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MoneyGram: whack-a-mole of money transfers?

“…to date MoneyGram has refused to open a meaningful dialogue with us, leaving us no choice but to make this proposal public…”

Euronet CEO’s letter to employees, December 13, 2007

MoneyGram and Western Union are generally talked about throughout the an equivalent breath on account of the “monopolies” of cross-border cash swap. However when contemplating MoneyGram’s valuation, it’s not solely tiny compared with Western Union’s however with a valuation numerous being far beneath any competitor:

Significantly than a brief fluke, since its IPO in 2004, MoneyGram valuation has been fully on the decline getting near zero in 2019 and 2020:

So irrespective of persevering with public notion of MoneyGram as Western Union’s barely smaller sibling, the corporate has been going by existential challenges. Most likely it’s the curse of a “silver medal.”

Transient Historic earlier of Worldwide Cash Transfers

Whereas it’d really actually really feel that Western Union and MoneyGram have been spherical ceaselessly, the cross-border cash swap providing exterior of the banks and put up workplaces was launched solely about thirty years before now. In as of late, shopper choices had been restricted to sluggish and expensive wire suppliers by banks or to bodily mailing cash orders. Western Union (see this in-depth SaveOnSend article) started worldwide cash transfers all through the late Eighties, initially leveraging Visa and MasterCard networks. It proceeded with a fast worldwide enlargement beginning in 1989. Equally, American Categorical launched a home cash swap service, known as “Moneygram,” in January 1988 and commenced worldwide enlargement in March 1989:

Completely totally different present worldwide leaders of worldwide cash transfers obtained began all through the next years: UAE Change (now a part of Finablr), Ria Cash Swap (a part of Euronet), and Golden Crown (based mostly in Russia). Even Wells Fargo began a separate remittance enterprise in 1994. By the late 90s, numerous suppliers had been providing near-instant (inside minutes) transfers all through the globe. Keep in mind this actuality in case you research one totally different deceptive article about correct this second’s cash transfers at all times taking days and even weeks.

The timing proved to be fairly fortuitous as worldwide migration was choosing up tempo:

And that resulted in an infinite progress in remittances:

By the late-Nineteen Nineties-early-2000s, first PayPal after which Western Union started providing on-line swap choices. Completely totally different gamers from the OGs of remittances lastly launched digital channels. As an illustration, Wells Fargo added a web based primarily based function in 2009 (research additional about banks’ function in remittances on this SaveOnSend article).

By 2007, Xoom lastly obtained its act collectively (additional particulars on this SaveOnSend article) and commenced providing near-instant (inside minutes) digital transfers all through the globe. By 2011, a plethora of so-called Fintech startups purchased proper right here on the scene (additional particulars on this SaveOnSend article). Lastly, by 2014, just a few Bitcoin/Blockchain-based shopper startups began providing cross-border cash transfers for customers, however most of them shortly failed or pivoted to B2B (additional particulars on this SaveOnSend article).

Western Union vs. MoneyGram: Effectivity factors

Together with pioneering cross-border remittances all through the late 80s, Western Union and MoneyGram furthermore share some agency historic earlier. Two of the MoneyGram CEOs, James Calvano and Alex Holmes, purchased proper right here from Western Union. For a quick second in 1995-96, each corporations had been owned by the an equivalent dad or mum, First Data. Because of the regulatory strain to stop First Data potential monopoly all through the worldwide remittances MoneyGram wished to be divested. Coincidentally, irrespective of seismic shifts in worldwide remittances over the next a really very long time, the an equivalent concern of a attainable monopoly purchased proper right here up as quickly as additional twenty years later, in Could 2015. Appropriate after the PayPal announcement of the Xoom acquisition, Bloomberg unfold rumors of Western Union in search of MoneyGram which led to a barrage {{of professional}} opinions on the hazards of such a blended entity.

