August 3, 2018 / 4:30 PM / 3 months ago

Aimia stock soars 12 pct after rejecting Air Canada bid; strikes new deal

MONTREAL, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Aimia Inc’s stock surged nearly 12 percent on Friday after the Canadian company announced a new airline partnership and repeated its Thursday night demand for a higher offer from an Air Canada-led consortium that wants to buy its Aeroplan loyalty program.

Chief Executive Jeremy Rabe said on Friday he remains “committed to negotiating” with the Air Canada consortium and said C$450 million ($346.87 million) would be a “fair” price for the loyalty program.

Aimia on Thursday said it did not accept a July 25 bid of C$250 million ($192.7 million) cash and the assumption of approximately C$2 billion of Aeroplan points liability from Air Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and VISA Canada Corp.

Aimia said it also did not accept an updated bid from the consortium of C$325 million.

Air Canada could not immediately be reached for comment.

Air Canada spun off Aeroplan in 2002 to data analytics firm Aimia and has an agreement with the company until June 2020.

In May 2017, Air Canada said it would not renew the agreement with Aimia, sending the company’s stock plummeting around 60 percent in one day. Earlier this year, Air Canada said it would start its own loyalty program.

On Friday, Aimia said it had reached a partnership with Porter Airlines, a rival of Air Canada, to be the preferred Canadian airline to issue Aeroplan Miles on the carrier’s routes in July 2020.

Aimia has previously said it is holding talks with the Oneworld airline alliance, including American Airlines and Cathay Pacific. Air Canada is a member of Star Alliance which is a competitor of Oneworld.

“We’ve been in talks with Porter for some time now,” Rabe told analysts on Friday after the company reported quarterly earnings. “I think the announcement last week certainly accelerated the speed of those discussions.”

Rabe said Aimia was holding parallel chats with Oneworld.

“Those two were not linked.”

Rabe defended Aimia’s revised offer of C$450 million, following complaints he said he received from shareholders who argued that the amount was too low.

“We did go through a very thorough analysis,” he said. “We felt after determination with the board that was a fair number.” ($1 = 1.2975 Canadian dollars) (Reporting By Allison Lampert Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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