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General Category => Investment Ideas => Topic started by: txfan2424 on May 24, 2016, 06:57:12 PM

Title: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: txfan2424 on May 24, 2016, 06:57:12 PM
Has anyone spent time on this? 10% div yield; 12% FCF yield. Mexico JV is going public at rumored $1B valuation (AIM owns half and AIM's own EV is $1.5B).

Seems very cheap.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cardboard on May 24, 2016, 07:48:56 PM
Yes, and I would focus on the preferreds: more yield, similar upside, less risk.

Cardboard
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: sculpin on May 24, 2016, 09:19:58 PM
 
AIMIA | AIM-TSX | price C$8.23 | Outperform
Estimates revised.  Maintain C$15.00 target price.
Adj. EBITDA (mln):  2016E C$236 to C$234         2017E C$256 to C$255
Mkt Cap (mln): C$1,257                                       Net Debt (mln): C$733                         Yield: 9.1%
AIM: 1Q16 Results; Short on (British) Gas, Long on Dividend
Kenric S. Tyghe, MBA | RJL | 416.777.7188 | kenric.tyghe@raymondjames.ca
Summary:
♦         While the results were below consensus of $55.8 mln (on adjusted EBITDA of $50.6 mln), we expect investors to look through the miss (given its attribution).
♦         We believe that the 5% dividend increase is well supported given the performance of the Aeroplan program and our belief that fears around refinancing risks are at odds with realities of the FCF generation and balance sheet strength of AIMIA.
♦         The Aeroplan program's performance, specifically the financial card partner billings growth and strong engagement, were key positives in the quarter, in our view.
♦         Aeroplan's absolute (and relative) loyalty value proposition delta continues to widen, with a recent change to allow use of Aeroplan miles for taxes and fees.

AIMIA May 16, 2016
AIM-TSX Company Comment
Kenric S. Tyghe MBA | 416.777.7188 | kenric.tyghe@raymondjames.ca
Krisztina Katai (Associate) | 416.777.7060 | krisztina.katai@raymondjames.ca

Consumer & Retail
1Q16 Results; Short on (British) Gas, Long on Dividend

Recommendation

We reiterate our Outperform rating on AIMIA following 1Q16 results. While the
results were below consensus of $55.8 mln (on adjusted EBITDA of $50.6 mln), we
expect investors to look through the miss (given its attribution) and focus on the
5% dividend increase (and the implicit messaging of the increase). The Aeroplan
program’s performance was solid (given the comps and macro dynamic), for flat
loyalty unit revenues, with credit card partner billings increasing and very healthy
engagement (as highlighted by the burn ratio). The International segment was the
largest driver of the miss on a 7.6% decrease in gross billings, which was driven by
the Nectar Italia exit, the shift to bonus miles at Sainsbury’s (seasonal bonus
volatility) and regulatory changes impacting British Gas. The Sainsbury’s dynamic
was a $15 mln billings headwind with British Gas a further $10.0 mln (of the total
expected $30 mln 2016E impact) drag. In addition, AIMIA incurred $4.0 mln (of the
total expected $10 mln transition cost) relating to the HP outsourcing agreement in
1Q16. We believe that the 5% dividend increase is well supported given the
performance of the Aeroplan program and our belief that fears around refinancing
risks are at odds with realities of the FCF generation and balance sheet strength of
AIMIA. We are buyers at current levels.

Analysis

 The Aeroplan program’s performance, specifically the financial card partner
billings growth and strong engagement, were key positives in the quarter, in our
view. We have long been of the view that macro-driven concerns on credit card
billings growth are misplaced, which both industry and AIMIA results served to
reaffirm in quarter.

 Aeroplan’s absolute (and relative) loyalty value proposition delta continues to
widen, with a recent change to allow use of Aeroplan miles for taxes and fees. The
combination of markedly increased seat availability, access to front of the plane (and
line), and now using miles for surcharges is in our view particularly compelling.

 With the noise and (new) seasonality in the Nectar numbers, we believe that
investors should look through the 1Q16 miss (which was led by Nectar). The reality
is that not only was Nectar UK lapping the old base driven Sainsbury’s model (the
reset occurred in April 2015), but also accumulation was continuing in Nectar Italia.

Valuation

Our $15.00 target price is based on the average of a 12.0x multiple on our 2016E
adjusted EBITDA and an 8.0% FCF yield. Despite current market dynamics, our target
multiple is in-line with its loyalty and transaction processing peer group average of
12.0x, which we believe is warranted given AIMIA’s global loyalty positioning.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: SafetyinNumbers on May 25, 2016, 04:47:22 AM
Is there new speculation on IPO timing for Club Premier? The last I read was in 2015 for an IPO event in 2017.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: txfan2424 on May 25, 2016, 10:31:11 AM
Still a 2016/2017 expected event.

Preferreds are interesting but don't like that they're perpetual. If there were a way to compel management to refinance the prefs, it would make them very very interesting.

Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cardboard on May 25, 2016, 12:34:28 PM
If you want to gauge the interest of investing in the preferreds instead of the stock, just take a look at the preferreds of DC.A and CF. Once some uncertainty was lifted, they matched or outperformed the stock.

AIM preferreds are the last case of fixed rate reset preferreds and floating preferreds that have not rebounded following last Fall debacle and the secret of these things is out. I expect a very strong rebound even if the company's results remain stable as soon as something positive happens. They trade like the company is going bankrupt.

Actually, oil at $50 is already a big positive since a lot of the weakness in Aimia is due to fear related to Western Canada travel.

Cardboard
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Vanshon on May 28, 2016, 05:21:50 AM
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/inside-the-market/aimias-share-price-collapse-could-be-good-news-for-long-term-investors/article30193984/

Good article summarizing the current thoughts about Aimia.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: txfan2424 on May 31, 2016, 09:56:15 AM
Care to post the article? It is behind a pay wall.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: gokou3 on May 31, 2016, 08:04:49 PM
Have been following this for a while.  I guess one fundamental question is how competitive is the Aeroplan program?  I am shopping for a new credit card recently and discover that Elite" Mastercards from various issuers (BMO, MBNA, Capital One) offer 2% cash back on all purchases.  Capital One even offers a $400 welcome bonus.  The redemption process is very flexible too.

By comparison, the best Aeroplan card I found, from TD, pays 1.25 miles per $1 purchase.  Not sure if that translates to a 2% reward value for air tickets, but for gift rewards the value is closer to 1%.


Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: MrB on June 07, 2016, 10:05:03 AM
If you want to gauge the interest of investing in the preferreds instead of the stock, just take a look at the preferreds of DC.A and CF. Once some uncertainty was lifted, they matched or outperformed the stock.

AIM preferreds are the last case of fixed rate reset preferreds and floating preferreds that have not rebounded following last Fall debacle and the secret of these things is out. I expect a very strong rebound even if the company's results remain stable as soon as something positive happens. They trade like the company is going bankrupt.

Actually, oil at $50 is already a big positive since a lot of the weakness in Aimia is due to fear related to Western Canada travel.

Cardboard

CB, why do you think Burgundy is getting out?
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cardboard on June 07, 2016, 06:07:35 PM
They held 12.1% per the latest Management Circular. Where did you see that they were getting out? If so, maybe that they are switching to the preferreds? LOL

Looking at the chart, they must also be contemplating some heavy losses unless they bought most of their stake close to recent lows.

For their real reason to sell (is it trimming?) you would have to ask them.

Cardboard
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: MrB on June 08, 2016, 04:50:31 AM
See attached
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cardboard on June 08, 2016, 08:24:02 AM
Right, so they have not sold a share since March 14 or the date of the Management circular for the AGM. I have not seen any insider trade from them since then (for which they would qualify being above 10%).

12.1% of outstanding is still a heck of vote of confidence IMO.

Cardboard
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Nelson on June 10, 2016, 02:28:10 PM
I bought the Series 3 (AIM.PR.C) prefs today at $14. Locked in 11.2% until the reset in 2019.

This reminds me a heck of a lot like the Dundee and Canaccord pref situations over the last few months. There's no way I should be getting 11% on an Aimia pref. The company generates plenty of free cash flow and has cash in the bank. Management has also been smart to really buy back shares when they've been low. Sure, they got in a little too early, but we've all made that mistake before.

Aimia reminds me a lot of the insurance business. Miles that have been bought but haven't yet been redeemed are a lot like insurance float. The bigger Aimia gets the bigger this float will become. I like float. I really like float plus a stock that trades at between 6 and 7 times forward free cash flow.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cardboard on June 10, 2016, 03:42:53 PM
I own some "C"s as well but, the "B"s is my larger position. The current distribution, plus the gap to catch to the "A"s into which they are convertible in 2020 gives them roughly a 12% overall yield.

Their current yield is 10.3% which is enormous for a floater. You still give up a bit of current income vs the "C"s but, you also have larger upside to reach par if some sort of corporate transaction occurs.

Cardboard
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: SafetyinNumbers on June 10, 2016, 06:50:56 PM
The B's are definitely the better value and as Cardboard said you have more capital gains upside, not only from a corporate transaction, but also when the C's reset and the dividend amount between the two classes tightens. I also prefer capital gains to dividend income.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on July 07, 2016, 03:00:18 PM
So apparently Aimia's current deal (CPSA) with Air Canada grants them access to 8% of AC's seats at a special discounted rate.  Anybody have an idea how big this discount is?  I'm trying to figure out what Aimia's cash flows will look like under a renegotiated deal when the current one expires mid-2020.  New terms won't be as good - question is how much worse.

Has anyone ever seen the current CPSA?  I can't find it anywhere.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cardboard on July 07, 2016, 04:51:20 PM
I have not seen it. I assume it is confidential or if disclosed, must be under the headline Material Contract on Sedar whenever it was signed.

While there is a risk that this might get negotiated negatively for Aimia, I do believe that the risk of a major cut is small as Aeroplan is a key partner for Air Canada that effectively cannot be replaced.

However, why bothering with the stock when you can buy AIM.PR.B below $10 right now?

Just look at the total amount paid in dividends to the common vs all dividends paid to the 3 series of preferreds. Then think of the fact that you are ahead of them in the capital structure. The risk for dividends to not be paid on the preferreds is very small IMO and would require a massive breakdown in the business which Brexit and this new deal cannot do.

Cardboard
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: sculpin on July 08, 2016, 07:28:43 AM
So apparently Aimia's current deal (CPSA) with Air Canada grants them access to 8% of AC's seats at a special discounted rate.  Anybody have an idea how big this discount is?  I'm trying to figure out what Aimia's cash flows will look like under a renegotiated deal when the current one expires mid-2020.  New terms won't be as good - question is how much worse.

Has anyone ever seen the current CPSA?  I can't find it anywhere.

This is from an Oct 15 report from Industrial Alliance:

Air Canada Partnership is a Key and Secured Driver to Aimia’s
Success

Event

The Commercial Participation and Services Agreement (“CPSA”) between Aimia
and Air Canada (AC-T, Not Rated) is up for renewal on June 29, 2020. We
examine the relationship between the two organizations and explain why we
remain convinced in the ongoing mutual benefit.

Highlights

 Aeroplan and Air Canada make a good team – Air Canada, with its Star
Alliance partners, is Aeroplan’s largest Redemption Partner. Conversely,
Aeroplan is Air Canada’s largest single customer. The partnership makes Air
Canada more competitive through attractive pricing which helps increase
the airline’s market share in a challenging leisure travel market. In 2014,
~71% of all rewards claimed by Aeroplan members were for air travel.

 Air Canada is a net beneficiary of payments – While Air Canada provides
approximately $250M per year to Aimia to purchase Aeroplan Miles to
reward its frequent fliers, Aeroplan purchases tickets on Air Canada flights
worth approximately $540M per year.

 Aimia will benefit as Air Canada grows Rouge – The expansion of Rouge
will only further contribute to Gross Billings, especially since Air Canada has
shifted Rouge’s fixed Miles allocation to the percentage format used by the
rest of Air Canada.

 The 2020 CPSA renewal will likely result in a $ based reward vs. distance
– As we see occurring in other airline loyalty programs, we would expect to
see Air Canada modify its reward system to base Aeroplan Miles issued on
the price paid per ticket rather than distance flown.

Summary

Some investors have expressed concern over the approaching June 29, 2020 renewal date between Aimia and Air Canada
(“AC”) of their Commercial Participation and Services Agreement (“CPSA”). For AC, Aeroplan has only grown in importance
since being spun-out from the carrier, and is the single largest purchaser of seats on AC flights. While AC pays approximately
$250M to Aeroplan each year for Miles to reward fliers, Aeroplan pays out approximately $540M per year for travel rewards
on AC flights. Approximately 71% of all rewards claimed by Aeroplan members in 2014 were used for air travel. Thus, we see
renewal of the CPSA as a certainty although we do foresee that the negotiation will provide the opportunity for Air Canada to
the way it awards Aeroplan Miles to be based on the value of the tickets that members purchased rather than on the distance
flown.

Overview of Aeroplan Program

On January 1, 2002, Aeroplan, an incentive program created by Air Canada in 1984, was spun-out as a wholly-owned limited
partnership of Air Canada, Canada’s largest domestic and international full-service airline. Aeroplan went public in 2005.
Aeroplan now acts as Air Canada’s exclusive loyalty marketing provider in Canada and earns service fees for managing the
airline’s tier membership program in addition to booking, service and administrative fees from members who redeem their
Aeroplan Miles when flying Air Canada, Air Canada Express and Air Canada Rouge, or with Star Alliance members and small
regional airlines. In return, Air Canada earns a stable and recurring revenue stream. Aeroplan extends to retail as well,
consisting of many partners across Canada. In H1/15, over 45% of Gross Billings from its sale of Loyalty Units stemmed from
deals with the Company’s three financial/credit card partners (TD, CIBC, AMEX), while Sainsbury’s represented 21% and Air
Canada 14%. More importantly, in 2014, ~71% of all rewards claimed by Aeroplan members were for air travel.

On January 1, 2014, Aimia introduced several new initiatives meant to improve Aeroplan’s operations and increase
membership, even if breakage and short-term profitability weaken. First, the new Distinction program awards top
accumulating members with preferential mileage levels for redemption, bonus mile offers and exclusive privileges. Moreover,
Distinction members, who achieve different levels based on the number of miles earned, are 2.5x more likely to visit Aeroplan
stores and 85% hold Aeroplan-affiliated credit cards. Secondly, the new Market Fare Flight Rewards (“MFFR”) replaced
ClassicPlus Flight Rewards, allowing members to redeem awards with 20% fewer miles for any seat on any Air Canada flight
based on a market rate. As a result, as more seats become available because of fleet and route expansion, more points will be
accumulated, which should benefit Aimia. Finally, in order to improve engagement, Aeroplan canceled the seven-year mileage
redemption policy so that Miles no longer expire after seven years if a member has at least one accumulation or redemption
activity every 12 months. Thus, while this strategy may weaken the Company’s profitability, higher engagement should help
lower Breakage, which is a gauge of active participation by members.

Overall, these changes are amongst some of the initiatives that Aimia is taking in order to handle complaints that Aimia’s
points are difficult and expensive to redeem, that the number of available seats to choose from are limited (MFFRs extend to
100% of available seats).

Air Canada and Aeroplan Depend on Each Other

Air Canada, with its Star Alliance partners, is Aeroplan’s largest Redemption Partner. Conversely, Aeroplan is Air Canada’s
single largest customer. Aeroplan helps Air Canada be more competitive through attractive pricing, which helps increase the
airline’s market share in challenging leisure travel markets. Aeroplan’s partnership with Air Canada is further enhanced by its
ancillary relationship with car rental companies and hotels, which allow members to accumulate Aeroplan Miles and use them
towards airline ticket rewards.

