U.S. Blocks Sale of MoneyGram to Ant Financial

The demise of $1.2 billion deal suggests U.S. officials are concerned about the data security implications of takeovers by Chinese investors.
Matthew HellerJanuary 3, 2018

The proposed $1.2 billion acquisition of MoneyGram by Chinese electronic payments company Ant Financial has collapsed, a setback that may reflect a broadening of the Trump administration’s national security concerns.

MoneyGram and Ant, an affiliate of Chinese internet group Alibaba, jointly announced Wednesday that they had been unable to gain the required approval for the deal from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States “despite extensive efforts to address the Committee’s concerns.”

CFIUS, an inter-agency body that reviews acquisitions of U.S. companies by overseas entities for security implications, had jurisdiction over the deal because Chinese state-backed entities and funds own 15% of Ant.

Drive Business Strategy and Growth

Drive Business Strategy and Growth

Learn how NetSuite Financial Management allows you to quickly and easily model what-if scenarios and generate reports.

“The geopolitical environment has changed considerably since we first announced the proposed transaction with Ant Financial nearly a year ago,” MoneyGram CEO Alex Holmes. “Despite our best efforts to work cooperatively with the U.S. government, it has now become clear that CFIUS will not approve this merger.”

According to Reuters, the committee’s concerns centered on the safety of financial data that could be used to identify U.S. citizens. The deal would have given Ant access to 2.4 million bank and mobile accounts.

“Data is a national security issue,” a U.S.-based mergers and acquisitions lawyer told The Financial Times. “The more information [Chinese entities] have on U.S. citizens, the more they could wreak havoc on someone’s personal finances.”

Chinese companies last year invested more than $130 billion in the U.S., up from just $21.5 billion in 2012, according to the Rhodium Group research firm. But the MoneyGram deal is the latest in a string of Chinese acquisitions that have failed to clear CFIUS, including the $1.3 billion purchase by Canyon Bridge Capital Partners of chip maker Lattice Semiconductor.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma was hoping to expand Ant’s global footprint amid fierce domestic competition from Chinese rival Tencent Holdings’ WeChat payment platform. He promised President Trump in a meeting a year ago that he would create 1 million U.S. jobs.

“After nearly a year of deliberations, CFIUS has scuppered [Ma’s] plans — and delivered a bleak precedent for any future tilts at U.S. assets,” the FT said.