From the start, Western Union’s remittances enterprise has at all times been circumstances bigger than MoneyGram’s, presently processing $60+ billion additional in annual cross-border transfers with MoneyGram’s holding #5 spot among the many many many prime worldwide gamers:

As each suppliers have related margins, the excellence of their measurement is said to each the swap quantity and income comparisons:

Close to digital cash transfers, MoneyGram initially allotted, unsuccessfully, an excessive amount of of their expertise efforts to digital kiosks barely than an net site or cell app, which, in early 2018, was definitely considered one of many worst all through the enterprise:

This resulted in solely 43% of digital revenues coming by way of MoneyGram.com with a year-over-year digital progress decelerating from 70-80% in 2014 to the one digits by 2018:

All by way of the an equivalent years, Western Union centered additional on a world enlargement of its website and cell app, sustaining a 5X income lead vs. MoneyGram for digital cross-border transfers:

However this nonetheless doesn’t clarify why MoneyGram inventory so considerably underperformed each the broader market and Western Union before 2020?

MoneyGram’s Suicide

MoneyGram was worthwhile and rising all through the early 2000s. Its enterprise mannequin was driving billions of {{{dollars}}} in a float from non eternal remitted cash orders and official verify funds. Investing these billions equipped the additional earnings on prime of MoneyGram’s major cash swap enterprise. By late 2006, the corporate had $6 billion in its portfolio and a $32 inventory price.

Like one different monetary suppliers companies on the time (many are literally not spherical), MoneyGram was an keen investor in mortgage-backed securities together with these with sub-prime credit score rating score top of the range. Because of the US exact property started to burst, MoneyGram didn’t arrange and take care of its portfolio menace instantly. As a substitute, the corporate executives and the Board saved stalling all by 2007 assuring patrons that its portfolio remained sound:

“It’s been 3 years now that we’ve been in this type of environment and our portfolio managers have done just an outstanding job continuing to get some spread for us”

“I don’t think there’s really been any changes since we’ve had our last earnings call that would really impact the Portfolio at this point one way or another outside of that range.”

“… seen very little impact from what has been going on in the marketplace from the rating agencies or otherwise on those levels of the securities…”

[Portfolio] “… continues to perform as we would expect…”

By June 2008, quite a few the executives and the Board members “resigned,” and an outside funding group grew to show right into a majority shareholder. MoneyGram was saved however loaded with debt, and that burden has remained with the corporate ever since, illustrated on this Q3 2016 earnings title:

“I definitely would like to do more in the debt paydown. I think as Larry talked about, we were kind of up to 3.95x, we’re down to 3.45x, and that we should end the year I would guess around, after this payment, around $925 million outstanding. I’d love to push it down below 3x and continue to show or put the cash flow to utilization on the debt side. So, it will be lumpy. I’m not going to forecast right now that we’re going to do a payment every quarter…”

To make factors worse, equally to Western Union, for too extended MoneyGram was busy chasing income on the expense of compliance. In 2012, this resulted in a $100 million optimistic for the corporate and, an additional distinctive, $1 million private optimistic in opposition to Chief Compliance Officer. MoneyGram violations included:

  • Not terminating specific MoneyGram retailers after being equipped with data that strongly indicated that the retailers had been complicit in shopper fraud schemes
  • Not implementing a safety for terminating retailers that posed a excessive menace of fraud
  • Structuring MoneyGram’s AML program in a way that data aggregated by MoneyGram’s Fraud Division on retailers, together with the variety of shopper fraud analysis that individual individual retailers had gathered over specific time durations, was not often equipped to the MoneyGram analysts who had been answerable for submitting suspicious practice analysis (SARs) with FinCEN
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Debt burden remained MoneyGram’s “sword of Damocles” it doesn’t matter what enhancements the corporate made. All by 2012-2016, MoneyGram achieved a surprising turnaround, completely revamping its digital choices, shutting down its expensive experiment with digital kiosks, launching new digital corridors, all whereas fixing compliance and back-office processes and selling subsequent interval of further agile administration… however to no avail. By the second half of 2016, analysis analysts remained unconvinced that MoneyGram inventory may very well be worth considerably larger than a $6-9 vary:

  • JP Morgan: $8
  • Feltl & Co: $9
  • Evercore: $6
  • Morgan Stanley: $9

However then rumors of an impending acquisition started swirling…

MoneyGram and Ant Monetary vs. Euronet

On January 26, 2017, Ant Monetary supplied $13.25 per share for MoneyGram, plus, agreeing to kind out MoneyGram’s debt. The proposed mixture primarily differed from serial acquisitions all through the enterprise or from a PayPal-Xoom deal. As talked about on this SaveOnSend article, PayPal purchased Xoom beneath a sweetheart deal, more than likely not which suggests to drive any top-line synergies. Ant Monetary was taking a look at MoneyGram property as a launchpad to assemble the equivalent ecosystem of suppliers as a result of it’s offering in China.