In order to participate in the Aeroplan Program, Air Canada pays a fee which is based on Aeroplan Miles awarded to Air
Canada customers who travel on AC flights as part of Aimia’s Gross Billings. Aeroplan must annually purchase a minimum
number of reward travel seats on AC flights, or 85% of the average number of seats utilized in the three preceding calendar
years (currently ~$460.5M based on the previous three years). The CPSA prevents any other transportation business that
competes with Air Canada or Star Alliance members from participating in the Aeroplan Program. In 2014, Air Canada
purchased $248M Aeroplan Miles and the estimated minimum requirement in 2015 (based on an average from the past three
years) is $212M.

Success of Air Canada’s Turnaround

Over the past two years, CEO Calin Rovinescu has successfully turned around a once near-penny-stock airline faced with
significant labour issues, high expenses, unhealthy debt levels and poor pension plan funding. Its new budget segment, carrier
Air Canada Rouge, has provided improved core results and record load factors. Although the addition of more economy-class
seats through Rouge and the new high-density aircraft has brought about lower yields (the average fare paid per mile flown),
the cost per available seat mile is declining faster than yields, resulting in higher profitability. Air Canada is looking to expand
internationally through Rouge, whose cost per available seat mile is said to be 29% lower than Air Canada’s mainline fleet and
whose labour costs make up a much smaller percentage on long-range flights than domestic ones.

The interest for air travel from Aeroplan members has resulted in significant demand for Air Canada tickets. Air Canada
continues to be an important contributor to Gross Billings, even as Aeroplan’s expansion into new business segments (such as
the yet to be detailed partnership with Toyota) has reduced its contribution, highlighted by the gradual share decline in
Exhibit 1.

One of the benefits of using Aeroplan is that Air Canada can entice members towards routes that it wants to increase its load
factor on, by offering bonus Miles, but also by offering more reward seat availability on certain routes at certain times to
entice members to cash in Miles and further fill planes. We expect that the additional aircraft being added for the expansion
of Air Canada Rouge will result in Air Canada leveraging this tool.

Air Canada Enticing More Members to use Rouge – Showing the Value that it Places on Aeroplan
Initially, Air Canada significantly reduced the number of Aeroplan Miles that it provided members for booking through Tango
and on Rouge flights with its launch in 2012. By November 2013 (see Exhibit 2) Air Canada Rouge fliers started earning Miles
comparable to the mainline carrier. With Rouge, Air Canada was looking to increase its business to leisure destinations in
Europe and the Caribbean with lower prices, more seats per plane, and lower costs. Contributing to the lower costs was a
reduction in the number of Aeroplan Miles that members earned for flights because Miles earned were based on a fixed rate.
Air Canada now seems to have re-evaluated the importance of Aeroplan Miles in customer decision making and in rewarding
loyalty and has significantly increased rewards on Rouge flights to match rewards on the main carrier. This further
demonstrates the importance and value of Aeroplan Miles to Air Canada.

Our Forecast for a Change in Aeroplan Miles Reward Structure (from Air Canada only)

Air Canada and Aeroplan have modified earnings and redemption grids several times to optimize the program. We expect that
with the CPSA renewal in 2020, the partners will move more to a dollar-based earning model to more closely align Air
Canada’s marketing spend with revenue generation. We have seen other airlines following the same track, such as WestJet’s
reward program issuing WestJet dollars, and Delta’s use of both base SkyMiles on flights combined with Medallion Qualifying
Dollars to track member spending on Delta flights.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: kab60 on July 08, 2016, 10:46:55 AM
I think this Company looks very interesting - espescially since Tor Lønnum joined. Check out the returns at Danish Tryg since he joine. Also like his comment on the recent CC. Anyway, I need to understand the business better. Anyone have a primer on the industry? And some good public comps?
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Sunrider on July 08, 2016, 02:18:12 PM
Could someone kindly point me to the prospectuses for the series 1 - 3 prefs? Google and the aimia website's search function are letting me down.

Thank you
C
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: nodnub on July 08, 2016, 03:52:24 PM
Could someone kindly point me to the prospectuses for the series 1 - 3 prefs? Google and the aimia website's search function are letting me down.

Thank you
C

try this: 
https://www.preferredstockchannel.com/symbol/aim.pra.ca/
Link to PDF Prospectus in middle of page.

Don't see the other series on that site.  But they should all be on SEDAR under issuer name of Groupe Aeroplan or AIMIA or something.

Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Sunrider on July 09, 2016, 01:35:41 AM
Thank you - I had found that but the site now wants me to register. I've not been able to find the other ones.

SEDAR is just a disgrace.

C.
Could someone kindly point me to the prospectuses for the series 1 - 3 prefs? Google and the aimia website's search function are letting me down.

Thank you
C

try this: 
https://www.preferredstockchannel.com/symbol/aim.pra.ca/
Link to PDF Prospectus in middle of page.

Don't see the other series on that site.  But they should all be on SEDAR under issuer name of Groupe Aeroplan or AIMIA or something.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on July 12, 2016, 06:30:05 AM
kab60-  the only pure-play comps I know of are Multiplus and Smiles in Brazil.  But ADS has a loyalty division in which they manage an air miles program called LoyaltyOne.  ADS is a big company so maybe there is some decent disclosure.

Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on July 12, 2016, 08:35:30 AM
I used to know this quite well and I also know Multiplus and Smiles.   I tend to think it is a fairly good business especially when card penetration is growing.   However it is very dependent on the details of the contract with the airline, so my two questions would be:

1) why don't customers prefer cashback cards?

2) how do we get confidence that the Air Canada agreement will stay favourable (renegotiated in 2020 I believe).

The sweet spot for these companies is when individual flyers get points for business flights (i.e., that they didn't pay for) that can be redeemed in ways that boost the airline's load factor (i.e. the airline generates loyalty at no additional cost).
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: fisch777 on July 12, 2016, 04:24:50 PM
As is often the case, when they built the elaborate new downtown HQ with renowned art in the lobby, time to sell.

Management is sub-par at best here.  No rhyme or reason when we talked to them.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on July 13, 2016, 01:02:50 AM
Management is sub-par at best here.  No rhyme or reason when we talked to them.

Agreed.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on July 13, 2016, 09:24:40 AM
As is often the case, when they built the elaborate new downtown HQ with renowned art in the lobby, time to sell.

Management is sub-par at best here.  No rhyme or reason when we talked to them.

I am not sure I agree.  They are operating in a very competitive industry with low barriers to entry.  And yet they have managed to pay 8% of sales out to shareholders as buybacks and a dividend that is increased annually, over the last 5 years.  They have shifted a platform from one wholly dependent on one airline to multiple platforms.  That said, more could be done to diversify away from Air Canada.  Its not a good place to be, if something bad happens with the relationship. 
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on July 14, 2016, 01:13:27 AM
As is often the case, when they built the elaborate new downtown HQ with renowned art in the lobby, time to sell.

Management is sub-par at best here.  No rhyme or reason when we talked to them.

I am not sure I agree.  They are operating in a very competitive industry with low barriers to entry.  And yet they have managed to pay 8% of sales out to shareholders as buybacks and a dividend that is increased annually, over the last 5 years.  They have shifted a platform from one wholly dependent on one airline to multiple platforms.  That said, more could be done to diversify away from Air Canada.  Its not a good place to be, if something bad happens with the relationship.

Can you elaborate on the competition?   I've never been quite able to make my mind up about this.   Part of me thinks that while there is a lot of competition in airlines and credit cards, once you have your relationships with those two, running a rewards business should be as easy as falling over a log.   Who do you view Aeroplan (mainly) as being in competition with?   
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on July 14, 2016, 06:14:35 AM
As is often the case, when they built the elaborate new downtown HQ with renowned art in the lobby, time to sell.

Management is sub-par at best here.  No rhyme or reason when we talked to them.

I am not sure I agree.  They are operating in a very competitive industry with low barriers to entry.  And yet they have managed to pay 8% of sales out to shareholders as buybacks and a dividend that is increased annually, over the last 5 years.  They have shifted a platform from one wholly dependent on one airline to multiple platforms.  That said, more could be done to diversify away from Air Canada.  Its not a good place to be, if something bad happens with the relationship.

Can you elaborate on the competition?   I've never been quite able to make my mind up about this.   Part of me thinks that while there is a lot of competition in airlines and credit cards, once you have your relationships with those two, running a rewards business should be as easy as falling over a log.   Who do you view Aeroplan (mainly) as being in competition with?

I think you sort of covered it: Airmiles, Credit card rewards programs.  The reason they are able to generate free cash flow is from the built in spread in the existing relationships.  It is similar to a utility such as enbridge.

The problem with utilities, and the aimia businesses, is that in order to expand they have to do so by acquisition.  Every other similar reward slot in the world is already taken by incumbents.  I wasn't very clear in terms of the low barriers to entry remark.  The barriers to entry WERE low when all these programs were started.  They are now very high and cannot be easily transferred across platforms.

Its a strange spot to be in.  On one hand it is quite profitable.  On the other hand you are beholden to a potentially fickle partner.  To grow at all you have to issue equity or debt in a significant enough amount to buy a large established platform elsewhere. 

I am not sure I would buy the common stock in this company - the upside is limited.  The prefs are nice though.  I own a 5-6% position in the a's .   They may always trade down, but in this yield starved world their reliability may get recognized.  All that being said, if the relationship with AC soured even the prefs would be worthless. 

However, I think that the worry about the contract renewal is all for naught.  In order to start its own rewards program or go with some other established program Air Can. would need  to compensate existing Aeroplan points members.  If AC didn't buyout aeroplan then they would alienate a big portion of their customers who would see it as a ripoff.  I dont know about you but I hate being ripped off, and really only tolerate it from my phone company (which I hold stock in).  So, the contract gets signed before 2020, the status quo persists and Rupert keeps his job managing a stranded asset, and attempting periodic acqusitions when opportunities arise. 

The final irony and a credit to Aimia management is that they hold the most consistently profitable piece of the Air Canada franchise. 

Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on July 14, 2016, 08:31:52 AM
Uccmal,

I agree with you on barriers to entry.   I don't agree on the contract risk: the risk isn't that AC goes elsewhere, it's that the new contract has lower margins.   It's been interesting watching Multiplus and Smiles renegotiate with their parent airlines.   So far it's always been possible to find a win-win solution and hopefully that's possible here.   But, managing the spread at these businesses is actually pretty complex - they are a bit of a black box in that regard - and the contract details are key.

I need to do some digging on the prefs - haven't invested in prefs before so a lot to wrap my head around.

P

Edit - I realise that AC's inability to go elsewhere strengthens Aimia's hand; but since Aimia is just as dependent on AC, I still see risk that the balance of profitability could be tilted in AC's favour.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on July 14, 2016, 10:38:09 AM
Uccmal,

I agree with you on barriers to entry.   I don't agree on the contract risk: the risk isn't that AC goes elsewhere, it's that the new contract has lower margins.   It's been interesting watching Multiplus and Smiles renegotiate with their parent airlines.   So far it's always been possible to find a win-win solution and hopefully that's possible here.   But, managing the spread at these businesses is actually pretty complex - they are a bit of a black box in that regard - and the contract details are key.

I need to do some digging on the prefs - haven't invested in prefs before so a lot to wrap my head around.

P

Edit - I realise that AC's inability to go elsewhere strengthens Aimia's hand; but since Aimia is just as dependent on AC, I still see risk that the balance of profitability could be tilted in AC's favour.

From ACs perspective it looks like a honey pot, no doubt.  I guess thats why Aimia is trading down, and may always trade at a discount.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on July 15, 2016, 10:29:40 AM
Just digging into the prefs.   It strikes me that an advantage of convertibility to Series 2 (where the rate is set off the 3-month T-bill) is that you are fully inflation protected *and* protected against NIRP because the 3-month is highly unlikely to trade materially below zero.   Does that make sense?

Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: intothebreach on July 15, 2016, 10:42:58 AM
petec,

If you are digging into any Canadian pref shares, it is really worth checking the following thread where fellow board members sculpin, SafetyInNumbers and Carboard (among others) have made extremely useful contributions (thanks to all by the way!):

http://www.cornerofberkshireandfairfax.ca/forum/general-discussion/dumbdee-the-goodmans-the-bad-the-ugly-30-of-nav-bargain/msg269602/#msg269602
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on July 15, 2016, 10:58:25 AM
Thanks!
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: bbarberayr on July 16, 2016, 05:51:22 PM
Uccmal,

I agree with you on barriers to entry.   I don't agree on the contract risk: the risk isn't that AC goes elsewhere, it's that the new contract has lower margins.   It's been interesting watching Multiplus and Smiles renegotiate with their parent airlines.   So far it's always been possible to find a win-win solution and hopefully that's possible here.   But, managing the spread at these businesses is actually pretty complex - they are a bit of a black box in that regard - and the contract details are key.

I need to do some digging on the prefs - haven't invested in prefs before so a lot to wrap my head around.

P

Edit - I realise that AC's inability to go elsewhere strengthens Aimia's hand; but since Aimia is just as dependent on AC, I still see risk that the balance of profitability could be tilted in AC's favour.

From ACs perspective it looks like a honey pot, no doubt.  I guess thats why Aimia is trading down, and may always trade at a discount.

They sure weren't at a discount when then were at $19!
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: bbarberayr on July 16, 2016, 06:00:27 PM
I think Air Canada has realized that the Aimia business practices have hurt the Air Canada brand and are not willing to give a lot to support Aimia.  Just google "aeroplan crappy" and read some of the web sites.  Reality is Aimia management made a bunch of money by goosing profits a number of years ago by "burning" customer air miles by doing things like adding fees and fuel surcharges (and not removing when fuel came down), making it hard to book flights, sending out 1 email in the midst of many promotional ones warning about expiring miles, and then taking them away with no recourse, etc.  Worked for a few years when there were a lot of customers with many air miles, not so much any more.

Now when you buy an Air Canada ticket, the cheapest fares only get 25% of Aeroplan Miles, so you can see how Air Canada has de-emphasized miles already.

So Air Canada probably seeing a lot less value in Aeroplan (as do Aeroplan's customers), so Air Canada not willing to pay up.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on July 17, 2016, 08:49:31 AM
I think what you're saying was true in the years leading up to 2013, but starting in January 2014 aimia revamped aeroplan to make it easier for members to get the flights they want.  You can see it in their margins, which compressed significantly that year (and last year as well).  Also, they did away with the 7-year expiration policy back in 2013

Aeroplan margins will likely compress again in 2020 when the current CPSA expires, simply because the current contract was crafted under extraordinary circumstances (air canada was in distress and wanted to IPO aeroplan to raise cash).  Obviously those circumstances no longer exist. 
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: txfan2424 on July 19, 2016, 09:43:29 AM
- Competitive position is erroding. Part of the value of a shared currency loyalty program is having a number of large retailers / partners signed up. AIM has lost a few partners (grocery) which is a worrying sign. Why would partners leave if things were going well?
- Canada has more credit cards per capita than any other country in the world (I think) so this is an incredibly competitive business. Large scale retailers should be trying to monetize their brand / size as much as possible. I think pricing pressure continues. AIM margins are already less than half vs five years ago. If it halves again, they might have trouble covering their fixed obligations (interest + pref div). I think they'll have to sell assets to repay debt
- Only competitive advantage is Air Canada contract and with large program participants leaving, it isn't clear that Air Canada can't leave also. So, we have a binary event coming in the next few years

This is a pass for me. A few ways the prefs work (asset sales, buyout, etc.) but all are dice rolls.



Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on July 19, 2016, 09:58:57 AM
I've still got a lot of work to do on this one but my initial take isn't so negative.

- Coalitions don't work for every partner.   Seeing some leave is an issue, but not necessarily a fatal one.   The benefits are very different to each partner, for a start.
- If Canada has more cards per capita, credit cards are very competitive.   But Aimia doesn't issue cards.   It provides the issuer with a competitive edge: free flights on Air Canada.
- Air Canada needs a loyalty programme.   Setting up an entirely new one is a major project.   They have an incentive to stay.   The question is, on what terms?

