Will Alibaba Prevail in Bidding War for MoneyGram?

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Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE: BABA) wants to enter the U.S. market for financial services. To that end, the company’s Ant Financial Services unit agreed in January to pay $880 million for MoneyGram International Inc. (NASDAQ: MGI). Shortly thereafter, the deal got more complicated.

Payments processor Euronet Worldwide, a Kansas-based company, bid around $950 million for MoneyGram and began raising issues related to the likelihood of Ant Financial’s bid being approved the U.S. Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) and, ultimately, by President Donald Trump.

On Sunday, Ant Financial raised its offer for MoneyGram to $1.2 billion ($18 per share in cash). The Chinese firm will also assume MoneyGram’s debt. The MoneyGram board of directors has agreed to the sweetened offer.

Now that the president has decided that China is not a currency manipulator after all, chances fade that Euronet will be able to kill a deal that has raised MoneyGram’s shareholder value by more than 40% since Ant Financial’s January bid.

MoneyGram is controlled by private equity firm Thomas Lee and hedge fund Abrams Capital Management. Pamela Patsley, executive chairman of MoneyGram, said:

Throughout this process, our board of directors has remained laser-focused on maximizing value for MoneyGram stockholders, while taking into account price, the ability to complete a transaction and other important considerations. We are pleased to offer even more value to our stockholders through the amendment of our merger agreement with Ant Financial. We continue to be excited about the transaction, which we are confident will provide substantial benefits to all of our stakeholders, including stockholders, customers, agents and employees.

Ant Financial’s president, Doug Feagin, also commented:

We look forward to joining forces with MoneyGram, which will add valuable cross-border remittance capabilities to the Ant Financial ecosystem, serving our more than 630 million users globally.

According to the announcement, the two firms have “made significant progress” toward gaining regulatory approval for the acquisition. Shareholder approval is also required and the companies expect the deal to close in the second half of this year.

Euronet may be able to beat Ant Financial’s all-cash bid, but it is more likely that the Kansas company will challenge the deal on the regulatory front.

MoneyGram’s stock traded at $18 in Monday’s premarket, after closing at $16.51 on Friday. The stock traded at around $12.65 before Ant Financial made its initial offer in January. MoneyGram’s 52-week low is $5.81 and the consensus 12-month price target had been $11.22.