News Column

Aeroplan flying high after TD adds 'extraordinary' number of cardholders: Aimia

May 14, 2014

The Canadian Press



MONTREAL - Travel rewards company Aimia anticipates strong growth from its Aeroplan program in the years to come after TD Bank exceeded expectations by signing up 275,000 new credit card holders in the first three months of its partnership.

In a typical year, between 50,000 and 80,000 new cardholders are added, so achieving such a large increase in one quarter was "extraordinary," Aimia CEO Rupert Duchesne said Wednesday after the company's annual meeting.

The new TD (TSX:TD) Aeroplan cardholders are in addition to nearly 550,000 that were transferred from CIBC (TSX:CM) as part of a 10-year deal making TD Aeroplan's primary issuer of Visa credit cards. American Express also added 30 per cent more new cardholders, raising the total number of co-branded credit cards to 1.4 million.

If these new cardholders spend the same way as existing cardholders have historically, it would mean significant growth for Aeroplan, Duchesne said in an interview.

He says it could take six to nine months until Aimia knows whether spending patters will be different, but initial results suggest the pattern is continuing.

In addition to new customers, Aeroplan is receiving 15 per cent more for each mile purchased from the banks, which is being used to alter Aeroplan's program by reducing the number of miles needed to purchase flights.

Duchesne says the changes, which make Aeroplan more competitive with rival plans such as RBC Avion, helped to boost redemptions by 13 per cent last quarter.

Whereas 2013 was a year of uncertainty over its Canadian banking partner, he says 2014 will be one of stability and promoting the value of the new Aeroplan rewards system.

Montreal-based Aimia (TSX:AIM) is increasing its dividend almost six per cent despite swinging to a loss in the first quarter on revenue that was relatively flat year over year.

The company, which also operates or has stakes in other loyalty programs around the world, reported after markets closed Tuesday that it had a net loss of $16.3 million or 13 cents per share in the quarter.

That was a reversal of its results a year ago when it posted a first-quarter profit of $45.7 million or 22 cents per share.

Total revenue for the three months ended March 31 slumped slightly to $608.9 million from $609.5 million in the same 2013 period.

Despite the net loss, Aimia reported higher gross billings and an increase in adjusted earnings and said it was increasing its quarterly dividend a penny, or 5.9 per cent, to 18 cents per share "in line with annual policy."

Adjusted net earnings were 48 cents, up from 27 cents a year ago and well above analyst expectations of 34 cents, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, Aimia's shares were up 4.23 per cent or 78 cents to $19.21 in Wednesday afternoon trading.

Follow @RossMarowits on Twitter.


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Source: Canadian Press DataFile


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