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MoneyGram-Ant Financial merger runs into trouble with US politics: report

The proposed $880 million MoneyGram and Ant Financial merger has run into trouble in the United States, reports Bloomberg. The publication said that two members of US Congress – Kevin Yoder and Eddie Bernice Johnson – called on Committee on Foreign Investment in the US for an investigation into Ant Financial’s proposal as it would allow Chinese access to the US financial infrastructure. They added that the proposed deal could also pose a significant threat to the US’ national security.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) is an inter-department body which looks at acquisitions by foreign companies. This could be influenced by President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy (Jack Ma’s comments on an impending trade war between the US and China probably doesn’t help).

Ant Finacial had entered into a definitive agreement in January with MoneyGram. The deal was expected to close by second of half 2017, after which the stockholders of MoneyGram will be offered $13.25 per share in cash. However, in March, Kansas-based electronic payments company Euronet came forward with an unsolicited proposal to acquire all outstanding shares of MoneyGram Common Stock and Preferred Stock for $15.20.

Why it matters to India

Note that Ant Financial’s merger with MoneyGram also talked about being able to tap the 450 million users registered users on Alipay (in China), and the 200 million users registered with Paytm (in India). In India, MoneyGram also is an authorized entity by the Reserve Bank of India which can accept cross-border inward remittances.

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Ant Financial initially purchased a 25% stake in One97 Communications, which operates Paytm, in February 2015, which operates the Paytm in India. Six months later in September, Paytm raised an undisclosed amount in a round of funding from both Alibaba and Ant Financial. At that time, Alibaba Group picked up a 20% stake in Paytm for about $680 million and lowered Ant Financial’s stake to 20%.

Note that there is a popular conception that Paytm is now a Chinese company (it isn’t) due to its funding from Alibaba and Ant Financial.

However, the idea frequently comes up and rival MobiKwik took a potshot at Paytm at a press conference in December. “We are owned and managed by Indians, owned and managed by Indians,” Bipin Preet Singh, CEO of MobiKwik said at the conference. (To be fair, Mobikwik has non-Indian investors as well).


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