I reserve the right to change my mind as I read more ;)

Pete
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on October 01, 2016, 10:26:49 AM
Any U.S. citizens here?  I just got my preferred dividends and it looks like I got hit with a 25% withholding tax ... don't the U.S. & Canada have a tax treaty that reduces the rate to 15%?

thanks
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: scorpioncapital on October 01, 2016, 11:26:53 AM
Might be useful - http://topforeignstocks.com/2015/10/17/an-update-on-canadian-reduced-tax-withholding-rate-for-us-investors/

Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on November 10, 2016, 04:33:14 AM
Is anyone still following this? 

They just released earnings this week, and announced an early buy in of their Series 3 prefs. 

I hold a middling position in the .series 1 prefs (Aim.pr.a) which is up about 20% from my buy in. 

I am looking at a small position in the common but need some outside input while I try to figure out the financial position. 
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cardboard on November 10, 2016, 06:08:47 AM
I still hold the "B"s and much less "C"s.

You should actually switch the "A"s for "B"s: slightly higher yield right now + since they are exchangeable for each other in 2020 on a 1 for 1 basis, you get some additional capital appreciation built in. You also participate immediately on any interest rate increase with the floaters.

By the way, it is not preferreds that they are redeeming but, a note (debt) that is due in 2017. It is still a Serie 3 note which may be confusing.

Regarding the stock, I would not touch it. Not when you can get into the "B"s still at these prices. You only get 1% more yield with the stock and similar capital appreciation upside. If things go sour, they will stop buybacks, then cut the dividend on the stock. The expenditure for stock dividends is much larger than for all preferreds combined. So there is quite a bit of protection with the preferreds IMO against business deterioration or like a worst than expected contract renewal with Air Canada due in 2020.

If confidence returns to this name, I would expect a big move up in the prefs. The stock will likely move as well but, fixed income instruments tend to react very quickly to any stabilization in a business. At that point, it will be time to look at the stock and see if the upside justifies an investment.

Cardboard
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on November 10, 2016, 06:33:25 AM
Thanks Cardboard,  I just did a quick cursory review of the balance sheet, and income.  Wish I had a memory like Buffett, then I wouldn't need to look at these two three times or more. 

I agree with you on the common stock.  I dont like the way they present the earnings.  There is too much non-GAAP metrics in there for my tastes.  Thanks for the clarfication on the bonds versus the preferreds.  And thanks for the tips on the preferred variances. 

I will have a serious look at switching if I can get any. 

Confidence would return alot faster if they stop raising the dividend and showed they can collect the cash, rather than issuing more debt.  Just my opinion. 

Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on November 10, 2016, 07:14:05 AM
I also own prefs.   My view after doing quite a bit of work is that there is an extremely high likelihood that the prefs are money good unless (and possibly even if) the Air Canada renegotiation is a complete catastrophe which I do not expect.   However, I haven't been able to get enough info to get comfortable with the common, so I totally agree with you both.

The prefs strike me as an incredible security:
- 9% yield, roughly.
- double upside to rising rates, given that the dividend is computed as a % of par and you're paying half that.
- very limited downside even in a seriously bad scenario for the company.
- moving up the capital structure as they pay down debt.

The major risk is that inflation rises and rates don't, but even then, you're still getting your 9%, which is ahead of what stock markets produce in the very long run.

My other risk as a UK investor is currency, but I tend to think that comes out in the wash over time, and I intend to hold these for a very long time.

P
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on November 10, 2016, 07:35:04 AM
by the way, there's a writeup pitching a long position in these preferreds on valueinvestorsclub.com   it was posted on oct 6th, so even if you're not a member you'll still be able to read it soon (if you sign up with your email you can read ideas on a 45 day delay).

plus, the author sounds like an absolute genius  ;)
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on November 10, 2016, 07:43:21 AM
I also own prefs.   My view after doing quite a bit of work is that there is an extremely high likelihood that the prefs are money good unless (and possibly even if) the Air Canada renegotiation is a complete catastrophe which I do not expect.   However, I haven't been able to get enough info to get comfortable with the common, so I totally agree with you both.

The prefs strike me as an incredible security:
- 9% yield, roughly.
- double upside to rising rates, given that the dividend is computed as a % of par and you're paying half that.
- very limited downside even in a seriously bad scenario for the company.
- moving up the capital structure as they pay down debt.

The major risk is that inflation rises and rates don't, but even then, you're still getting your 9%, which is ahead of what stock markets produce in the very long run.

My other risk as a UK investor is currency, but I tend to think that comes out in the wash over time, and I intend to hold these for a very long time.

P

Your in the UK.  I have wrestled for years over currency implications between Canada and the US.  I came to the conclusion that over time it is a wash.  I do however move currency between my US and Canadian accounts, more in response to where the values are rather than trying to trade the actual currency.  Three years ago I held almost no Canadian stocks, now I hold almost no US stocks.  Coincidentally, when Cdn. stocks go on sale the dollar is also way down.  Anyway this is off piste - sorry. 
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: sculpin on November 22, 2016, 07:29:49 AM
Good write-up on AIM prefs by MPK391 at VIC. Aval now to those who have partial mbrship (anyone can access this) as the below copy & paste does not include the charts....


AIMIA INC AIM.PR.B

October 06, 2016 by mpk391
2016   2017
Price:      11.14      EPS      0   0
Shares Out. (in M):      3      P/E      0   0
Market Cap (in M):      165      P/FCF      0   0
Net Debt (in M):      0      EBIT      0   0
TEV:      0      TEV/EBIT      0   0
Submit an idea for full membership consideration and get access to the latest member ideas.
 
Description / Catalyst
Messages (2)
Description

Worst case scenario, this is a ~10% yield that should be covered nearly 4X over.  There’s a double discount here: Canadian preferred shares have been dumped en masse, and investors are overly concerned about the renewal of Aimia’s contract with Air Canada in mid-2020.   So you get paid handsomely to wait for these shares to once again trade near par - roughly a double from here.  There’s a good chance the contract gets renewed early -  perhaps in the next year or so – which would be a great catalyst.
 

(all amounts in C$ unless noted)
 


 

A word on liquidity: the series 1-3 preferred shares together have $165M in market value and trade about $150K per day.  I own the Series 2 exclusively, since it has the widest discount to par and it pays a floating interest rate (and since I had to enter a share price, shares out, and symbol, I entered the Series 2 data.  But they’re all cheap.  If I were more constrained by liquidity, I’d be happy owning all three.
 
 

Rate reset preferreds such as Aimia’s Series 1 & 3 began appearing in 2008, when interest rates were falling and everyone thought they’d rebound sooner rather than later.  Sold largely to yield-seeking retail investors, they now account for ~60% of the almost $67B Canadian preferred share market.  Floating rate preferreds – such as Aimia’s Series 2 – aren’t as common, but obviously offered another way to play this seemingly-inevitable rebound.  And of course, rates went on to sink even lower, especially around early 2015 when the retail investors started throwing in the towel.   This probably explains the initial swan-dive in the Series 1-3.
 
But it’s company-specific fear that probably explains why there’s been hardly any rebound.  The market is worried about what happens to Aimia when its contract with Air Canada (AC) expires in mid-2020.  Aimia grew out of Aeroplan – originally AC’s frequent flyer program – which was spun off from AC in 2005.  Today, Aeroplan is a full-blown loyalty “coalition” – in which lots of consumer-focused companies buy points (fka “miles”) to reward their customers.  Last year, just over 20% of points were purchased by AC to reward their frequent fliers.  70% were purchased by credit card issuers (CIBC, TD Bank, and Amex), and other ~10% by a hodgepodge of supermarkets, gas stations, etc.  But AC still remains hugely important to Aeroplan, since when these customers redeem their points, they spend 80% of them on airfare.  AC, along with its low-cost carrier Rouge, provides perhaps 86% of that 80%, while the other Star Alliance airlines provide the rest.
 
It might seem strange that anyone is freaking out about a contract that doesn’t run out for another 3.7 years, particularly when there’s never been any friction (in public, anyway) between the two sides.  And it is strange.  But it’s not totally crazy.  The CEO of AC has been flagging the upcoming renegotiation as a source of future cost savings[1].  The original contract was signed under some fairly unusual circumstances.   BMO’s analyst – perhaps the most bearish guy on Aimia – has gone so far as to say that “there is longer-term existential uncertainty around the Air Canada contract expiry in 2020.”
 
If you really think the contract won’t be renewed, this idea just isn’t for you.  Aimia might survive such an event,[2] but it’s hard to say how the cash flows would change.  At best you’d be in for a white-knuckle ride.
 
But it’s extremely unlikely that AC and Aeroplan part ways.  Yes, the new terms won’t be as good (but they’ll be good enough).  To understand why, one needs to know some history.  The current contract was probably not the product of an arms-length negotiation.  I doubt there was a negotiation at all.   Instead, this was the result of why I’d call “valuation-multiple arbitrage.”  Cerberus – which came to control ACE Aviation Holdings[3] through its 2003 bankruptcy - was looking for ways to pay down some debt at ACE and maximize the value of ACE equity.  To do so, they carved out some of AC’s higher quality income streams, including its frequent flyer program[4].  Thus, AC agreed to set aside 8% of its capacity for sale to Aeroplan at cost[5].  These flights were dubbed “ClassicFares” and in the early years they represented nearly all the flight rewards that Aeroplan offered.
 

It’s all about ClassicFares…
 
In addition to Aeroplan, Aimia today has lots of other loyalty-marketing operations around the globe.   But these cats & dogs basically just about offset corporate overhead, and thus Aeroplan remains the key to the fate of these preferreds.
 
So we need to estimate much a renewal could ding Aeroplan’s roughly $200M of annual free cash flow.   Let’s try to get a sense for how much room there is to renegotiate..  Looking at AC’s financials, it seems likely that variable costs are at least 75% of revenues.  See for yourself:
 
https://1drv.ms/x/s!Aqrw-OOY6WUhgP5PphXArKZqyAApwA
 
The exact amount looks a bit more like 80% to me, but to avoid quibbling and to be conservative let’s use 75% instead.
 
So if Aeroplan buys ClassicFares at cost, and cost is at least 75% of market prices, then we know that Aeroplan’s cost for ClassicFares is probably not more than 25% under-market[6][7].  Since the worst that AC would demand under a new contract is full market prices, the maximum increase over current prices would be 33% (=100%/75%-1).
 
We can also estimate how much Aeroplan is currently paying.  Consolidated “cost of rewards and direct costs” were 1,601.9 in 2015.  Star Alliance airlines were 43% of this number, and Aeroplan is the only Aimia coalition affiliated with Star Alliance. 
 
So, 1,601.9 * 43.0% = 688.8 total spent by Aeroplan on flight rewards (all from Star Alliance)
 
688.8 * ~86% = 592.7 spent on Air Canada/Rouge vs other Star Alliance airlines
592.7 - $180 cost of MarketFare revenue (more on this in a moment) = 412.7 spent on ClassicFares
 
33% max increase * 412.7 = $137.6M worst-case hit to Aimia’s FCF (approximately)
 
Which means…
 
200 of current annual FCF[8] – 137.6 = 62.4 FCF still available to pay preferred dividends
 
62.4 / 16.9 of preferred dividends = 3.7x worst-case coverage
 
But this is very much a hypothetical exercise.  There’s no way Aimia is going to pay even close to full retail prices for these seats.  Aeroplan’s MarketFare program proves that it can negotiate a discount to market rates for bringing AC a large volume of business.  Adding the ClassicFare flights to the mix, that volume of negotiated-rate business will more than triple.
 
Since the supply of ClassicFares is limited, Aeroplan has long offered flight rewards to members who can’t get a ClassicFare on the flight they want.  The first iteration of this was the Avenue program, followed by ClassicPlus in 2006, and finally by MarketFare in 2014.  These were a small part of the mix at first, but they’re ~30% of Aeroplan flight rewards today and total ~$180M in annual revenue to AC.  While the prices on these are closer to market rates, they’re still at a significant discount, particularly for members who earn lots of points on a regular basis.
 
Finally, keep in mind that AC doesn’t hold all the cards.  One big reason is that the revenue that AC gets from MarketFare flights comes with attractive margins.  MarketFare rates were negotiated just a few years ago, when neither party was in any sort of weak bargaining position, thus AC is likely still happy with these prices.  It would be hard for AC to replace all of this lost revenue – creating a new coalition requires signing a major credit card issuer, and it’s not clear who that would be.  Canada’s top 4 issuers (RBC, CIBC, TD, BMO) have something like 72% of Canada’s general purpose credit card purchase volume (5th place has ~6%), and they’re all pretty tied up as far in terms of loyalty coalitions.
 
Another big reason is that Aeroplan has developed close relationships with essentially all of AC’s best customers in the process of managing AC’s frequent flyer program.  If AC were to take its program back in-house, one can imagine all sort of ways these customers could get upset and take their business to WestJet, Porter, American, et al.
 
By the way, Aeroplan’s earnings come from more than just the gross profit on ClassicFares:  In 2015, It might[9] make some money on MarketFares too, albeit a smaller margin.  It definitely makes money on non-airfare rewards, which now attract ~20% of all points spent, and carry gross margins much higher than the margins on airfare overall.  It probably makes some money on various travel-related fees (e.g. flight change fees), as well as a tiny profit for managing AC’s frequent flyer program.  Last and certainly not least, Aeroplan makes money on the points that members never use, which in theory would be 100% gross margin revenue.
 

Catalyst – early renewal
 
Aeroplan has a 6/28/2019 deadline by which it must notify AC if it intends to not renew the CPSA on 6/28/2020.  But Aimia has a debt maturity on 5/17/2019, and AC has a veritable “wall” of debt maturing in 2019, so one would expect the renewal discussion to get underway in 2018.  From there, it’s not a stretch to think that Aimia might be able to push for a deal in advance of its 1/22/2018 debt maturity[10], which would allow it to refi at a decent rate and free up cash for its hefty dividends and buybacks.  (Aimia’s capital allocation certainly doesn’t suggest any nervousness about Air Canada.)
 


 

Starting negotiations early won’t put Aimia in a bad negotiating position, for the simple reason that generates nearly enough free cash flow to pay down all three pieces of debt as they come due.  In fact, Aimia is prepared to do just that for the upcoming January 2017 maturity.  The CFO will give an update on this issue during the 3Q16 call in November.  In addition, there’s also:
 
excess cash of $130M[11]
a $300m revolver which is nearly untapped
Cardlytics biz is on the block - worth maybe $70m.  A sale should be neutral or better to FCF.
48.9% stake in PLM – a Mexican loyalty coalition built around the frequent flyer program of AeroMexico.  This business is a gem – grows quickly while throwing of lots of FCF.  PLM has been rumored to be worth US$1B[12], which would put Aimia’s stake at C$650M (note that a sale would reduce FCF by ~$15M - the dividends Aimia receives from PLM).  It’s highly likely that PLM will be IPO’d eventually.
 
But what if Air Canada goes bankrupt again?
 
AC has been doing well for a while now.  Last I checked, adjusted[13] net debt to EBITDAR was below 2.5X.  Interest expense + aircraft rental was ~1/3 of EBITDAR.  But of course, there could still be trouble if demand drops severely enough.  The question is, what then would happen to the current contract?
 
Thankfully, we can look to history as a guide.  In 2009 AC went through an out-of-court restructuring and the contract remained intact.  If AC were to actually file, the contract would probably still survive.  Management addressed the reasons why at their Analyst Day on 10/1/13 and I’ve pasted their words below.  But if you’re short on time, it boils down to:
 
Canadian bankruptcy law forces debtors to abrogate contracts completely or not at all (unlike Chapter 11 in the U.S., where they can tinker with individual terms).
This contract brings in a critical amount of FCF for AC which it couldn’t fully replace, or at least not quickly.  Therefore, it’s unlikely that any judge would allow them to abrogate the contract.
Since AC is the national flag carrier, the government would probably come to the rescue, as they did in 2009.
 