MoneyGram was delighted to lastly eliminate its Non-public Fairness owners with their debt burden whereas accelerating the digital transformation journey, however an earlier enemy couldn’t miss a chance to strike…

Euronet tried in search of MoneyGram before. As MoneyGram began to unravel in late 2007, Euronet supplied to purchase in all shares deal. A yr before that, Euronet purchased Ria Envia (now often known as Ria Cash Swap) and hoped that along with MoneyGram would get it nearer in scale to Western Union. MoneyGram didn’t deal with Euronet’s present – it was nonetheless hoping to outlive its existential funding disaster, plus, there was a foul customized match between two corporations.

Euronet didn’t take the rejection appropriately and threatened MoneyGram with lots a lot much less good interactions:

“Our preference is not to make our proposal public, and we expect you would keep it confidential. Of course, we reserve the right to discuss our proposal with your shareholders should you persist in being unwilling to meet with us to discuss it.”

MoneyGram saved stalling after which its inventory began to free fall. Euronet terminated its pursuit, and an exterior funding group was the one different left.

On reflection, Euronet’s present would have been financially vastly superior for MoneyGram shareholders throughout the event that they accepted it instantly. Inside the next months, Euronet’s inventory not at all fairly reached perilous ranges of MoneyGram’s however nonetheless dropped 70%:

Nevertheless, the acquisition would have more than likely not at all occurred. Euronet was appropriately conscious of MoneyGram’s funding portfolio downside together with it all through the due diligence request:

“…Our proposal is, of course, based on having the opportunity to conduct a customary due diligence review of MoneyGram’s businesses including, specifically, your investment portfolio (which, based on our conversations, we believe may require a cash infusion in the very short term…”

As soon as extra to March 17, 2017, when Euronet determined to go after MoneyGram as quickly as additional… Coincidentally, MoneyGram’s income and Euronet’s present had been identical to the state of affairs from practically 10 years earlier.

Understanding that its overtures wouldn’t be welcome, Euronet augmented its financials with a lobbying promoting and advertising advertising marketing campaign citing points about Ant Monetary’s relationship with a Chinese language language language authorities:

“The road ahead for MoneyGram remains highly uncertain in our view.  In light of bipartisan concerns that have been raised by four Members of Congress, extensive public reports examining questionable data security practices of Ant Financial and broad concern raised over Chinese based acquirers, we continue to hold the view that the Ant deal may never close.”

Together with being factually fallacious (research this insightful put up by Faisal Khan), furthermore it’s ironic {that a} company known as EUROnet would rent lobbyists to stop a Chinese language language language company from in search of a US enterprise. Furthermore, a majority of Euronet’s operations had been exterior of the US (“71%  of our revenues denominated in currencies other than the U.S. dollar”):

The irony of Euronet lobbying of the US authorities will get fairly extra putting when contemplating the very important issue present of synergies proposed by Euronet: price reductions. The unfavourable have an effect on would have been squarely all through the US the place MoneyGram deployed most of its property and property.

