become clear that CFIUS will not approve this merger,” MoneyGram Chief Executive Alex Holmes said in a statement.

Ant Financial and MoneyGram said they will now explore and develop initiatives to work together in remittance and digital payments in China, India, the Philippines and other Asian markets, as well as in the United States.

Ant Financial clinched an US$18 per share all-cash deal to acquire MoneyGram in April, seeing off competition from US-based Euronet Worldwide Inc, which had made an unsolicited offer for MoneyGram and openly lobbied US lawmakers, saying Ant’s proposal created a national security risk.

A Euronet spokesman did not immediately respond to a question about whether Euronet would return with a new offer for MoneyGram.

Ant Financial said it paid MoneyGram a US$30 million termination fee for the deal’s collapse.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.