| WASHINGTON, March 28
WASHINGTON, March 28 Euronet Worldwide Inc
ramped up its fight against China's Ant Financial
Services Group in trying to acquire MoneyGram International Inc
, urging the U.S. government to closely scrutinize the
rival Chinese bid saying it raises "significant national
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.
MoneyGram said Euronet's offer was potentially superior to its
existing agreement with Ant Financial, but has not yet endorsed
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
Euronet declined to comment on the company's letter, said
spokesman Pat Tucker. The Treasury Department declined comment.
A representative for Ant Financial could not be immediately
reached for comment.
Brown said Ant Financial's bid merited a "close" CFIUS
evaluation because money transfer companies obtain substantial
personal and financial information on customers, including U.S.
government employees. This information includes a customer's
name, address, social security and other identification numbers.
A new owner also would need to assist U.S. efforts to combat
terrorism financing or money laundering, by reporting suspicious
activity, complying with subpoenas and requests to locate
accounts and transactions, Brown said.
Euronet has "consistently embraced and prioritized
compliance," he said in the letter.
In recent years, U.S. authorities have increasingly held
money transfer companies responsible when criminals process
In January, Western Union Co agreed to pay $586
million to settle allegations that it failed to prevent
criminals from using its service for money laundering and fraud.
MoneyGram has had issues in the past. A U.S. criminal
investigation revealed in 2012 that MoneyGram had processed
thousands of transactions for fraudsters who were scamming the
elderly. MoneyGram admitted to money laundering and wire fraud
violations and agreed to pay $100 million.
MoneyGram, along with Western Union, has long dominated the
global money transfer industry with its large network of retail
locations. It has about 350,000 outlets in retail shops, post
offices and banks in nearly 200 countries and territories.
Euronet has four money transfer businesses, including Ria,
IME, HiFX and XE. Euronet's Ria is in 146 countries, according
to its website. Euronet focuses more on independent agents,
while MoneyGram targets large retailers and national post
(Reporting by Diane Bartz, Additional reporting by Joel
Schectman, Editing by Soyoung Kim and Lisa Shumaker)