Aimia Inc. exists because of Aeroplan – which was spun off from Air Canada in 2005 as Groupe Aeroplan Inc., and renamed Aimia in 2011. Despite the company’s efforts over the years to expand beyond that frequent-flier program, today Aeroplan still represents the bulk of its business. Now, with a $450-million deal in place to sell the program to a consortium led by Air Canada, what becomes of Aimia?
Should the deal go through, Aimia will offload the driving force of its largest division. The Coalitions segment of the business, of which Aeroplan is the biggest part, accounted for $712.6-million, or 91 per cent of Aimia’s revenues, in the first half of this year. In the second quarter alone, Aeroplan represented 85 per cent of the company’s revenue.
Aimia, which was created within Air Canada in 1984, has scaled down its current structure compared to just a few years ago. In 2011, when it rebranded as Aimia, then-chief executive Rupert Duchesne said in a statement that the new name reflected the company’s global identity: "As competitors try to position themselves to take advantage of the burgeoning international market for loyalty management services, we are already well positioned as the established experts,” the statement said. “A single, explicit global brand clearly reaffirms this privileged position.”
By late 2015, Aimia was pulling back on its global expansion, shedding “non-core” businesses and vowing to refocus. It announced the closure of the Nectar loyalty program in Italy that year, and in 2017 it sold businesses in New Zealand and the United States. Earlier this year, it sold the U.K. Nectar business to British retail operator J Sainsbury PLC, which had been Aimia’s partner in the program, for $105-million; significantly less than the roughly $755-million Aimia paid for Nectar’s parent company in 2007.
Aside from Aeroplan, the Coalition segment also includes a 48.9-per-cent interest in PLM Premier S.A.P.I. de C.V. (which operates Mexico’s leading frequent-flier program, Club Premier, jointly owned and operated with Grupo Aeromexico S.A.B. de C.V.) and a 20-per-cent equity stake in Think Big Digital Sdn Bhd (which owns and operates the Big loyalty program for Philippines AirAsia Inc. and its parent company, Tune Group Sdn Bhd). In July, Aimia rejected a $180-million offer from Aeromexico to buy out its stake in PLM. This segment is also the only part of Aimia that made money in the first half of 2018, with $28.9-million in operating income.
The other major part of Aimia is its Insights & Loyalty Solutions segment, which provides loyalty services for other companies. It designs and implements loyalty programs for clients, provides strategy for those programs, conducts campaigns, and provides data analytics, among other services. This segment also includes the Air Miles Middle East program. It reported $69.3-million in revenue in the six months ended June 30, and an operating loss of $32.7-million, a loss that widened from $19.5-million in the same period the previous year.
“We continue to transition clients onto more platform-based solutions and we remain focused on reducing operating costs in this business to better align the cost base to the changing shape of the business,” Aeroplan spokesperson Christa Poole said in an e-mail when asked for context on the segment’s losses.
Finally, the "Other Businesses” segment includes a number of businesses that Aimia has sold recently. Remaining in this segment are a roughly 20-per-cent stake in Cardlytics Inc. and roughly 5 per cent in Fractal Analytics Inc. – both are marketing analytics companies.
As of the second quarter, Aimia had $329.8-million in long-term debt on its books; some of the proceeds from the sale of Aeroplan would likely be directed there. Once Aeroplan is gone, what would be the fate of the rest of the company?
On Aimia’s second-quarter earnings call earlier this month, chief executive Jeremy Rabe said that the company would have "a number of options” if a transaction with Air Canada occurred. In response to a question, he acknowledged that a wind-up of the company was one option.
"Should a definitive agreement be reached, we will articulate our plans for the remaining business and the assets we will retain,” Ms. Poole said in an e-mail. "In the meantime, the business continues to operate as normal.”