Western Union said it's not in talks to acquire smaller rival MoneyGram International.

"In view of the high level of market activity in our stock today, Western Union states that current news reports indicating that our company is in discussions to acquire MoneyGram International Inc. are not accurate," the company said in a statement Wednesday.

MoneyGram surged as much as 41 percent Wednesday to $11 a share, before trimming those gains. Western Union's shares climbed 3.1 percent to $21.60 at 1:31 p.m. in New York after being halted for news.

Bloomberg reported Tuesday that Western Union is in early-stage talks to buy the company, as both contend with competition from upstart money-transfer companies.

Talks may still fall apart, said the people, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. One potential hurdle is whether antitrust regulators would block the deal, the people said. Winning approval would have been less feasible several years ago before new competitors fragmented the once heavily consolidated remittance industry, they said.

Western Union and MoneyGram -- the two dominant players in the remittance industry -- are facing price competition as companies including WorldRemit, TransferWise and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. give their customers new options for moving cash. MoneyGram reported a loss of $72 million in the first quarter, compared with a profit of $39 million in the year-earlier period.

In an acquisition Western Union would also have to take on about $960 million of MoneyGram's debt.

MoneyGram lost a key relationship with Wal-Mart in 2014 when the retailer decided to start its own money-transfer business. Dallas-based MoneyGram's market value dropped by half in the three years through Monday.

Though Western Union has fared better, its shares are still well off highs seen before the global financial crisis. The Englewood, Colorado-based company has a market value of about $11 billion.

Representatives for Western Union and MoneyGram declined to comment.

MoneyGram, controlled by Thomas H. Lee Partners LP and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., explored a sale in 2013, drawing bids from Euronet Worldwide Inc., Carlyle Group LP and TPG Capital, Bloomberg News reported at the time. The company was also the target of an unsolicited offer from Euronet in 2007.

Thomas H. Lee and Goldman Sachs bought MoneyGram in 2008 in a deal valued at $1.65 billion including debt, outbidding Euronet.

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