A MoneyGram advertisement in Shanghai. Photo: ImagineChina
A MoneyGram advertisement in Shanghai. Photo: ImagineChina

In mid-March, Kansas-based Euronet Worldwide outbid Ant Financial’s US$880 million deal to acquire US money transfer firm MoneyGram with a US$1 billion offer. It looked like a fatal blow to the Alibaba subsidiary’s chances in the deal, as US scrutiny of Chinese investments in the country has continued to intensify.

But Alibaba CEO Jack Ma is not giving up. The battle, however, will not be in decided in the boardroom, where Ma would find no trouble outbidding Euronet if necessary. The deal, rather, will likely be decided in Washington, where the US Committee on Foreign Investments (Cfius) has the ultimate authority to reject the deal.

As the Wall Street Journal reports this week, Euronet hopes to fend off Ant-Financial by making a case to lawmakers and the Treasury department that Ant Financial’s acquisition of MoneyGram is a national security risk.

Lobbyists working on behalf of Ant Financial have been in Washington speaking to anti-China lawmakers since the announcement of the original deal, touting Ma’s meeting with President Trump, and Alibaba’s efforts to bring jobs to the US.

Unfortunately, Ma’s efforts are unlikely to convince US congressmen who are eager to strengthen Cfius’ authority to stem the tide of acquisitions in the US by Chinese firms with close ties to the government in Beijing.

Deep pockets will only go so far in the new era of US-China trade relations.