* Fourteen banks including ANZ, Citi, JPMorgan committed to deal
* Loan agreement signing likely in next few days
* Loan size being increased from $3 bln after sweetened M&A bid (Adds loan deal details, background)
By Carol Zhong and Prakash Chakravarti
HONG KONG, May 4 (Reuters) - China’s Ant Financial, an affiliate of online shopping giant Alibaba Group, is close to signing a $3.5 billion loan a part of which will help fund its purchase of U.S. money transfer company MoneyGram International, Thomson Reuters Basis Point reported.
Fourteen banks, including Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan , have committed to the loan, Basis Point reported.
The three-year syndicated term loan will replace a bridge facility that backed Ant Financial’s bid for MoneyGram, it reported on Thursday, adding documentation of the loan is in progress, with signing expected within the next few days.
Ant, valued at about $60 billion after a $4.5-billion funding round in April 2016, is set for an initial public offering (IPO), though it has not specified a timeframe or listing venue.
Ant Financial declined to comment. Representatives for ANZ, Citi, JPMorgan and HSBC also declined to comment, while Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
For global banks, the loan is an opportunity to jostle for position ahead of the IPO, a strategy that has paid off for banks such as HSBC which was appointed a bookrunner on the bumper Aramco IPO after gaining an advisory role on the Saudi oil company’s first ever sukuk issuance.
Reuters reported in February that Ant Financial, China’s most valuable online finance company, is in early stage talks with banks to raise between $2 billion to $3 billion in debt to fund acquisitions and foreign investments.
The loan size is being increased from $3 billion after the Chinese online finance firm sweetened its bid for MoneyGram by over a third, beating a rival offer from U.S.-based Euronet Worldwide to gain approval from MoneyGram’s board.
Ant hiked its bid for MoneyGram by 36 percent to $18 per share in cash, valuing the target at around $1.2 billion and beating Euronet’s offer last month of $15.20 per share.
MoneyGram’s global remittance channels for sending money overseas would help Ant build a cross-border network after a string of recent investments in Asia. But the deal must first obtain approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. (Additional reporting by Catherine Cadell and Sumeet Chatterjee; Writing by Michelle Price; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Muralikumar Anantharaman)