“Expected Cost Synergies of Approximately $60 Million in the Second Year Post Close”

However making use of logic and commons sense is a idiot’s errand close to understanding Euronet’s pondering. Correct proper right here was a canopy of Euronet’s 2016 Annual Report, centered spherical a 50-year-old expertise as a winner all through the midst of a 14th-century leisure gore:

What was actually behind Euronet’s acquisition attempt irrespective of figuring out full appropriately that it wouldn’t be welcome? With out an acquisition, Ria Cash Swap’s pure effectivity was shortly declining from practically 60% in early 2015 to lower than 10% by late 2016:

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This decline occurred irrespective of Euronet spending $100+ million on XE.com in 2015, CEO of Euronet elaborated on among the many many root causes behind a weak return on the acquisition in July 2017:

After which as quickly as additional in early 2018:

Within the course of that backdrop and unable to compete on deserves with Ant Monetary’s elevated present of $18 per share, Euronet shifted its focus to political maneuvering:

Euronet efforts paid off leading to repeated delays all through the take into account by the US authorities agency, CFIUS. By the very best of 2017, MoneyGram’s inventory price dropped by 25%, beneath the Ant Monetary bid:

On January 2, 2018, Ant Monetary and MoneyGram terminated the deal:

“The geopolitical environment has changed considerably since we first announced the proposed transaction with Ant Financial nearly a year ago. Despite our best efforts to work cooperatively with the U.S. government, it has now become clear that CFIUS will not approve this merger. We are disappointed in the termination of this compelling transaction, which would have created significant value for our stakeholders.”

In February 2019, Ant Monetary ended up spending $0.7 billion on the UK remittances firm, WorldFirst. You, a pricey reader, are welcome to conclude if it implies that the UK authorities are additional competent than their US counterparts or lots a lot much less corrupt or each.

Ria Cash Swap vs. MoneyGram: Walmart

Traditionally, practically 30% (!) of MoneyGram quantity purchased proper right here by way of Walmart. However in 2014 a retail large launched the “Walmart-2-Walmart Money Transfer Service” leveraging Ria Cash Swap behind the scenes.

A more-than-decade-long animosity between MoneyGram and Euronet (Ria Cash Swap) and their fierce rivals for the Walmart enterprise purchased proper right here to a public spat throughout the summertime of 2019. Euronet accused MoneyGram of establishing up stringent ID necessities for Walmart:

MoneyGram responded that Euronet (Ria Cash Swap) was ignorant and negligent:

The feud between the 2 companies continued all by 2019 with Euronet repeatedly blaming MoneyGram-imposed necessities for its personal declining progress costs.

Later in 2019, Walmart launched that absolutely totally different producers, included Western Union, is likely to be added to its market the place prospects in retailers would possibly choose amongst fairly some huge cash swap suppliers. By late 2020, Walmart represented solely 8% of MoneyGram’s revenues.

MoneyGram Effectivity

What made the AntFinancial-Euronet bidding warfare notably attention-grabbing was the context of MoneyGram’s effectivity. Whereas its turnaround produced an preliminary acceleration in income, MoneyGram’s progress curve peaked in late-2015-early-2016, and it was in-and-out of the unfavourable territory for the next 4 years. It was practically as if the hopes of AntFinancial acquisition made MoneyGram executives ambivalent about working the corporate:

All by way of the an equivalent yr, the cross-border cash swap market has been rising which meant that MoneyGram was shedding market share, even in its most vital, and the world’s largest hall, USA-to-Mexico:

Did it lose market share to some refined Fintech startup or a cash-rich Blockchain participant? Was it unable to compete with Western Union’s fairly a bit bigger warfare chest? Nope, the market share winner, Intermex, was fairly a bit smaller in measurement with no digital capabilities.

Intermex created a apply centered on a high-quality execution, employed the best MoneyGram performers, and spectacular outcomes adopted alongside:


To restrict market share loss, MoneyGram would sometimes drop costs:

MG FX markup to Mexico and Philippines till April 2019

In late 2019, MoneyGram even determined to cease making any cash on digital transfers in its two prime corridors:

Amongst completely totally different challenges, MoneyGram misplaced a home contract with Albertsons to Western Union. It furthermore wished to renegotiate a long-term settlement with Walmart. MoneyGram agreed to supply Walmart administration of the patron interface whereas turning right into a “white label” supplier behind the scenes. A mannequin new settlement resulted in some new quantity for MoneyGram however at a considerably decrease income per transaction:

“This was a competitive RFP process and while the result will adversely impact the revenue and profitability over the short-term, over the long-term this is a contract better to have won than to have lost. In fact, since the launch of Wal-Mart2World, 15% of the customers using this service had not previously used MoneyGram…”

MoneyGram Discovers Blockchain

Bitcoin, Ripple, Libra, and blockchain often had been at all times thought of potential rail for cross-border cash transfers (additional on that on this SaveOnSend article). After years of small pilots, 2018 began with a renewed blockchain hype. Western Union’s inventory price jumped 20% primarily based completely on rumors of a attainable pilot with Ripple:

Every week later, MoneyGram jumped on the an equivalent hype put collectively by PRing its personal pilot with Ripple. Correct proper right here was MoneyGram’s rationale:

“The current model for these payments requires money transfer companies to use pre-funded accounts across the globe to source liquidity.  Newer blockchain technologies have the potential to revolutionize this process and optimize capital deployment.”

Based on this logic, if the pilot with Ripple was worthwhile, and banks in all important corridors enroll with Ripple, MoneyGram wouldn’t ought to protect as fairly a bit money accessible. How quite a few freed up money are we speaking about? Evidently, it’s as lots as $35 million or simply about 1% of MoneyGram’s funding portfolio. You, a pricey reader, resolve how fairly a bit it factors to MoneyGram’s future:

By late 2018, the Ripple hype died down and MoneyGram inventory price was on the underside diploma in 10 years. Then, on June 17, 2019, MoneyGram’s desperation resulted in a surprising choice. The corporate agreed to promote 10% of its fairness to Ripple for $50 million which translated to some double inventory price in the intervening time.

It’d seem to be a wasteful choice for Ripple, however the Blockchain unicorn was actually printing cash (by creating crypto-tokens known as XRP and promoting them to establishments and customers) at a velocity of $250 million per quarter. What does one do with billions? You may spend tens of a whole lot and a whole lot on naming a university after your associate, however then what?

Spending $50 million on MoneyGram’s inventory obtained Ripple free publicity and leverage to make MoneyGram use XRP rails, beginning with the world’s largest shopper cash swap hall, USA-to-Mexico. This meant that MoneyGram has to finish two conversions in-and-out of unstable crypto. Extra conversion and volatility had been leading to MoneyGram incurring further prices as a replacement of a single & easy FX conversion between two of primarily most likely essentially the most actively traded currencies:

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Discovering out the above slide rigorously, you’ll uncover that MoneyGram couldn’t even negotiate with Ripple getting free XRPs which may permit it to avoid a necessity for money pre-funding. As a consequence of this truth, the promise of a minimal of saving some working capital, $30 million just isn’t going to be fairly a bit however each penny helps, didn’t materialize every.

So what was actually behind this partnership for both facet apart from 1) publicity with a sandbox for Ripple and some) $50 million in money for MoneyGram when no individual else was able to take a spot?

Correct proper right here was the catch: Ripple was paying further to MoneyGram, spherical $10 million per quarter, for transferring cash by way of XRP. It was carried out in an effort to prop up the XRP liquidity on various exchanges. That, in flip, would possibly persuade additional establishments and customers to spend money on XRP which could drive the crypto price elevated:


Did you get the goal, a pricey reader? It’s not that Ripple’s superior expertise made the MoneyGram enterprise mannequin primarily additional smart in opposition to Western Union or Transferwise. It’s that MoneyGram swap flows made XRP additional useful, and Ripple was able to pay for it $50 million per yr (Ripple made related offers with smaller suppliers like Intermex, TransferGo, Azimo, and so forth. however lower than $20 million yearly in full).

As an illustration, MoneyGram-provided XRP liquidity was answerable for spherical 60% of all crypto volumes all through the US-Mexico hall for XRP. Take a look at this modification in weekly XRP volumes on Bitso after MoneyGram started sending liquidity there all through the second half of 2019:

What MoneyGram’s Board and Administration didn’t anticipate was how a money infusion from Ripple would drastically enhance the inventory volatility. A so-called “XRP Army” of Ripple followers was glad that every issue that Ripple touches would lastly end in large worth creation. In another way from Bitcoin looking for and selling followers of the 2014-2016 fame, this group of newbie retailers is additional considerate and occasion makes an attempt some elementary analysis. However remittances are additional troublesome than they could ever consider.