CEO Rupert Duchesne  – “Luckily or unluckily in 2009, we had a chance to put it to the test when Air Canada did get close to filing for bankruptcy. We did an out-of-court refinancing of the airline. We participated. We lent them $150 million at 12.75% coupon, which was I think fair with the risk, if anything. But I think that's very illustrative of the -- at the point that it really gets serious, we are a critical source of cash flow for the airline and being able to make up in a very short period of time for the loss of that would be almost impossible. And therefore, there wasn't the even any discussion at that time of what we going to do and see if we can find somebody else to do this for you. ... Also in a bankruptcy filing there's a whole lot of sort of legal and accounting issues that make it extremely hard for them sort of day off to do without, and we don't book.
 
The advice we received is that we don't think any bankruptcy judge in Canada would allow the airline to abrogate the contracts in such a way that gave cash flow risk to the airline. Frankly, if it did happen, our view is that we've actually got a fairly strong argument for the airline not to do anything. Because if we were to take that customer base and that revenue flow and provide it immediately to their competitors, WestJet, OneWorld Alliance, et cetera, et cetera, it will be a crippling blow to them. So I think what you'll see happen is have a fairly logical argument with them about is the price we're paying for Classic seats compensating you fairly for the opportunity cost of those seats? And we've done that work fairly regularly and the answer to that is yes. Are we paying you a fair price for the MarketFare rewards? And we've just done that deal so you could argue that in a moderate time, like we're in today, the answer to that obviously is yes at this point. And therefore, is there any incentive for anybody really to do anything? I think the answer is no. There are much more important things to worry about in the restructuring than a contract that is net cash flow positive to you in a much higher degree than if you did it yourself, which is what this is.
 
So we were lucky to be able to prove that in 2009, and our position now having done – just done this new deal with the card partners is much stronger than it was even in 2009 because the total revenue pile coming from these because of the breakage reduction we're talking about a moment ago and the increased price being paid by the bank means that the net cash flow in favor of the airline is even higher than it was in 2009 and will continue to grow as we get closer to the renewal of that relationship and the increased price being paid by the bank means that the net cash flow in favor of the airline is even higher than it was in 2009 and will continue to grow as we get closer to the renewal of that relationship.”
 
Former CFO David Adams – “Yes, just 2 other data points to that: one is Air Canada is a little bit different than many other airlines because it is a national flag carrier. And when it was put to the test in 2009, the Canadian government through EDC came to -- participated in the out-of-court refinancing and bridge loan. So the international gates are viewed as a national asset. And so notwithstanding WestJet's growth in the Canadian marketplace, I still believe that when push comes to shove, the Canadian government will be there with the financial support. So in a disaster scenario, we shouldn't be thinking about would the airline evaporate because there's a very, very low probability to that outcome. And for those of you, because we're here in London, just a finer point of Canadian bankruptcy law, we're not Chapter 11, right? So don't think of us that we are U.S. Chapter 11. And the difference is, is that in the U.S. you can actually cherry-pick contracts, I mean you get a judge to abrogate certain terms or conditions. In Canada, you have to abrogate the agreement in total. So it's either you keep the agreement out or you have to abrogate it completely. So when you talk about the risk of renegotiation, risk of cash flows, it's much higher in that circumstance than it would be under Chapter 11.”
 

 
By the way, Aimia’s equity was previously written up on VIC by castor13 in 2011 (under the old name of “Groupe Aeroplan”) as well as by Ragnar0307 in 2013.  I’m not sure if the equity is cheap today, but in any case, I think the preferred shares offer at least as much upside with less risk.
 
Also, note that Aimia is one of those rare small-caps where IR (Karen Keyes) can answer most if not all of your questions.  Not that you shouldn’t talk to the CEO/CFO, but you might want to try her first.
 
 

 
 

[1] AC CEO Calin Rovinescu at a conference on 12/2/15 - “10 years ago, Air Canada spun out its loyalty program to create shareholder value at that point in time. With that came a fairly expensive commercial contract.  And we will be restructuring that contract in 2020 with Aeroplan, and that will create value at that point in time.”  At AC’s 2Q16 call on 6/29/16 - “there's no question the expectation will be that, anything that is a below market, the term will be brought to market [upon renewal of the CPSA]”
[2] CEO Rupert Duchesne on the 6/27/13 analyst call – “So in the worst-case outcome where we wouldn't reach agreement with Air Canada in 2020, which is I said, I think it's extremely unlikely, we would have a hugely successful and economically viable program even without them. And frankly, it would be a program that would have been -- would be a great interest to other participants in the travel business.”
[3] ACE was the holdco which owned AC at the time.
[4] There is some evidence that AC had thought about eventually spinning-off Aeroplan prior to the 2003 bankruptcy, but in any event, I think it’s obvious that AC never would have agreed to these terms in an arms-length deal.
[5] CEO Rupert Duchesne at Analyst Day on 10/1/13 - “when we did the spinoff, we very carefully analyzed the real cost of the airline of providing those 8% of seats and we pay that pretty precisely. "
[6] Technically, there’s some circularity here, as ClassicFares are a component of AC’s revenue.  But we can overlook this since they’re probably not much over 3% of the total, and since our final estimate of the worst case scenario suggests a big margins of safety.
[7] For what it’s worth, Aeroplan’s own margins on ClassicFare seats seem to be close to 20%.  Since 2004, the program has offered seats at prices closer to market levels for those times when ClassicFare flights aren’t available.  In recent years, these have grown to ~30% of flights, but in the early years of 2002-2007 these were likely just a small portion of total flights, meaning that the Aeroplan’s gross margin on ClassicFare flights was probably close to its overall gross margin on airfare.  The latter margin never went much higher than 20%.  But it’s possible that Aeroplan was passing some of its savings on to coalition partners (e.g. CIBC) during that time, so this number might understate the true gap between ClassicFare and market prices.
[8] After interest expense but before preferred and common dividends
[9] This depends on the price that coalition partners pay for points, which could be less than the market value of the airfare it can buy
[10] CEO Rupert Duchesne at CIBC conference on 9/21/16 – “we would hope that we would get an Air Canada deal done long before we get to the end maturity on any of this debt.”
[11] CEO Rupert Duchesne at CIBC conference on 9/21/16
[12] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-30/aeromexico-said-to-value-loyalty-program-at-1-billion-for-ipo
[13] Adjusted for aircraft leases
 

I do not hold a position with the issuer such as employment, directorship, or consultancy.
I and/or others I advise hold a material investment in the issuer's securities.
Catalyst

Good chance they renew the contract with Air Canada in 2017.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: brendanb22 on November 23, 2016, 02:57:04 PM
Anyone have the series B preferred prospectus?
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: SafetyinNumbers on November 23, 2016, 11:19:17 PM
It's the same as for AIM.PR.A.

Just search on Sedar on Jan 13, 2010 for prospectus.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on January 26, 2017, 06:58:15 AM
Anyone have any idea why the prefs have moved so much recently?   Is the whole Canadian rate reset market moving, does anyone know (I'm not aware of an index)?   Or is it something specific that I have missed?   
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on January 26, 2017, 10:58:58 AM
i think this is probably just a case of "good things happen to cheap stocks" (or preferred shares, as it were).  The preferreds were all cheap vs the common and have rallied by a similar amount in the past month or two, while the common hasn't moved much.

there are about 3 different ETFs of canadian preferred shares.  the most relevant for Aimia, IMO, is CPD.TO, which has moved up a bit but not by all that much

also, I don't think this is due to changes in expected interest rates, as the Series C is fixed rate, and has moved up in similar fashion to the Series B, which is a floater.

as a general observation about investing, I'd say that at least half of my long ideas that work out well have had their big upward moves at times that don't correspond to any identifiable event.  and at least half of the potential catalysts that I see when starting a position never pan out.  like Warren & Charlie say, "we've always felt that it's easier to know what's going to happen than when it's going to happen."
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: gokou3 on January 26, 2017, 11:33:18 AM
I hold preferred shares of AIM, BCE, BAM, BPO, & TA (last one just sold recently).  I hold the series which benefit from interest rate increases, such as 5-yr rate resets and floaters.  They all went up considerably over the past couple months.  I do think it's related to the yield increase of the 5-yr Canada bonds.

https://ca.investing.com/rates-bonds/canada-5-year-bond-yield
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cardboard on January 26, 2017, 01:57:40 PM
I agree with Misterkrusty.

The AIM preferreds have been ignored for way too long and were the last ones still yielding over 9%. At some point, some upward correction had to happen to put them more in line with other preferreds seen as "risky" such as CF, DC.A and a few others.

Cardboard
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: SafetyinNumbers on January 26, 2017, 08:38:32 PM
The gap between the AIM.PR.A and AIM.PR.B is still pretty big while some other spreads between the fixed reset and the floaters have tightened. I just see it as a place to pick up some extra total return.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Saj on February 16, 2017, 04:44:30 PM
How do you guys keep track of what looks interesting in the Canadian pref world? I put a page here to start tracking them by current yield in real-time: http://www.conferencecalltranscripts.org/prefs/

AIM still at the top as of this post.

But it's a pretty crude way to do it, especially with the reset ones. The current yield is of little use if a reset is coming up soon, so don't just blindly use the list, dig deeper into the security.

Is there a better way out there to track these that someone's already doing? I couldn't find anything better than quarterly updates so that's why I put this up.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: sculpin on February 17, 2017, 09:26:37 AM
Pretty crazy that the yields on the AIM prefs are still > 7% with the amount of cash flow, and improvements in the business being seen. Glad to see the clean up of the corporate structure and sell off of the non core assets.


Neil Linsdell, CFA | nlinsdell@iagto.ca | 1.514.499.0158
Associate: Dimitri Troulis | dtroulis@iagto.ca | 1.514.284.4180
Q4/16 Better than Expected, with More Improvements in 2017

Aimia reported Q4 results last night after the close. A conference call will be
held this morning at 8:30am EST (dial-in: 1-888-231-8191 or webcast).

Highlights

 Q4 gross billings were down less than expected, at -5.9% YoY (or -0.6% in
constant currency) to $647.5M, from $688.2M last year. Results were
above our forecast of $643.3M and consensus of $640.8M (range: $610.5-
652.2M). Excluding currency impacts ($36.3M of the $40.7M decline in
gross billings), primarily from weakness in the GBP, gross billings were
broadly stable.

 Americas Coalitions gross billings increased 0.8% to $347.7M (54% of gross
billings). Aeroplan loyalty unit gross billings were up 2% with higher
purchase volumes and active financial card base, in addition to higher gross
billings from Air Canada (AC-T, Not Rated) due to increased capacity.
 International Coalitions gross billings increased 1.9% (in constant
currency) to $189.5M (19% of gross billings). Nectar loyalty unit gross
billings were up 4% (in constant currency) benefitting from Sainsbury
Christmas bonusing campaigns. Also, Mail Newspapers will launch as a
major new Nectar partner during Q2.

 Adj. EBITDA of $64.7M (10.0% of gross billings) was up from $63.2M (9.2%
margin) last year and above our forecast of $59.2M (9.2% margin) and
consensus of $57.3M (8.9% margin), primarily due to Americas Coalitions
performance (higher gross billings and progress on operating expenses).

 2017 guidance – flat topline, but improving margins: Gross billings (core
business) were $2.1B (roughly flat from $2.142B in 2016). Adj. EBITDA
margin (core business) was ~12% (up from 11.2% on comparable segments
in 2016). FCF before dividends paid is for $220M+ (up from $206M in
2016).

 Concern over the Air Canada renewal is a non-issue in our opinion. There
is far too much value for both parties for the program to not be renewed.
In 2016, Air Canada paid ~$250M to Aimia but received more than double
that amount back through reward redemptions.

First Impression: Positive

Q4 results were better than expected, with growth in the Canadian Aeroplan
business, and margins showing signs of improvement from cost reduction
initiatives. The Company delivered on its 2016 guidance and provided 2017
guidance that highlights stability across its main coalitions and a simpler, more
focused business generating better profit margins and increased free cash flow.
While the environment remains challenging and currency headwinds persist,
the Company’s efforts to simplify the business lines and control costs should
result in a more efficient and profitable operation. Beyond this, we remain
convinced that Aeroplan and Air Canada will renew their partnership beyond
2020, providing significant relief to investors.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: samaniv on April 06, 2017, 02:37:00 PM

Are you still holding the AIMIA preferreds? If so, which series?

I hold a fair amount of the AIM.B.

I'm fairly new to preferred share investing and am curious as to whether, after the contract negotiation with Air Canada, we would expect these to trade near par again?

It seems there are still some other Canadian preferreds trading at a discount to PAR. I am happy to wait and collect the  7.5% dividend while I wait (which as you noted, has great interest coverage).

However, we are really waiting for the market to agree with us in terms of the creditworthiness of AIMIA. Once they do, then we would expect it to trade near PAR again. I think the contract renegotiation would lift some uncertainty and hopefully push to be a catalyst, but not guaranteed.

 
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Vanshon on April 06, 2017, 03:53:24 PM
I hold some B's and C's. I had some As but traded them for Bs when the spread between them became more than $1.30.  I think with a decent contract renewal you'll see some jump due to the removed uncertainty but they won't move back to par.
Since they are rate reset preferreds a major component of where they trade is based on the Canadian interest rate. Since the rate was higher when they were issued  part of the move down has been in tandem with the lowering of interest rates. Interest rate increases or an expectation of them would help to move them higher.  Given the real estate situation in Canada right now it's hard to see a significant move up in interest rates in the near future but I'd be happy to be wrong about that.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cardboard on May 11, 2017, 06:04:39 AM
https://www.stockwatch.com/News/Item.aspx?bid=Z-C%3aAC-2469995&symbol=AC&region=C

Really bad news. It is time for an activist to take-out these clowns: eliminate the dividend, buybacks, cut management salaries, liquidate non-core, etc.

Cardboard
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: clutch on May 11, 2017, 06:40:22 AM
I sold my preferreds at a significant loss...
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Yours Truly on May 11, 2017, 06:46:42 AM
Timber !
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cardboard on May 11, 2017, 07:10:54 AM
Although not trying to minimize the impact, really sucks, it is hard for me to believe that the company is not worth $773 million or the total value of the debt and preferreds at par. This does not take into account any spare cash or around $120 million.

Just Club Premier in Mexico for which they own 48.9% has 5 million customers already and growing or the same as Aeroplan and is more profitable. Contracts with TD and CIBC will continue to exist until 2024.

This will be sold, restructured or Air Canada may even revise their strategy as this may be a huge negotiating tactic. Starting their own program is an expensive venture and I am thinking that Aeroplan members will voice a lot of concerns with Air Canada.

Cardboard
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on May 11, 2017, 07:27:22 AM
I am not doing anything with my prefs. The payouts will keep coming until the company goes bust.  My concern is that people will stop collecting rewards if there is no exclusive with AC.

As to the frequent flier points.  AC is in a really bad optics spot.  Screwing your frequent fliers like this will make any future programs they try to start a nonstarter at best. 

As you said Cardboard there are all sorts of options.

In light of this news I cant believe the CEO and Board didn't cut the dividend.  And whats with a buy back.  They should immediately be in cash conservation mode. 

Not a huge position but still hurts. 
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: doc75 on May 11, 2017, 07:37:37 AM
Although not trying to minimize the impact, really sucks, it is hard for me to believe that the company is not worth $773 million or the total value of the debt and preferreds at par. This does not take into account any spare cash or around $120 million.

Just Club Premier in Mexico for which they own 48.9% has 5 million customers already and growing or the same as Aeroplan and is more profitable. Contracts with TD and CIBC will continue to exist until 2024.

This will be sold, restructured or Air Canada may even revise their strategy as this may be a huge negotiating tactic. Starting their own program is an expensive venture and I am thinking that Aeroplan members will voice a lot of concerns with Air Canada.

