Euronet outbids Alibaba’s Ant Financial with $1 billion offer for MoneyGram

Alibaba’s conquest to own a piece of the global money transfer industry just suffered a huge blow after Euronet outbid its fintech affiliate business for the proposed acquisition of MoneyGram, a popular option for cross-border money transfers.

Ant Financial, the Alibaba-controlled unit that runs Alipay (among other services), bid $880 million for MoneyGram back in January, but now Euronet is offering more than $1 billion for the company.

Ant Financial declined to comment.

Euronet, which operates services like Epay, HiFix and XE, is offering to pay $15.20 per share for Nasdaq-listed MoneyGram, thus outbidding Ant Financial, which proposed $13.25 for its deal. Euronet said that, aside from offering 15 percent more than Ant Financial, its bid offers a compelling 28 percent premium on MoneyGram’s trade-share price, which was suspended following the first buyout offer.

Beyond the differing financial offers, the two bids are distinctly different because of the nature of the two companies making them.

Euronet was founded in Hungary in 1994 and it specializes in point-of-sale and payment services both on and offline. It has a history of acquisitions, having picked up XE, a hugely popular foreign currency site, in 2015, and a range of other purchases that include money transfer providers, ATM cash operators and more across the world.

Ant Financial, meanwhile, is breaking new ground with its proposed acquisition. It has specialized in digital and has no real offline presence, which is where MoneyGram — which runs a vast offline network to distribute payments worldwide — could complement it. Ant Financial claims 450 million users in China, where it is best known as the Alibaba spinout that houses China’s dominant mobile payment platform Alipay and Alibaba’s digital banking and financial services platform.

It has spent the last few months expanding its footprint outside of China through an aggressive streak of deals that include investments in Korea, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand as it looks to construct a regional payments and financial services network.

Financial industry analysts that spoke to TechCrunch following the announcement of Ant Financial’s bid for MoneyGram expressed some surprise that the company had gone after a deal having previously focused on easily comparable businesses in Asia, such as Kakao Pay in Korea and India’s Paytm.

“People are beginning to rethink [Ant Financial and Alibaba’s] global strategy,” James Lloyd, a fintech consultant with EY in Hong Kong, told TechCrunch in a recent interview. “It signaled that their global ambitions go beyond serving Chinese tourists and the overseas Chinese population.”

Ant Financial has declined interview requests around the precise details of its international expansion plan, but we do know that it is hugely ambitious. CEO Eric Jang recently told CNBC that it is aiming to reach two billion users over the next 10 years.

“The combination of Ant Financial and MoneyGram will provide greater access, security and simplicity for people around the world to remit funds, especially in major economies such as the United States, China, India, Mexico and the Philippines,” Jang said in a press statement after the Ant Financial bid was announced.

MoneyGram would massively broaden its focus in terms of markets and users, so it remains to be seen if Ant Financial — which is raising $3 billion in debt funding to finance M&A deals — will come back to the table with a fresh offer or look for a different horse to back.