MoneyGram bidder Euronet ramps up fight to stop Chinese rival's bid

Tue Mar 28, 2017 4:15pm EDT
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By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Euronet Worldwide Inc (EEFT.O: Quote) ramped up its fight against China's Ant Financial Services Group in trying to acquire MoneyGram International Inc (MGI.O: Quote), urging the U.S. government to closely scrutinize the rival Chinese bid saying it raises "significant national security risks."

In a March 27 letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Euronet Chief Executive Officer Michael Brown said MoneyGram's new owner would be asked to help law enforcement efforts aimed at combating "terrorist financing" and money laundering by complying with data requests that are often highly confidential.

"A money transfer company's ownership and leadership at the top are critical in ensuring that all of these responsibilities are carried out fully and effectively," Brown said in the letter, which was also sent to more than a dozen congressional offices and reviewed by Reuters.

"We feel... there are significant national security risks that merit careful evaluation for any foreign buyer of a company in this industry," he said.

Euronet offered $1 billion for MoneyGram in mid-March, arguing that an all-American deal would face less regulatory scrutiny than the $880 million offered by Ant Financial, an affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N: Quote). MoneyGram said Euronet's offer was potentially superior to its existing agreement with Ant Financial, but has not yet endorsed it.

The bidding war comes at a time of rising tensions between China and the United States, with U.S. President Donald Trump accusing China of unfair trade policies and criticizing its increasingly assertive stance in the South China Sea.

Mnuchin's Treasury Department chairs the inter-agency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which also includes the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security, among others. It assesses potential mergers to ensure that they do not jeopardize national security.

The CFIUS has been a stumbling block for several Chinese deals in the United States and was considered a big hurdle for Ant Financial.   Continued...

FILE PHOTO -  A Moneygram logo is seen outside a bank in Vienna, Austria, June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader/File Photo