Since Ripple’s money infusion, MoneyGram’s each single day looking for and selling quantity has elevated dramatically:

This led to the distinctive volatility in MoneyGram’s inventory price, as an illustration, in opposition to its largest rival, Western Union:

Whereas Ripple didn’t have an effect on MoneyGram’s enterprise mannequin, the partnership made listening to MoneyGram’s investor exhibits fairly extra pleasing. A quarterly alternate between MoneyGram executives and Wallstreet analysts began to incorporate an compulsory change on the dearth of any provides have an effect on from the Ripple partnership however with the reassurance of an imminent breakthrough:

In actuality, MoneyGram dealings with Ripple did nothing to its enterprise mannequin, and by March 2020 the inventory price was getting near the pre-Ripple ranges:

Regardless of SEC’s direct data of this brazen pay-per-play scheme since 2019, it took no motion. In early 2020, SaveOnSend requested for solutions to no avail:

Lastly, in December of 2020, the SEC determined to behave by going after Ripple. After some hesitation, MoneyGram wished to let go of $50 million in Ripple’s annual worth and terminated the affiliation. As a substitute of a protracted PR promoting and advertising advertising marketing campaign depicting the partnership as “pioneering” “transformative” “unique,” MoneyGram wished to acknowledge that Ripple’s affiliation not at all meant one factor substantive:

Present: MGI 2020 This autumn earnings title

Present: MGI 2020 This autumn earnings title

You’d suppose after such a worthwhile however legally questionable debacle MoneyGram would steer clear of related pursuits. Nope. To make up for a $50 million gap with Ripple, MoneyGram practically instantly began selling Bitcoin to undocumented migrants whereas charging 4%+$3 worth:

MoneyGram Will get Digital Appropriate

Lastly, MoneyGram prioritized the worldwide enlargement of digital capabilities, reaching spectacular progress by the very best of 2018:

By summer time season season 2019, MoneyGram was so assured all through the success of its digital efforts that it made an outlandish declare relating to the prevalence of its cell software program program:

In actual fact, MoneyGram cell app, whereas bettering considerably, was nonetheless trailing one different rivals all through the top of the range and amount of purchaser choices:

Nevertheless, patrons’ major concern, and why inventory price remained at an all-time low, was whether or not or not or not a shortly declining income would permit MoneyGram to refinance its $0.9B in debt by March 2020.

By Could 2019, MoneyGram market capitalization dropped to beneath $100 million for the primary time all through the company historic earlier:

MoneyGram Market Cap by May 27 2019

With Blockchain and digital initiatives not bearing fruits, 2020 regarded bleak for MoneyGram. With the arrival of Covid, the chances of the corporate’s survival had been even lots a lot much less sure. By April 1st, the inventory was looking for and selling at $1.18.

However seven months later, the inventory was six circumstances elevated. All by way of Covid spike, whereas Western Union was down 20% and Intermex was up 50%, MoneyGram inventory was by far the strongest performer:

What led to this gorgeous turnaround? MoneyGram’s renewed concentrate on on-line and cell all through the second half of 2018 was lastly driving outcomes two years later. With top-notch cell apps in 20+ nations and a web based primarily based presence in spherical 80 nations, coupled with aggressive pricing, created an excellent totally different to introduce MoneyGram to customers worldwide who had been in search of digital technique of transferring cash all by way of Covid. Shoppers apparently hottest the providing fairly a bit that by Q3 2020 MoneyGram’s digital income was rising shortly ample to cowl for losses all through the offline enterprise. For the primary time since 2015, MoneyGram was as soon as extra to the rising 20%:


Hopefully, you, a pricey reader, discovered this overview useful in creating your specific individual perspective on the best way by which forward for MoneyGram. As with all our articles, please remark beneath once you might need any further information, not opinions, which can change the article’s conclusion.

We’ll seemingly be preserving this put up often up to date, so come as soon as extra shortly!


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