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Jack Ma's Ant Financial close to buying MoneyGram

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Ant Financial, the Alibaba affiliate controlled by billionaire Jack Ma, is close to sealing a deal to buy US money-transfer service MoneyGram International Inc, the Wall Street Journal reported citing people familiar with the matter.

[BEIJING] Ant Financial, the Alibaba affiliate controlled by billionaire Jack Ma, is close to sealing a deal to buy US money-transfer service MoneyGram International Inc, the Wall Street Journal reported citing people familiar with the matter.

The newspaper didn't disclose a price for the deal. Shares of Dallas-based MoneyGram closed Wednesday at US$11.88, giving the company a market value of US$630 million.

A deal would give China's largest provider of online financial services a significant foothold in the US as it begins to explore markets beyond a home arena it already dominates. MoneyGram helps consumers and businesses move money around the world through hundreds of thousands of physical outlets. It's partnered with Wal-Mart Stores Inc as the US retailer's money-transfer agent, and also lets clients pay for everything from their mortgages to utility bills.

Ant Financial, whose Alipay handles the majority of transactions on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's online shopping sites, last year appointed a new chief executive officer to steer its next phase of growth and possibly oversee a public market debut in 2017.

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Formally known as Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services Group Co, the Chinese company has begun making investments abroad, notably in India and Southeast Asia, to take its model of online finance and local services to emerging markets. Last year, executives of Ant Financial visited Silicon Valley to size up potential investments and lay the groundwork for an IPO.

Ant spokeswoman Miranda Shek didn't answer calls to her mobile phone.

Ant started out as a unit of Alibaba before Ma spun it out in 2010, inviting objections from shareholders including Yahoo! Inc.

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