Cardboard

I agree that the selloff in the prefs might be overdone, but....

- I think there's very little chance this is a negotiating tactic.   AC is looking at this as a growth opportunity, and can certainly implement something better than Aeroplan.  Expensive for sure, but there's a lot of money to be made here. 

- My concern is that the loss of the AC partnership makes renewal of TD and CIBC contracts much less likely, or at least makes the contracts much less valuable.   Maybe I'm wrong, but I think people are drawn to Aeroplan almost entirely because of flight benefits.  That's why people want to go and get a TD/CIBC Aeroplan credit card. Surely AC will be looking to partner with the big banks to offer a credit card of their own, just as Westjet has done.

- I hold some prefs because I assumed the AC contract would remain in place. But I must admit I don't follow the company very closely.  Have there been any hints regarding the outcome of the Nectar renewal?
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: doc75 on May 11, 2017, 07:49:51 AM
I am not doing anything with my prefs. The payouts will keep coming until the company goes bust.  My concern is that people will stop collecting rewards if there is no exclusive with AC.

As to the frequent flier points.  AC is in a really bad optics spot.  Screwing your frequent fliers like this will make any future programs they try to start a nonstarter at best. 

As you said Cardboard there are all sorts of options.

In light of this news I cant believe the CEO and Board didn't cut the dividend.  And whats with a buy back.  They should immediately be in cash conservation mode. 

Not a huge position but still hurts.

Either cash conservation or buying back prefs at the huge discount on offer.  What are they thinking with a buyback of the common???

As for AC bad optics:  I was thinking about this, too. People have 3 years of "business as usual" to use their points, and it's unclear how bad it will be to use those points for flights post-2020.  The best optics would be for AC to come to some agreement with Aimia regarding migration of Aeroplan points onto their new program (ie. AC buys the points from Aimia).  It will be interesting to see if there's a lot of consumer backlash, and if the media  makes this a big story.  Air Miles sure got a lot of bad press and had to make some changes as a result.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cardboard on May 11, 2017, 08:04:09 AM
This company should see $600 million in free cash flow (before dividends) before June 2020 or contract expiry with Air Canada.

If you look at the Bombardier preferreds, they trade at similar levels right now and it was way worst for Aimia after the open. Does that make sense? Is the level of default risk similar???

The EV (excluding the stock) with preferreds at par is around that much. It is a no brainer to stop the common stock dividend, repay debt and try to buyback preferreds on the cheap. That is the best way to retain value for the common long term. What they are doing now is insane.

The ratings agencies will hit them and it will force them to re-look at their strategy. Activists could also show up here with the massive decline in the stock and large volume.

You put a guy like they have at Atlantic Power in charge here and there is something to do with this situation. I also believe that they must have been really stupid in their negotiation with Air Canada to see such backlash. As an Aeroplan loyalty member, this whole thing is concerning to me and I agree that some transition post 2020 will be required.

Cardboard
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Green King on May 11, 2017, 08:40:34 AM
What air Canada is doing sounds insane. How strong is their competitive position? I mean any of the competitors would love to take over its postition and take their recurring customers.

Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Green King on May 11, 2017, 08:46:50 AM
The true profit of airlines is per incremental customer. all the profit is the difference between 90 and 91%.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on May 11, 2017, 08:48:56 AM
I mean any of the competitors would love to take over its postition and take their recurring customers.

I don't know the market.   Which of their competitors have the same network on the key flights?
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: kab60 on May 11, 2017, 08:49:38 AM
Unless these idiots keep fucking up (paying divys on the commons unfortunately seems like it), I think the preferred is pretty good value here, but it's a hairy piece of shit. As Cardboard said, they spit off cash, so they should be able to pay off the debt completely, and then they still have valuable assets. I really don't understand how the parties haven't come to an agreement, but wouldn't it make sense for Air Canada to just to buy the whole thing now? They just put themselves in a pretty decent bargaining position, and nobody likes building new systems and processes.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on May 11, 2017, 08:52:41 AM
Aimia also announced the redemption of their 2018 notes - has anyone seen whether that's with cash flows, or with new debt?   If with flows it's good for the prefs.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: samaniv on May 11, 2017, 08:54:53 AM
Financing maturities profile: The company plans to extend its financing maturities to 2020 with the drawdown of $200 million of its $300 million revolving credit facility.  The proceeds will be used to redeem $200 million of senior secured notes ahead of their January 2018 maturity. This will also have the benefit of reducing the interest rate by around 60bps to 4.4%, whilst maintaining a debt/Adjusted EBITDA ratio of around 2x.

Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on May 11, 2017, 08:55:22 AM
doc75 - could you clarify this:  "Air Miles sure got a lot of bad press and had to make some changes as a result."

I'm not familiar with Air Miles - whose program is this and what happened there?  thanks
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on May 11, 2017, 08:56:14 AM
Financing maturities profile: The company plans to extend its financing maturities to 2020 with the drawdown of $200 million of its $300 million revolving credit facility.  The proceeds will be used to redeem $200 million of senior secured notes ahead of their January 2018 maturity. This will also have the benefit of reducing the interest rate by around 60bps to 4.4%, whilst maintaining a debt/Adjusted EBITDA ratio of around 2x.

Thanks.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: samaniv on May 11, 2017, 08:59:46 AM
I think the above poster is referring to when Air Miles tried to set an expiry on their points - they received a lot of bad press - and said withdrew their stance on expiring points as a result.

I am very surprised that Air Canada is trying to build their own loyalty coalition. I though it is prudent not to screw with your largest customer. I also though Aeroplan had become somewhat synonymous with Air Canada - so it seems like a new coalition will be a ton of work with a lot of potential to go wrong.

What the hell is AIMIA doing with its capital allocation? They now have a 20% yield on the common - they need to cut that. They should conserve cash..


Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on May 11, 2017, 09:02:21 AM
I don't think it will be that hard for AC to build a new programme - they've done it before, after all!

Incredibly dumb of AIMIA to think customers won't change their behaviour.   Worst case is that redemptions accelerate, free cash evaporates, and they realise they should never have paid their float as dividend.   Ought to be conserving every dollar.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: clutch on May 11, 2017, 09:15:14 AM
Simply put, my thesis was that Aimia was going to renew the contract...I was wrong.

Now that the thesis didn't turn out, I moved on. Can't speculate further on how the management will turn around this situation...

This one stings!!
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: sculpin on May 11, 2017, 09:22:42 AM
Here's what the analysts are saying. Given this news I would have to think there will be a move of shares into potential strategic buyers, activist hedge fund or even private equity who could manage this much better for themselves or shareholders. Bought some preferreds this morning.

GMP Securities....

Aimia Inc.   REDUCE
AIM-TSX   
Last:   C$8.93
Target:   C$4.00
 
Air Canada not expected to renew the Aeroplan partnership; Downgrading to REDUCE
 
Aimia and Air Canada announced today that Aeroplan will no longer be the loyalty program for Air Canada effective June 29th, 2020. Until that date, business with Air Canada is unchanged; Aeroplan members will continue to be able to redeem points for flights with Air Canada and their Star Alliance.

We are changing our rating on Aimia to REDUCE based on the following:

Limited options to replace Air Canada. While Air Canada represents ~10% of revenues, the company is the backbone of the Aeroplan coalition in Canada, where more than 75% of miles redeemed are with Air Canada. Hence, the departure of Air Canada could put the Canadian Loyalty coalition at risk.

Potential member erosion. One of the attractiveness of the Aeroplan program was Aimia’s access to 8% of Air Canada seats at preferential rates. Hence, the departure of the airline partner will reduce the attractiveness of the program and potentially lead to a substantial decline in members.

Near-term pressure on cash flows. We are concerned that Aeroplan members may decide to terminate their membership earlier than June 2020. Hence, the departure of several members could put pressure on cash flows as they redeem their miles.

Potential for departure of other partners. The remaining partners in the Aeroplan coalition are likely to revisit their options given the cloudy outlook, which could result in the departure of other partners.
Recommendation and valuation

Changing our rating to REDUCE and decreasing our target to $4.00. While the impact to Aimia’s near-term profitability may be limited, we believe investors will apply a significant discount to current earnings given the cliff on June 2020. Aimia generates more than 70% of its profitability in Canada, hence with the viability of the Canadian coalition in question, valuing Aimia becomes challenging. We estimate that post Air Canada’s departure, Aimia could generate EBITDA in the range of $150-200m (vs $261m expected in 2017) to which we apply a 7x multiple.

To access the full report and applicable disclosures please click here
To access our full research library or manage your GMP Research profile, please click here
 
Martin Landry
(514) 288 4016
mlandry@gmpsecurities.com

IAS.....

Aimia Inc. (AIM-T, Last: 8.93, Target and Rating under review) – Negative. Focus for today for Aimia is this statement in the Q1 results: Recent discussions lead Aimia to the believe that Air Canada does not currently intend to renew the Aeroplan partnership expiring in June 2020; Aimia is exploring post-2020 alternatives. We did not see this coming. While it’s business as usual for the next 3 years, the real question will be how both companies deal with the end of this agreement. From Air Canada this morning, it sounds like they will continue issuing reward seats to Aeroplan post 2020, which is extremely important. We would expect that the cost of rewards might increase for Aeroplan members (to be in-line with other third-party loyalty programs). The question will be if CIBC and TD cardholders will continue to use these cards in order to collect Miles, and if Amex (which was on a one-year contract) will renew its agreement with Aeroplan. Stock will be off hard this morning. More to come …
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: bizaro86 on May 11, 2017, 09:24:59 AM
I know personally, I will be making very sure I spend all my aeroplan miles on flights in the next couple of years, and will stop trying to earn them immediately. If everyone does that, they could burn through a lot of cash in the next few years.

The downside for Air Canada is that folks will be less motivated to fly them in 2018-2019 to earn points since the points earned in those years will be less valuable going forward.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on May 11, 2017, 09:27:31 AM
Holding on to my prefs.   Bought them at just over $10 where my thesis was that they would probably be money good if AC didn't renew.   I maintain that view today with an emphasis on the probably.   Key risk is capital allocation.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: samaniv on May 11, 2017, 09:55:52 AM
Does anyone have any idea what management may be thinking? Why would they not cut the dividend? It does not make any sense from a capital allocation standpoint...  Is their argument that they don't want the stock to drop? They should be focusing on doing what is right for the business not for the stock price...

Even if we end the Air Canada business, I think an argument could be made that ex-AC they have enough revenue to justify their current price?

Even without Air Canada, do you guys think they have enough cash to pay off debt and preferred? I think so.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: MikeTheCannon on May 11, 2017, 10:06:36 AM
Here's the email Air Canada just sent out:

Earlier today, we announced a big change that we want you to know about.

We announced our decision to replace Aeroplan with a new frequent flyer program that will launch in June 2020 following the end of our commercial agreement with Aimia. As you may know, Aimia has owned and operated Aeroplan for almost a decade.

We are announcing this decision three years ahead to provide as much notice as possible to our customers, employees, and partners.

We are building a new program that will be inspired by you

Over the next three years we’ll be listening to you to build a program that better serves the way you live and travel. Along the way, we intend to make improvements to Air Canada Altitude and other elements of the customer experience.

You can continue to earn and redeem your miles

Through June 2020 Air Canada is committed to business as usual. You can continue to earn and redeem Aeroplan Miles for Aeroplan Rewards, including flights with Air Canada and our Star Alliance partners just like you do today. Aeroplan Miles earned through June 2020 will stay in your Aeroplan account, subject to the conditions of their program, after the new Air Canada program is launched.

After June 2020 miles from Air Canada and Star Alliance partner flights will be credited to the new program, and you will be able to redeem those miles for rewards including Air Canada and Star Alliance partner flights. To get you off to a running start we will have enrollment offers, welcome bonuses and other promotions which will be announced as we get closer.

Keeping you in the loop

You can expect to hear from us regularly in the months ahead as new improvements are launched, and as more details regarding the new Air Canada program take shape.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Green King on May 11, 2017, 10:11:00 AM
As far as I can eyeball it they can do a West Jet + American AirLine partnership to replace Air Canada. :)
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on May 11, 2017, 10:15:59 AM
GK - why do you think American Air Lines?  Not disagreeing, just curious about your logic

a while back I read someone (can't remember who) speculate that if AC fell through, they could maybe partner with WestJet and Alaska Air (I think they said Alaska Air based on replicating current routes currently offered thru AC and Star Alliance)
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Green King on May 11, 2017, 10:26:03 AM
GK - why do you think American Air Lines?  Not disagreeing, just curious about your logic

a while back I read someone (can't remember who) speculate that if AC fell through, they could maybe partner with WestJet and Alaska Air (I think they said Alaska Air based on replicating current routes currently offered thru AC and Star Alliance)

Mostly eyeball. West Jet has Canadian routes and they just need a US partner. Any of US majors would love to fill that spot.
Alaska will also work. The US has bad historically cheap flights as compared to the Canada. People will bid up for incremental fill in capacity.

http://ac.fltmaps.com/en
https://www.westjet.com/en-ca/travel-info/flight-info/route-map
https://www.alaskaair.com/content/route-map.aspx
http://aa.fltmaps.com/en
http://dl.fltmaps.com/en

looks like aa is better here. didn't know that had some many hubs in Canada.

Personally hoping for United Airlines. FIGHT CLUB.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Studesy on May 11, 2017, 10:35:25 AM
I just started looking at AIM with the large decline in price occurring today.  I see that prior to the news and price decline, many of you held the Series B Prefs.  Which series do you see as most attractive today? Which series is first in line? Could there be any arb opportunities between the prefs or between the prefs and common? TIA
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: NormR on May 11, 2017, 11:04:36 AM
Um, so why doesn't the firm pay off the debt ASAP, cut the dividend to common AND pref. shares, and struggle through.   
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Green King on May 11, 2017, 11:09:30 AM
Um, so why doesn't the firm pay off the debt ASAP, cut the dividend to common AND pref. shares, and struggle through.

+1 I also think it is odd since management would have known this day in advance of the dividend decision.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cardboard on May 11, 2017, 11:21:55 AM
What needs to be cut is the common stock dividend or $120.3 million paid in 2016 vs only $16.9 million to the preferreds which is a cummulative obligation if unpaid.

Listening to the call this morning, there was not a lot of questions by analysts that were answered properly and there was a lot of empty, pampering talk over this. I believe that they kept the dividend to soften the blow on the share price but, that is really dumb considering the true impact on the business. They also kept on mentioning that it is business as usual for 3 years and that the ratings agencies would be fine, etc. LOL!!!

Announcing a renewal of the NCIB was also likely done for similar reasons. Please note that they did not buy back any share under the last one as they were keeping cash to redeem the $200 million note in December due in Jan 2017 (that was smart).

Until they find a solution to stabilize the business outlook over the long term and honoring all their obligations, continuing to pay the common dividend is breaching fiduciary duty IMO.

Cardboard

Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: samaniv on May 11, 2017, 11:28:25 AM
I guess we can only pray that some activist comes in and forces management to cut their dividend / improves capital allocation.  I also think it is a breach of fiduciary duty to pay all their cash out to common shareholders, essentially screwing the preferred holders.


What needs to be cut is the common stock dividend or $120.3 million paid in 2016 vs only $16.9 million to the preferreds which is a cummulative obligation if unpaid.

Listening to the call this morning, there was not a lot of questions by analysts that were answered properly and there was a lot of empty, pampering talk over this. I believe that they kept the dividend to soften the blow on the share price but, that is really dumb considering the true impact on the business. They also kept on mentioning that it is business as usual for 3 years and that the ratings agencies would be fine, etc. LOL!!!

Announcing a renewal of the NCIB was also likely done for similar reasons. Please note that they did not buy back any share under the last one as they were keeping cash to redeem the $200 million note in December due in Jan 2017 (that was smart).

