Aimia in Talks With Oneworld as Air Canada Deadline Looms

(Bloomberg) -- Aimia Inc. has entered talks with the Oneworld airline alliance as the operator of the Aeroplan frequent-flyer program bolsters its attempt to go it alone in the face of an unsolicited bid from Air Canada.

Aimia is in discussions with the alliance, whose members include American Airlines, British Airways and Cathay Pacific, about making it a “potential preferred airline partner for the Aeroplan program,” spokeswoman Tammy Smitham said in an email. The talks were first reported by the Globe and Mail.

Michael Blunt, a Oneworld spokesman, said in an email the alliance “has offered to explore ways of working with Aeroplan through a commercial partnership that would enable Aeroplan members to earn and redeem rewards on Oneworld member airlines’ flights from July 1, 2020.” He stressed the talks are at an early stage and there’s no certainty a deal will be concluded.

Thursday is the deadline for Aimia to respond to Air Canada’s proposal. The airline partnered with Toronto-Dominion Bank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Visa Inc. to offer C$250 million ($192 million) for Aimia’s Aeroplan rewards program, and to assume C$2 billion in liabilities in Aeroplan points. Air Canada, which spun off Aeroplan in 2005, is still one of its main customers but said last year that it would sever ties in 2020 and launch its own rewards plan.

‘Significant Risk’

Air Canada, which is a member of the rival Star Alliance, declined to comment Thursday.

Aimia’s shares tumbled 72 percent over the 14 months between Air Canada cutting ties and the announcement that the airline wants to re-acquire the loyalty program. The shares have rebounded 39 percent since then and were up 0.9 percent to C$3.50 at 11:10 a.m. Thursday in Toronto.

“While we fully expect Aimia to try to negotiate a more favorable price, as a smooth transition (back to AC) would benefit most parties, we see significant risk for Aimia in walking away from the table while retaining C$2 billion-plus in liabilities,” Industrial Alliance Securities analyst Neil Linsdell said in a note published Wednesday.

Before Air Canada’s offer, Aimia said it would introduce a points transfer program that would allow members to use their points on any major airline beginning in July 2020. It also said it would offer standalone charter flights on key routes.

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