MoneyGram Buyout Falls Through -- Why?

The second-largest cash and check transfer company on the planet, MoneyGram (NASDAQ: MGI  ) , was recently set to be acquired by a consortium of private equity companies led by LBO specialists Carlyle Group  (NASDAQ: CG  ) . At the 13th hour, however, talks apparently broke down and the company has shifted its position to remaining an independent public company. The market reacted negatively, sending the stock down slightly more than 3%. The question now is: Should investors look closer at a company that was in the crosshairs of a investment firm known for getting in at or near the bottom?

A cash machine
Besides transferring money from party to party around the globe, MoneyGram itself is a cash-printing business. The company, worth a hair more than $1 billion on the market, did nearly $300 million in adjusted   EBITDA last year and nearly $180 million in levered free cash flow. Its debt load is manageable and demand, in the near term, should keep things healthy for the business and its stock.

MoneyGram management reportedly wanted a buyout price in the mid-$20s per share -- at least a 25% premium to its trading price before the fallout was announced. Over the past year, MoneyGram shares have traded up roughly 15%, and over a longer horizon, have handily outperformed both the S&P 500 and its main competitor, Western Union. So why try to sell the shop?

Pending change
Today, the money-transfer and cash-checking business is sound. It's a capital-light business with a solid profit margin and, obviously, heavy in the cash department.

Tomorrow, though, MoneyGram's business faces disruption from technologies that are here today and fully functioning, but have yet to take over the market. Consider Google Wallet, PayPal, and basically anyone with an Internet-enabled phone. All of these services can do or will soon do what MoneyGram does -- and at a steep discount to MoneyGram's service fee.

For the right price, a private equity company such as Carlyle could take the business private and make money on the free cash flow for years out -- earning a handsome return. Apparently, the price wasn't right.

For investors
While MoneyGram and Carlyle couldn't get the deal they wanted, it doesn't mean investors should jump ship. Recall that 2012 was a banner year for the company in terms of sales, and that it holds zero long-term debt. In the near and medium term, demand can stay high enough to keep cash flows attractive while the company continues to explore strategic options.

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