Until they find a solution to stabilize the business outlook over the long term and honoring all their obligations, continuing to pay the common dividend is breaching fiduciary duty IMO.

Cardboard
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cardboard on May 11, 2017, 11:45:00 AM
It may be a blessing in disguise to have this happening now or 3 years and change before the expiry vs at the last minute as usual. The discounts on both stock and preferreds are very attractive for a potential acquirer or activist or PE firm and there is a lot of time to make moves.

I was just looking at Club Premier and AeroMexico is part of SkyTeam or Delta. I could see lots of interesting combination to really hurt Air Canada long term with their re-creation of what they did in 1984 or when Aeroplan was formed.

Is there anything that would prevent Aeroplan/Aimia to allow its members to exchange their points for flights at other airlines? I would really love being able to use mine on Delta for example.

Aimia or formerly Aeroplan was also a spin-off from Air Canada in 2005 who wanted to get their hands on precious cash during the heydays of income trusts. They then sold the rest after they were bankrupt for the 2nd time (not the smartest either!).

Another interesting player is Onex which was interested by Aeroplan back in 2003 when the transaction fell apart after Air Canada filed for bankruptcy for the 1st time after acquiring Canadian Airlines.

Cardboard
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on May 11, 2017, 12:08:44 PM
Is there anything that would prevent Aeroplan/Aimia to allow its members to exchange their points for flights at other airlines? I would really love being able to use mine on Delta for example.


I don't think there can be.   Points are a currency earned and owned by the members.   And most aren't earned at AC but at via credit card use.   I doubt AC can ban members from spending currency earned on cards at another airline if Aimia does a deal.   One of the Brazilian loyalty schemes has commented that they would be able to transfer to another airline if something similar happened to them.   But the devil will be in the contract detail.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: fisch777 on May 11, 2017, 12:09:40 PM
Perhaps they can auction all the expensive artwork in the fancy HQ?
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on May 11, 2017, 03:46:04 PM
It may be a blessing in disguise to have this happening now or 3 years and change before the expiry vs at the last minute as usual. The discounts on both stock and preferreds are very attractive for a potential acquirer or activist or PE firm and there is a lot of time to make moves.

I was just looking at Club Premier and AeroMexico is part of SkyTeam or Delta. I could see lots of interesting combination to really hurt Air Canada long term with their re-creation of what they did in 1984 or when Aeroplan was formed.

Is there anything that would prevent Aeroplan/Aimia to allow its members to exchange their points for flights at other airlines? I would really love being able to use mine on Delta for example.

Aimia or formerly Aeroplan was also a spin-off from Air Canada in 2005 who wanted to get their hands on precious cash during the heydays of income trusts. They then sold the rest after they were bankrupt for the 2nd time (not the smartest either!).

Another interesting player is Onex which was interested by Aeroplan back in 2003 when the transaction fell apart after Air Canada filed for bankruptcy for the 1st time after acquiring Canadian Airlines.

Cardboard

At least we dont have to worry about another AC bankruptcy. 

A funny comment from someone on the Financial Post site:  "what does air canada know about loyalty programs.  They haven't got the people moving part down yet". 
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: SafetyinNumbers on May 11, 2017, 09:32:06 PM
Is there anything that would prevent Aeroplan/Aimia to allow its members to exchange their points for flights at other airlines? I would really love being able to use mine on Delta for example.


I don't think there can be.   Points are a currency earned and owned by the members.   And most aren't earned at AC but at via credit card use.   I doubt AC can ban members from spending currency earned on cards at another airline if Aimia does a deal.   One of the Brazilian loyalty schemes has commented that they would be able to transfer to another airline if something similar happened to them.   But the devil will be in the contract detail.

There is nothing that would keep points from being used for other airlines. In fact, half of points are spent now on Star Alliance members or on market fares (effectively cash value). The additional value for points to customers was on the lower priced fixed inventory that AC sold Aeroplan.

I spoke with the CFO for a bit at the AGM today. I suggested strongly that they should kill the dividend on the common and buyback preferred. He suggested there wasn't enough volume in the pref to do that and I clarified I was talking about a substantial issuer bid and not an NCIB. At the very least they should pay off all the fixed debt as soon as possible versus paying dividends on the common.

Perhaps since their attempt to keep the common stock afloat by not cutting the dividend didn't work, they will consider making the right long term decisions!
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on May 12, 2017, 12:18:04 AM

There is nothing that would keep points from being used for other airlines.


Well there clearly is - you can't use your points at Delta, can you?   You can use them with Star Alliance partners because that is explicitly permitted in the AC contract.   What we (I) don't know is what the AC contract says about spending points at non-partner airlines after the contract has expired.   I'm about 80% sure it is unrestricted, but not 100% sure.

Possibly more importantly, how are Aimia communicating this to members?   Because if members THINK their points will be useless for air travel, they may stop collecting and go on a redemption binge.   Which would be VERY bad for cash.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: clutch on May 12, 2017, 03:57:26 AM
Got this email from them today:

Air Canada announced today that they intend to launch an in‑house Frequent Flyer program. I wanted to personally provide some additional information.

First and foremost, through June 2020, Air Canada and Aeroplan are committed to business as usual. You can continue to earn and redeem Aeroplan Miles for Aeroplan flight rewards, including flights with Air Canada and Star Alliance member airlines — just as you do today.

In addition to the miles you earn on Air Canada eligible flights, you will continue to collect miles from our network of over 75 world‑class partners, representing more than 150 partner brands in the financial, retail, and travel sectors.

With more than 5 million members, Aeroplan is Canada's premier coalition loyalty program, and there is strength in our numbers. Last year, Aeroplan members redeemed for 1.9 million flight rewards, enough to fill 11 Boeing 777s (the biggest plane in Air Canada's fleet) every single day of the year.

We know how much you care about this program, and we're working to secure great new redemption options for you after June 2020.

We are committed to providing the best value for our members. We'll post the most up‑to‑date information and FAQ's on aeroplan.com.

And finally, I'd like to thank you for your continued passion for the Aeroplan program.


Sincerely,
Vince Timpano
President, Americas Coalitions, Aimia
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: SafetyinNumbers on May 12, 2017, 05:34:12 AM

There is nothing that would keep points from being used for other airlines.


Well there clearly is - you can't use your points at Delta, can you?   You can use them with Star Alliance partners because that is explicitly permitted in the AC contract.   What we (I) don't know is what the AC contract says about spending points at non-partner airlines after the contract has expired.   I'm about 80% sure it is unrestricted, but not 100% sure.

Possibly more importantly, how are Aimia communicating this to members?   Because if members THINK their points will be useless for air travel, they may stop collecting and go on a redemption binge.   Which would be VERY bad for cash.

From my conversation with the CFO, my understanding was that there is no restriction post 2020. I'm sure some interesting conversations will start with WestJet who might benefit from having a large customer that knows almost everything about the buying patterns of its biggest competitor's clients.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on May 12, 2017, 06:01:18 AM
From my conversation with the CFO, my understanding was that there is no restriction post 2020. I'm sure some interesting conversations will start with WestJet who might benefit from having a large customer that knows almost everything about the buying patterns of its biggest competitor's clients.

Great stuff, thanks.

What's Westjet like?   How would Aeroplan members feel spending their points there rather than with AC?
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: clutch on May 12, 2017, 06:09:18 AM
From my conversation with the CFO, my understanding was that there is no restriction post 2020. I'm sure some interesting conversations will start with WestJet who might benefit from having a large customer that knows almost everything about the buying patterns of its biggest competitor's clients.

Great stuff, thanks.

What's Westjet like?   How would Aeroplan members feel spending their points there rather than with AC?

Westjet mostly flies in North America, although they are now planning to expand overseas. So if you fly frequently overseas, most would fly with AC. Also, frequent flyers in general would prefer AC because their Altitude program offers some perks (Maple Leaf lounge access, faster security lane, etc.)
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on May 12, 2017, 06:30:17 AM
From my conversation with the CFO, my understanding was that there is no restriction post 2020. I'm sure some interesting conversations will start with WestJet who might benefit from having a large customer that knows almost everything about the buying patterns of its biggest competitor's clients.

Great stuff, thanks.

What's Westjet like?   How would Aeroplan members feel spending their points there rather than with AC?

Westjet mostly flies in North America, although they are now planning to expand overseas. So if you fly frequently overseas, most would fly with AC. Also, frequent flyers in general would prefer AC because their Altitude program offers some perks (Maple Leaf lounge access, faster security lane, etc.)

I just flew via Delta to and from Las Vegas.  At least thats what the ticket says.  The planes were run by WestJet.  It wont be long before WestJet has some sort of formal alliance.  It will really take off the next time AC goes into bankruptcy. 

It seems like a good fit to me, but what do I know. 
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: sculpin on May 12, 2017, 06:32:13 AM
A point of view from what seems to be the only somewhat bullish analyst at Raymond James. The BofD & mgmt capital allocation (dividends, share buybacks) decisions at this point need to be reversed given the new situation this Company finds itself in.

AIMIA May 11, 2017
Outperform 2
C$7.00 target price ↓

Kenric S. Tyghe MBA | 416.777.7188 | kenric.tyghe@raymondjames.ca
Helen Liu CFA (Associate) | 416.777.7060 | helen.liu@raymondjames.ca
Consumer & Retail

1Q17 Results; Tantrum on the Tarmac

Recommendation

AIMIA’s 1Q17 earnings beat was overshadowed by the unexpected announcement of a
termination of the Air Canada contract, in 2020. While we believe that AIMIA was in an
unenviable position, given the timing of the announcements (and the ease with which Air
Canada could make some intriguing assertions and then go silent), AIMIA could have
mitigated the fallout by providing some specifics on the call (and limit some of the
misinformation that, in our opinion, is fueling the selloff). We are buyers of AIMIA as we
believe: (i) the risks to the economics of the program are smaller than feared; (ii) the
mitigating actions AIMIA can take to manage those risks are many; and, (iii) the reality is
that even beyond 2020 the value proposition of the currency will be at least equivalent to
that of its next nearest competitor in our opinion (all that goes away is the discount on
the classic fares). AIMIA purchases roughly $700 mln a year in seats from Air Canada of
which roughly $250 mln are on the fixed cost (previously classic grid) at a discount (which
in 2020 will be eliminated). We believe that while the discount on distressed inventory
(the additional seats Air Canada needs Aeroplan to fill) is high, that the adjusted EBITDA
headwind beyond 2020 at the midpoint for AIMIA is approximately $55 mln (a very
manageable number versus the fear). There is no risk of a run on the bank.

Analysis

 “Air Canada intends to continue to offer AIMIA redemption seats for Aeroplan
members after June 2020, with pricing competitive with other third-party rewards
programs”. Air Canada intends to offer redemption options because if they don’t,
they have a $700 mln plus revenue hole, which the revenues from their own
program will take years (if ever) to replace. Air Canada is not proposing being
gracious in continuing to offer redemption options -- they simply can’t afford not to.

 “The new Air Canada loyalty program will be focused on improved rewards and
recognition for the Airline’s customers, and will provide Air Canada and our business
partners with significant growth opportunities”. There is literally not a single
precedent we can recall supporting improved rewards and recognition of Airline
managed programs; indeed, the US Airline industry is a case study in the contrary
(with Airlines’ typically devaluing a loyalty currency and using it as a cash cow).

Valuation

Our new C$7.00 target price is based on the average of a 6.0x (10.0x-prior) multiple
on our 2017E adjusted EBITDA and 20% FCF yield (10%-prior). Our target multiple is
less than half its loyalty and transaction processing peer group 2017E average of
12.8x, which we believe is conservative and appropriately reflects the risks
associated with the Air Canada transition through 2020. S
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on May 12, 2017, 06:32:49 AM
Is there anything that would prevent Aeroplan/Aimia to allow its members to exchange their points for flights at other airlines? I would really love being able to use mine on Delta for example.


I don't think there can be.   Points are a currency earned and owned by the members.   And most aren't earned at AC but at via credit card use.   I doubt AC can ban members from spending currency earned on cards at another airline if Aimia does a deal.   One of the Brazilian loyalty schemes has commented that they would be able to transfer to another airline if something similar happened to them.   But the devil will be in the contract detail.

There is nothing that would keep points from being used for other airlines. In fact, half of points are spent now on Star Alliance members or on market fares (effectively cash value). The additional value for points to customers was on the lower priced fixed inventory that AC sold Aeroplan.

I spoke with the CFO for a bit at the AGM today. I suggested strongly that they should kill the dividend on the common and buyback preferred. He suggested there wasn't enough volume in the pref to do that and I clarified I was talking about a substantial issuer bid and not an NCIB. At the very least they should pay off all the fixed debt as soon as possible versus paying dividends on the common.

Perhaps since their attempt to keep the common stock afloat by not cutting the dividend didn't work, they will consider making the right long term decisions!

Lets hope.  Do you think a few emails to investor relations on this from board members might help?
I am going to send one anyway suggesting they kill the dividend until they have made up for the lost business. 
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on May 12, 2017, 06:45:00 AM
Is there anything that would prevent Aeroplan/Aimia to allow its members to exchange their points for flights at other airlines? I would really love being able to use mine on Delta for example.


I don't think there can be.   Points are a currency earned and owned by the members.   And most aren't earned at AC but at via credit card use.   I doubt AC can ban members from spending currency earned on cards at another airline if Aimia does a deal.   One of the Brazilian loyalty schemes has commented that they would be able to transfer to another airline if something similar happened to them.   But the devil will be in the contract detail.

There is nothing that would keep points from being used for other airlines. In fact, half of points are spent now on Star Alliance members or on market fares (effectively cash value). The additional value for points to customers was on the lower priced fixed inventory that AC sold Aeroplan.

I spoke with the CFO for a bit at the AGM today. I suggested strongly that they should kill the dividend on the common and buyback preferred. He suggested there wasn't enough volume in the pref to do that and I clarified I was talking about a substantial issuer bid and not an NCIB. At the very least they should pay off all the fixed debt as soon as possible versus paying dividends on the common.

Perhaps since their attempt to keep the common stock afloat by not cutting the dividend didn't work, they will consider making the right long term decisions!

Lets hope.  Do you think a few emails to investor relations on this from board members might help?
I am going to send one anyway suggesting they kill the dividend until they have made up for the lost business.

Good idea.

Care to provide a template?   It might (or might not?) have more effect if it looked co-ordinated.

P
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cardboard on May 12, 2017, 06:47:23 AM
I would Al and I did yesterday.

"I spoke with the CFO for a bit at the AGM today. I suggested strongly that they should kill the dividend on the common and buyback preferred. He suggested there wasn't enough volume in the pref to do that and I clarified I was talking about a substantial issuer bid and not an NCIB. At the very least they should pay off all the fixed debt as soon as possible versus paying dividends on the common."

Thanks for discussing with him SafetyinNumbers and letting us know. The underlined is just amazing to me. How is it that a CFO of what was before this mess a billion dollar company does not know of other means to buy securities than a NCIB?

If he does not like the idea of buying preferreds at a discount then say so but, please do not mention that liquidity makes it impossible...

Cardboard
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on May 12, 2017, 06:54:35 AM
I sent the following note to investor relations:

Dear Ms. Keyes,

I am sure you are awash in many notes from concerned shareholders. 

In light of the rather sudden change in the situation with Air Canada I am surprised that the BOD didn't suspend the dividend on the common shares.  I am also surprised of the intention to buy back stock.  I realize this is an attempt to prop up the common shares.  It hasn't worked, and never works, in any other situation that I have observed in over 20 years of investing.

A better action in my opinion would be to eliminate the dividend on the common and build up cash on the balance sheet while we go through this transition.  I have confidence that Aimia can diverisfy away from its dependence on Air Canada.  It would be nice to know there was an extra 120 million per year to see us into the next growth phase.  The market has already priced the dividend cut into the share price so why not bite the bullet, get it done, and deploy the cash in greener pastures. 

