Before the dust had settled on Facebook’s announcement that it planned to introduce a digital coin, MoneyGram rushed in and announced a deal with cryptocurrency firm Ripple, where it will to distribute Ripple’s digital currency XRP across the world and Ripple will invest up to $50 million in MoneyGram.
“The partnership,” its press release stated last Monday, “supports the companies’ shared goal of improving the settlement of cross-border payments by increasing efficiency and reducing cost through RippleNet.”
Now, that’s exciting for Ripple, since MoneyGram is Walmart’s sole provider of both money orders and international payments, worldwide. It’s also exciting if you’re a Ripple investor, since Ripple has allied itself to a cross-global commercial superpower.
Despite the cash infusion from Ripple, the deal raises risks for MoneyGram. Ripple’s XRapid has been rejected by numerous banks over the last three years. Western Union last year aborted a trial with Ripple, stating the company was costing it big.
So the Ripple/MoneyGram deal has us asking some questions: Why did MoneyGram fall for Ripple; what does Ripple’s partnership with MoneyGram means for XRP; and what does it mean for you?
The MoneyGram/ Ripple Merger
In its June 17 announcement, MoneyGram said it would use Ripple’s xRapid liquidity product to help process cross-border payments for an initial term of two years. Ripple agreed to buy $30 million of MoneyGram stock at $4.10 per share. Shares in Moneygram, the second-largest money transfer company in the world, more than doubled after the news, closing at $3.88 the next day, its highest price this year.
Ripple also promised to buy up to another $20 million in equity over the next two years.
So far so good.
Will Ripple continue to favor MoneyGram years ahead?
Larry Angelilli, chief financial officer of MoneyGram, is hopeful the deal will boost the company, whose stock was trading in the $18 range two years ago.
“This partnership provides MoneyGram with the opportunity to improve operating efficiencies and increase earnings and free cash flow.”
There’s the teaser.
Ripple has been through numerous pilot projects and has been rejected by various banks since 2015. Each of these financial institutions stated concerns over a digital exchange coin that is not government-regulated and that they have no control over. (That’s the same reason JPM Coin was never accepted for wide industry use, only for internal JPM coin adopters).
True, Ripple is faster and cheaper than most Blockchains. Its money slips through in two or three seconds, while those of competitors take 15 minutes to an hour. Its transaction fees are pennies compared to the average $30 fee of competitors. Still, Ripple has had its controversies that include questionable practices, internal disputes and violation of the Bank Secrecy Act. Popular exchange desk BitMEX has said Ripple’s ledger is centralized and flawed.
MoneyGram’s flailings and motive
MoneyGram has leaked money over the last nine years as revenue has barely grown. From 2006 to 2019, its market cap plummeted, and last year China’s Ant Financial pulled out of a deal to buy the company for $1.2 billion.
To cut costs, the company closed U.S. call centers, fired workers and shifted jobs to low-cost locations like Poland.
So MoneyGram has much to gain from Ripple’s generous investment.
Will Ripple continue to profit MoneyGram?
Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse told Fortune that Ripple has improved in recent months, with hundreds of partners now using XRapid. Ripple’s XRP – the third-most valuable cryptocurrency after Bitcoin and Ethereum – has an implied worth of about $18 billion. This gives Ripple a highly liquid supply of digital currency, which eases volatility since financial firms can dip into that steady pool whenever they want.
In March, Ripple partnered with Indian private bank Federal Bank, to permit the bank to use its digital assets for cross-border remittances. Earlier this month, the company opened its first Brazilian office with plans to dominate Latin America.
MoneyGram Chairman and CEO Alex Holmes cited the speed and efficiency Ripple brings: “We will have the ability to instantly settle funds from U.S. dollars to destination currencies on a 24/7 basis, which has the potential to revolutionize our operations and dramatically streamline our global liquidity management.”
Even Western Union CEO Hikmet Ersek seemed to regret his impetuousness. At the Brainstorm Finance 2019 conference, he stated he may retry Ripple after finding its technology was five times faster than that of Western Union.
The deal looks to benefit both companies: credibility to Ripple and an earnings boost at MoneyGram.
How does it benefit you?
“Acceptance of Ripple,” Steve Orr, senior vice president at Benzinga crypto trading market and a board member for the American Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Association observed, “will grow faster than expected. Now you can go to an airport and send Ripple anywhere else in the world.”
“The acceptance rate is growing, probably exponentially – that’s why it’s a big deal.”
It certainly seems there’s gobs more chance Ripple’s XRP will swell your wallets than will Facebook’s Libra coin.