There is also no reason to pay down fixed debt, or buy in shares.  The debt that Aimia carries is cheap in comparison to many other companies. 

The extra cash could be used to develop relationships with other carriers, and invest in the other assets that Aimia has such as those in Mexico. 

I am sure this is in the forefront of managements minds but it may be a good time to explore developing a program with West Jet and Delta. 

Please consider taking this note to upper management. 

Sincerely,

Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cardboard on May 12, 2017, 07:26:25 AM
Good letter. You may want to send an amendment to suggest buying back preferreds on the cheap. This is expensive debt when you look at it.

Cardboard
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on May 12, 2017, 02:56:51 PM
Uccmal-  I applaud this effort to communicate the wisdom of suspending common dividends.  I agree with y'all on that. 

BUT, keep in mind that they declared this dividend before receiving legally-binding notice that AC definitely intends to not renew the contract.  Thus, their decision could have been just posturing in an attempt to seem confident in the event that AC came back to the negotiating table.  Mgmt dropped plenty of hints on the call that - at the time - they viewed this as a real possibility.

And yes, it's possible that they still intend to pay dividends and buyback common shares.  I'm simply suggesting that we not characterize their decision on this one most recent dividend as stupidity.  Let's not even comment on it and just say please don't declare any more divvys for now.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on May 12, 2017, 03:05:52 PM
Folks - here's my latest thoughts (posted to sumzero.com where I totally nailed the timing on this one ... posted a buy rec on the preferreds just two weeks ago.  I'm sharing it with you in hopes of collecting your reactions - good, bad, or really bad.

Here it is:

it's far from clear to me how much of today's paper loss is really a permanent impairment of capital.

First let's take a quick look at some numbers that might help to estimate the extent of the damage. Aimia gave us a couple useful datapoints yesterday. One is that Classic
Fares represented ~50% of the flight rewards redeemed on Aeroplan in 2016. The other is that Classic Fares represented 1/3 of the $682M that Aeroplan spent on airfare in 2016.


We also know that about 30% of flight rewards are Market Fares (4Q15 presentation). Assuming that hasn't changed much, it seems that 1 - 50% - 30% = 20% of fares are on other Star Alliance partner flights (i had assumed 14%). The cost to Aeroplan for Market Fare flights in 2016 was $185M. Finally, Aeroplan issued 1.9M flights to members in 2016. From all this we can deduce:

                                              % of flights         % of airfare cost          cost ($M)            flights (M)          avg cost/flight
Classic Fare flights                           50%                           33%                     227                 1.0                         $239
Market Fare flights                           30%                           27%                     185                 0.6                         $325
other Star Alliance partner flights   20%                           40%                     270                 0.4                         $710
                                                        100%                 100%                     682                 1.9   

No surprise that flights on other Star Alliance partners are much more expensive - given AC's extensive routes in Canada and the US, almost all of these are probably international flights to some other country. As such, comparing the average cost of these flights to the rest is probably not apples-to-apples. But comparing the costs of Market Fares vs Classic Fares probably makes sense. And there we can see that Classic Fares seem to be priced at a roughly 26% discount to Market Fares (239/325 - 1 = 26%), which is pretty close to my 25% assumption in the writeup .

In their press release today, AC said that it "intends to continue to offer Aimia redemption seats for Aeroplan members after June 2020, with pricing competitive with other third-party rewards programs." I take this to mean rates similar to current Market Fare rates. So all else equal (more on that in a second!), if Aimia took them up on that offer and paid Market Fare rates across the board, that would mean an extra $81M (1/(1-26%) - 1 = 36% increase. $227M * 36% = $81M).

Somewhat surprisingly, management reiterated their guidance for $220M in free cash flow in 2017. An $81M hit to $220M would still leave plenty of room to pay the $17M of dividends on the preferred shares. Of course other things won't be exactly equal, but I think this little excercise helps frame the issue a bit. For a sanity check, note that the analyst at GMP Securities yesterday estimated EBITDA post-June 2020 at $150-200M. With ~$260M of consolidated 2017E EBITDA, that's a hit of $60-110M. The analyst at RBC estimated a hit of $75M to post-June 2020 EBITDA. I don't yet know how they arrived at those numbers, but it seems we're all roughly as crazy.

Aimia needs to either find new airline partners fast (likely WestJet plus a US carrier - perhaps Alaskan Air or American Airlines) or take Air Canada up on their offer discussed above. The former is likely preferable to the latter, because the latter would probably be more expensive and - to a lesser extent - because AC's seat availability will gradually decrease as they allocate to their own FF program. That $2 billion liability for unredeemed flights will actually be an asset in the search for new partners, as it represents a huge volume of business, and selling an otherwise unfilled seat means high margins for airlines.

By laying out the post June 2020 future for the Aeroplan program, Aimia would hopefully avoid a "run on the bank" as members might otherwise feel compelled to use up all their miles in the next 3.1 years. (Note that as a last resort, Aeroplan could always re-write the rules on redemption any way they please, but at the long-run cost of pissing off members.)

The "run on the bank" risk is real, but with just over 3 years to go on the current contract they should have ample time to line up something that preserves the value of Aeroplan miles in the minds of consumers. The bigger risk - I believe - is that Aeroplan card holders start to shift their spending to the other cards in their wallet, causing gross billings to drop overall and particularly with Amex (16% of Aeroplan gross billings), should such a trend cause them to not renew their one-year contract. Thankfully the contracts with TD and CIBC (52% of Aeroplan gross billings) run through 2024.

Finally, Aeroplan does earn some fees for managing AC's FF program, but I doubt the profit (if any) on this amounts to more than $10M and is probably much less. Moreover, mgmt is now guiding to $70M in cost cuts by 2019, with some of that to be realized in 2018. And no, that's not related to the cost of serving AC, as it's coming before June 2020.

Mgmt is drawing $200m on their revolver (which matures in 2020) to help pay off the Jan 2018 notes early and save a tiny bit in interest expense. Somewhat surprisingly, they kept the dividend intact and renewed the common share buyback program. This may have simply been posturing, as they made the decision before AC had (today) sent their legally required notice of non-renewal and management made many hints on the call that AC might simply be "negotiating in public" with their public announcement. Now I think it makes a lot of sense to suspend the dividend (after paying the one they just declared), and either hoard cash or (even better) buy back preferred shares now trading at 10-12% yields. When asked about buying back preferred shares, they basically said no comment - but again, that was before getting the official word from AC.

They're also considering accelerating the existing program of asset sales. Biggest potential sale is their stake in PLM, though I'm not sure they could sell before AeroMexico agreed to an IPO. In any case, PLM is doing great and the US$ 1 billion estimate IPO value (mentioned in my writeup) puts AC's stake at roughly C$ 650M.

Final thought: for what it's worth, I just don't see how Calvin Rovinescu gets to his claimed $2 billion NPV over 15 years from this making this move, unless one or more of the following are true:

a) Aimia will fail to line up a decent contract with a new airline partner(s) and thus continue buying AC flights at whatever terms he dictates (maybe, but I doubt it)

b) AC can create its own full-blown loyalty coalition (which I don't think will be easy)

... and perhaps even sell miles to coalition partners at higher prices than Aimia was getting. I've heard anectodes of US airlines with their own internal loyalty coalitions who supposedly are able to charge a really high spread between the price they get from coalition partners for miles and their cost to provide the flights. I'm talking about a spread way higher than what Aimia gets. Said airlines don't typically disclose such metrics so who knows. In any event, Aimia deliberately lowered their own spread a few years ago as Aeroplan members were starting to really hate Aeroplan. Main complaint was lousy availability of seats ... Aimia fixed this at a cost to its gross margins, but in so doing prevented a decline in gross billings. It was the right move. Not sure how AC could extract higher prices than could Aimia.

The biggest $ savings for AC that I can imagine is more than offset by potential loss of $ from flights redeemed with miles earned with other coaliton partners e.g. TD, CIBC, gas stations and other frequent-purchase retailers. These likely account for well over $400M a year in revenue to AC, often for seats that would have gone unsold.

Not saying he's crazy. Just saying I don't get it. AC has promised to reveal the details on Sept. 19th.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on May 13, 2017, 08:07:59 AM
Uccmal-  I applaud this effort to communicate the wisdom of suspending common dividends.  I agree with y'all on that. 

BUT, keep in mind that they declared this dividend before receiving legally-binding notice that AC definitely intends to not renew the contract.  Thus, their decision could have been just posturing in an attempt to seem confident in the event that AC came back to the negotiating table.  Mgmt dropped plenty of hints on the call that - at the time - they viewed this as a real possibility.

And yes, it's possible that they still intend to pay dividends and buyback common shares.  I'm simply suggesting that we not characterize their decision on this one most recent dividend as stupidity.  Let's not even comment on it and just say please don't declare any more divvys for now.

Well, I posted the letter here after I sent it.  It was unclear even as of Thursday what the order of operations was.  I dont expect a reply to the letter right now.  I expect they are getting plenty of armchair advice right now.  Management needs to get busy dealing with this contingency, and then communicate their plan to shareholders. 

Perhaps they will come to the realization that the common dividend has to be eliminated for now to reassure shareholders.  I only hold the prefs. so my interests are clear.  I wouldn't touch the common with a barge pole right now.  We have untested management dealing with a crisis.

As to the prefs.  I have a price in mind I would sell at... something around where they traded at before this news.  That would give me a 50% gain on the A's and a 35% on the B's.  Anything lower and I will ignore it.  Some bigger shareholders probably bought the prefs at par and would be mighty pissed at Aimia if they tried to buy them in below par.  If thats the case then I dont see them calling in the prefs. since its cheap financing.  They could try to shrink the float of Prefs. by buying on the open market, which could push the price up.  So, in summary I dont see them calling the prefs, ever. 

At this point its anything goes for the aeroplan division.  It seems unlikely that AC will come back to the table after all of these press releases.  If they do it will be to hire Aimia to administer their own program. 
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on May 19, 2017, 01:46:11 PM
Got some numbers for use in your own analysis...

A) -$78M = incremental cash flow loss from no longer managing AC's FF program.  This is takes all the miles earned by members for flying on AC and calculates how many of these miles are redeemed for flights on AC, for flights on other Star Alliance airlines, and for non-airfare rewards.  I estimate the costs of these to Aeroplan in 2016 were roughly $110m, $33m, $26m respectively, or ~$170m total.  Meanwhile, Aeroplan received $248m in gross bilings from AC.  170-248=-78m

B) -$61M = cost of paying Market Fare rates on all Classic Fares purchased with miles not earned by flying AC.   This number is only relevant if Aeroplan fails to sign on a new airline partner(s), because if they do, they might get a better rate from that new airline(s).  Keep in mind that when AC offered to continue making seats available for Aeroplan members post June 2020, they weren't doing so out of kindness.  Aeroplan paid $434m to AC in 2016 for flights earned outside of AC's FF program.  This would be nearly $500m if all of it had been priced at Market Fare rates.

C) +$70M = Aimia's targeted cost savings in 2019

Clearly there are big uncertainties regarding what other Airlines Aeroplan can partner with, and how soon, and how Aeroplan card useage will change, and how TD, CIBC, and Amex will change their promotion levels for Aeroplan cards.

One way to look at it might be to say that if I'm right about A, B, and C, then just prior to June 2020, runrate Aimia free cash flows would have to drop from around $220m today to ~$86m before coverage drops below 1.0x on the preferred dividends.  (Bonds should be paid off by that point, thus no interest expense.)

Again, that's: 86m runrate FCF prior to june 2020 - 78m - 61m + 70m = 17m post-june 2020 FCF = 17m preferred dividends
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on May 25, 2017, 07:11:18 AM
Do they disclose how many points get redeemed with Air Canada vs Star Alliance?
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on May 25, 2017, 07:25:13 AM

One way to look at it might be to say that if I'm right about A, B, and C, then just prior to June 2020, runrate Aimia free cash flows would have to drop from around $220m today to ~$86m before coverage drops below 1.0x on the preferred dividends.  (Bonds should be paid off by that point, thus no interest expense.)

Again, that's: 86m runrate FCF prior to june 2020 - 78m - 61m + 70m = 17m post-june 2020 FCF = 17m preferred dividends

I am slightly confused by this part.   Surely if 86 is the threshold needed to cover the prefs, the maths is 220-78-61+70=151 meaning the pref dividend is well covered?
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cardboard on May 25, 2017, 07:43:38 AM
What a bad management team this is. One has to wonder why Duchesne left for some medical reason a few months back???

They mentioned that they had some plans in case that Air Canada would cancel the contract. Wouldn't it be time to disclose some of these?

Cardboard
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on May 25, 2017, 08:17:53 AM
What a bad management team this is. One has to wonder why Duchesne left for some medical reason a few months back???

They mentioned that they had some plans in case that Air Canada would cancel the contract. Wouldn't it be time to disclose some of these?

Cardboard

That might be quite prejudicial to negotiations, presuming there are any!
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on May 25, 2017, 09:24:52 AM
What a bad management team this is. One has to wonder why Duchesne left for some medical reason a few months back???

They mentioned that they had some plans in case that Air Canada would cancel the contract. Wouldn't it be time to disclose some of these?

Cardboard


That might be quite prejudicial to negotiations, presuming there are any!

The CEO seems clueless but we shall see.  One hopes that it gets through their thick skulls that the common divvy needs to be eliminated until they have lined up replacement business.  The problem with CEOs who come from marketing backgrounds is their lack of knowledge in how markets see their companies.  The market cleary sees the common dividend gone, so get rid of it already. 

Anyway, enough said.  Its been a bad couple of months with my oil stocks treading water, and Aimia blowing up all at once. 
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on May 25, 2017, 12:47:30 PM
petec-   

flights on other star alliance airlines are about 20% of flights but about 40% of cost of flights to Aeroplan.  They're more expensiyeve because these are mainly international flights to destinations other than the U.S.

yes, the pref dividends are well covered barring a severe drop in FCF.  That 220M figure is - IMO - probably optimistic because Aeroplan members will likely accelerate redemptions and use their Aeroplan credit cards less often to some degree given the uncertainty of what Aeroplan points will be worth in 3 years.  Hard to say what the extent of this will be.  Clearly if mgmt can line up attractive new airline partners soon they will put members' concerns to rest. 
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on May 25, 2017, 12:54:06 PM
Cardboard & Uccmal-

The new CEO was the former CFO.  his background is finance, not marketing.  I don't have any reason to think he's clueless on the dividend - the last divvy was declared before AC officially declared intent to not renew, and he may have been just trying to play it cool as a result.  we shall see.

Aimia is undoubtedly talking to potential airline partners right now and thus can't comment on what the post june 2020 flight options will be.  I suspect that Westjet is the main potential partner.  also think they're talking to other Star Alliance airlines since they've done business with them for years and some of them (e.g. United) already have a significant number of routes that service Canada.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on May 25, 2017, 01:41:31 PM
Cardboard & Uccmal-

The new CEO was the former CFO.  his background is finance, not marketing.  I don't have any reason to think he's clueless on the dividend - the last divvy was declared before AC officially declared intent to not renew, and he may have been just trying to play it cool as a result.  we shall see.

Aimia is undoubtedly talking to potential airline partners right now and thus can't comment on what the post june 2020 flight options will be.  I suspect that Westjet is the main potential partner.  also think they're talking to other Star Alliance airlines since they've done business with them for years and some of them (e.g. United) already have a significant number of routes that service Canada.

I am only going by his bio from the website:

David Johnston was appointed Group Chief Executive in May 2017. In this role, he is responsible for driving further development of Aimia’s global operating model and performance, with all operating divisions reporting to Mr. Johnston. Mr. Johnston is also responsible for the global business development team who plan and execute the expansion of Aimia’s full suite strategy into new territories. Prior to this Mr. Johnston was President and Chief Executive Officer, EMEA and Executive Vice President from January 2010. In this role, he had full responsibility for driving the expansion of Aimia's businesses in the EMEA region including Nectar, Nectar Italia and Air Miles Middle East as well as all of our proprietary loyalty and loyalty analytics businesses in the region. Mr. Johnston joined Aimia from PepsiCo where he spent 13 years in Marketing and General Management. He has had extensive global experience in PepsiCo in Europe, Latin America and in PepsiCo's global headquarters in Purchase, New York. He holds an Honours Degree in Business from Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on May 26, 2017, 03:22:52 AM

flights on other star alliance airlines are about 20% of flights but about 40% of cost of flights to Aeroplan. 

That's quite good news.   If 40% of the value that members see in flight redemptions is with SA not AC, it's that much easier to port them to another airline (so long as it is an SA partner or equivalent).
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cardboard on May 26, 2017, 08:12:49 AM
https://www.stockwatch.com/News/Item.aspx?bid=Z-C%3aAIM-2474548&symbol=AIM&region=C

Nothing like the confidence of a CEO... Dumb  ::)

Cardboard
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on May 26, 2017, 08:42:13 AM
well, he could say the sky is falling and we're doomed, then call westjet or united and tell them that Aeroplan will have no issues paying for flights.  that'll work just fine.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on May 26, 2017, 09:17:56 AM
well, he could say the sky is falling and we're doomed, then call westjet or united and tell them that Aeroplan will have no issues paying for flights.  that'll work just fine.

Lol...
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cardboard on May 26, 2017, 10:37:18 AM
He should disclose some of the options that they are looking at. And stop the dividend until the business situation has stabilized with a real long term plan.

Air Canada did not hesitate to go public and tell Aimia that they would stop using them. They should also mention publicly, and to their investors, what they intend to do.

Cardboard
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on May 26, 2017, 04:09:04 PM
What Air Canada is thinking...

this might all boil down to Westjet's announcement on May 2nd that it has ordered 10 Boeing 787s, with an option to buy 10 more.

Westjet was launched in 1996 with a Southwest-style strategy of only flying 737s and offering only one class of seats.  though they introduced "Plus" seats with a bit more legroom in 2013, these weren't a big change (extra cost of only $45).  This formula allowed them to be profitable on a fairly consistent basis for 20 years - no small feat for an airline - I never expected them to change it.

So until now, AC has been the only game in town for business class travel on a Canadian airline. 

The 787 changes all that as it allows for full lie-flat seats - nice enough to allow Westjet to charge full business-class rates for the first time (and also to greatly expand it int'l routes). Business class travelers are where the big bucks are for traditional airlines like AC.  Meanwhile, AC's current arrangement with Aeroplan doesn't (I'm guessing) give them enough flexibility to prioritize their FFs when it comes to flight availability (vs all the other Aeroplan members).  With their main rival now going after their golden goose, AC probably decided to greatly up its demands in talks with Aimia, and Aimia balked.

Perhaps this would explain why AC never once publicly mentioned the possibility of not renewing the Aeroplan contract all the way up thru mid-march - then ~3 weeks later suddenly announce that a break with Aeroplan will add $2 billion of NPV to their company's value.  AC's market cap was ~$3.6 billion prior to this announcement, so that would be an increase north of 50%.

 
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: bizaro86 on May 26, 2017, 10:24:33 PM
Meanwhile, AC's current arrangement with Aeroplan doesn't (I'm guessing) give them enough flexibility to prioritize their FFs when it comes to flight availability (vs all the other Aeroplan members).

This part isn't true. Air Canada gives priority access to business class seats to its most important (super-elite) customers. The details are below. They do it through their elite recognition (altitude) program, which they separated from Aeroplan a few years ago. That decision was probably writing on the wall they wouldn't renew.

https://altitude.aircanada.com/status/priority-rewards

Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on May 30, 2017, 05:00:44 AM
Reply to my letter.  Pretty boilerplate.  I suspect we see a cut before or at the next Q's earnings. 

"Thank you for your email and apologies for the delay in getting back to you.
 
We are taking on board all comments and appreciate you sharing your feedback with us.
 
To clarify, the dividend declaration was made before we received formal notification from Air Canada and the Board reviews the dividend every quarter.
 
As discussed on our recent Q1 2017 conference call, a key priority for us right now is to ensure a strong redemption offering post 2020. Remember our contracts with TD and CIBC run to early 2024 and members continue to have access to rewards on Air Canada until 2020 under our existing contract (and beyond if Aimia decides that is the best outcome for members and shareholders). 
 
We will share more information with the market as soon as we are able to.
 
Kind regards.
Tom"

From Tom Tran
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on May 30, 2017, 10:48:59 AM
bizaro- 
thank you for bringing this up, but I have to disagree.  For every class of Elite members, they begin with the sentence, "In the event that Aeroplan Fixed Mileage Flight Reward seats are completely booked..."

in other words, under the current arrangement, it doesn't matter whether an Aeroplan member is also an Elite member of Altitude in terms of access to Classic Fare (the deep discount) seats on Air Canada.  Only when Classic Fare seats are all taken do these Elite privileges kick in.  I suspect Air Canada wants to give these Elite members better access to the best seats in order to keep business travelers from switching to Westjet, now that Westjet is going to be offering true business class seats.

also, see Mark Satov's comments in the globe and mail article from Saturday (link is in my next post)
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on May 30, 2017, 10:57:52 AM
Here's an interesting tidbit from Aimia's CEO in the Saturday's Globe and Mail (emphasis mine):

“Our members are sitting on a balance of something like 200 billion unredeemed miles. That’s a huge amount of traffic that can be directed into other partners – whether that’s other airlines or other partners more broadly. ... That’s miles of travel that they’re going to take at some point in the future. That traditionally went to Air Canada and it now can go toward Air Canada, and some of the alternatives that we’re going to be working on.”

http://bit.ly/2rkhso6

my take on this is that they're looking at potentially adding more non-flight rewards (cruises perhaps?).  more importantly, this would seem to confirm that they will, in fact, take Air Canada up on its offer to continue selling seats to Aeroplan members (albeit at higher prices than the current Classic Fares).
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: clutch on May 30, 2017, 11:09:50 AM
Here's an interesting tidbit from Aimia's CEO in the Saturday's Globe and Mail (emphasis mine):

“Our members are sitting on a balance of something like 200 billion unredeemed miles. That’s a huge amount of traffic that can be directed into other partners – whether that’s other airlines or other partners more broadly. ... That’s miles of travel that they’re going to take at some point in the future. That traditionally went to Air Canada and it now can go toward Air Canada, and some of the alternatives that we’re going to be working on.”

http://bit.ly/2rkhso6

my take on this is that they're looking at potentially adding more non-flight rewards (cruises perhaps?).  more importantly, this would seem to confirm that they will, in fact, take Air Canada up on its offer to continue selling seats to Aeroplan members (albeit at higher prices than the current Classic Fares).

The problem is, non-flight rewards in general are so horrible in terms of their values that there is no incentive for anyone to continue using Aeroplan. It'd be pretty much similar or worse than other travel points programs.

So I think they really need an airline rewards alliance to keep its customers...
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on May 30, 2017, 11:14:46 AM
clutch, I agree.  Non-airfare rewards have higher average gross margins than airfare ... not so high that I'd use the term "horrible" but whatever.

I definitely think the vast majority of points/miles will still be redeemed for airfare under whatever new options Aeroplan comes up with.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on June 02, 2017, 01:09:38 PM
I’m in. Long the A, B and C preferred shares. Here’s why.

Looked at this a few times in the last years. Missed the AIMIA preferred 2016 opportunity despite 1- obtaining an easy +/- 17 % total return on FFH preferreds (Cs and Ms) pretty much around the same time during the institutional sway in CDN preferreds and 2- looking in some depth at AIM (I was looking at the common share opportunity) around the same time. Retrospectively, if I had “seen” the preferreds opportunity, I think I would have bought. Like to think that I would have sold during the upswing but not sure…

The AC announcement was pretty much unexpected (early and not favorable). The big question is: can they adapt/react to the new circumstances? I think they can and that means upside potential for the preferreds.

Sorry, very long post. My style. If you don’t like it, just move on.

Disclosure:
-I have read a fair amount about loyalty management but I’m no specialist and have no specific practical work experience in the loyalty business.
-There are some aspects of the industry that I don’t understand well (analytics service aspect).
-The main component of loyalty business is based on contracts that share value provided by the loyalty program and that are not disclosed. Indirect ways to deal with that limitation is evaluating the historical record and business acumen of leaders. Still, mostly asymmetrical information and guesswork.
-This is not an investment for the long run. More of an expected return towards intrinsic value type of investment.

Topic #1: trust in management

They certainly look like deers looking at headlights right now and the recent “business as usual” comments don’t help with the market perception and the capacity of management here will be key.  There are some unknowns, especially the new CEO, David Johnston.

David Johnston came to Aimia in 2010 with international marketing background. He first headed the EMEA division, including Nectar UK then became COO and interim CEO. Not enough info to make up my mind. Performance at Nectar UK can be analyzed (see below topic #4) after 2010 and results are fair (positive trend but variable and future somewhat unclear). Jan-Pieter Lips, who was one of the founder of Nectar UK in 2002 and who had risen to president of Aima’s international coalitions segment, just left the company…So this is an area where more work has to be done.

Somebody mentioned Tor Lonnum (CFO) and he seemed to have done a good job with Tryg, the Scandinavian insurer. I decided to look into this as 1- it is relevant (the Aimia CFO may have to seriously look at, and implement different alternative financial strategies going forward) and 2- one of my interests is property/casualty insurance. I understand that Mr. Lonnum came to Aimia for the international challenge. Ready for adversity?

Here’s a relevant summary of my research. So, Tryg is a P+C Scandinavian insurer based in Denmark. The P+C industry in Scandinavia is characterized by a relatively captive oligopoly. Tryg has been one of the four main players. For the last 10 years or so, most players have used similar strategies (focus on profitability for underwriting (premium increase and expense control) and mostly stable or slowly rising premium levels). They show similar patterns in underwriting results, return on equity and dividend payout but there are differences. Tor Lonnum came to Tryg in September 2011 and left (his decision to come to Aimia) in April or May 2016. Overall, my opinion, based on the analysis, is that he did a very good job on an absolute and relative basis. Obviously, decisions taken before he arrived and factors outside of management control during his tenure can have an impact on results but, as a CFO for almost 5 years, I submit that he had a significant influence on results. Let’s see. I looked at industry reports and Tryg/competitors annual reports (some competitors are subs, so data sometimes not completely or easily comparable). I also used, for comparative purposes, the 2007 to 2011 calendar years and compared key performance indicators with the 2012 to 2016 period. For Tryg, the average combined ratio for 2007-2011 was 91,4 and for 2012-16 was 87,7. The arithmetic ROE average for 2007-2011 was 14,9% and for 2012-16 was 22,3%. Comparison with competitors show that, in general, the CR and ROE numbers improved during 2012-6, but improvement was more marked at Tryg, especially for the ROE component. Perhaps relevant to Aimia is the fact that Mr. Lonnum was instrumental in driving costs down in order to improve the CR. For instance, in 2011, gross written premiums were (in Denmark currency, million krones) 20 822 and there were 4300 employees for a ratio of 4,8. In 2016, GWP were 17 842 and there were 3264 employees for a ratio of 5,5. My understanding is that Mr. Lonnum played a key role in underwriting discipline (reduced premiums in a mature market and a clearly laid out a plan of cost reduction measures including staff reduction). My take is that one of the reasons that the ROE improved (on an absolute and relative basis) was because of the CFO’s role in the capital allocation decisions related to capital levels, dividend policy and share repurchase decisions. Also, Mr. Lonnum contributed to clear and transparent policies related to dividend payout versus capital available, earnings for the period and outlook. I submit that this will be crucial for Aimia going forward. During his CFO tenure, Tryg obtained an upgrade from rating agencies and total share return was positive on absolute basis and quite robust on a relative basis. Assuming a stock split did not occur, share price when he arrived was around 280 DKK. When he left, share price was around 650 DKK and 97 DKK were distributed as dividends along the way. Personally, I’d be happy with +/- CAGR 25% over 4-5 year periods. But I’m just a guy glaring at a screen right now. I like what Mr. Lonnum has done at Tryg and see him as a positive contributor going forward.

Robert Brown is the Chairman of the Board of Aimia (Chairman since 2008 and director since 2005). I have followed his career over the years. I have read and listened to what he has/had to say about Aimia and I have decided to trust him. Mr. Brown’s record is not perfect but he has shown good abilities during tough times elsewhere. He will be a key player during the next transition. He was with Bombardier for many years and was the main factor behind the success of the regional jets. He left Bombardier in 2002 because it was felt that the company needed new direction (Paul Tellier took over). With Bombardier (still family controlled and Mr. Tellier also had to leave when his visions differed from the Family), decisions are not always based on a transparent process. Mr. Brown was also on the Board of Nortel (2000-2006). His role there was neutral… He was involved with Air Canada during the restructuring (Chairman AC 2003-4 and on Board of ACE 2004-9).  One can be critical of the restructuring process but overall (with Milton and Rovinescu as the main man, “iron fist”), it can be considered a “success”.  It was in 2005 that ACE did the Aeroplan IPO and then progressively sold its remaining stake. A key relevant part of Mr. Brown’s career pathway is when he took over CAE (CEO 2004-9). CAE (mostly flight simulators and related training) was heading in the wrong direction (even if slowly recovering from the 9/11 downturn, there were questions regarding the quality of earnings and strategic vision). The context of Mr. Brown’s arrival implied a need for restructuring and judicious diversification. His plan worked well and rapidly. My opinion is that his tenure at CAE was impressive. He predictably left in 2009 (not a great time to leave if you look at market-based indicators). From 2004 to 2009, revenues went from 940 millions to 1,7 billion and net debt went from 530 millions to 285 millions. I submit that Mr. Brown will be a key player for the challenge(s) facing Aimia. He is a quiet force, understands the key variables, can take difficult decisions, has been successful in tough restructurings and is modest. The kind of person I want to partner with in these situations (my opinion, not worth very much by itself). We’ll have to see how this plays out.

I also like Micheal Fortier who has been on the Aimia Board since 2009. He’s also on the nominating committee.

Other relevant comments about key management people would be helpful.

From the transcript of Rupert Duchesne at the CIBC EASTERN INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR CONFERENCE held on September 21, 2016.
Relevant excerpts :

« It's been a very successful contract. There's still four years left to run. Clearly there's been
a lot of noise around it and a few comments made in public. We've got a pretty good history of
mega negotiations.
 Without getting too personal, we had a fairly big negotiation with CIBC and TD a couple of
years ago that ended up in a place, I think, better than most people expected for us. I actually,
frankly, lost a little more sleep over that than I will lose over the Air Canada negotiations because I
think there's actually a really good balance of power between the two of us. »
« It was a smart contract 15 years ago. I negotiated it, Calin was involved, so we both had a
say in that, but the world has moved on a great deal. And I think there is a lot of room for a different
approach to running the business. »
« —or whoever else. So I think the stage is well-set. When they're ready and when we're ready we'll
get into a negotiation. (***) But I think the prospect of a divorce would be so horrible for both parties
that we'll actually get to a fairly straightforward deal.   (my ***)

So, I think Aimia: -overestimated the strength of its negotiating power, -underestimated AC’s intent to go after risk AND reward AND -are NOT prepared.

In my humble mind, the CEO remains a question mark at this point.

The investment thesis is based on the following for topic #1: Better than average management is needed. I assume that, either top management will deliver or change needs to occur rapidly.

Topic #2: moat of loyalty programs and value without a core frequent flyer component

There is that love/hate relationship with loyalty programs that reminds me of the dynamics with credit card issuers. People “hate” them but are heavily influenced by them. That won’t change and, with data analytics (consumer data), the trend should continue to be favorable for loyalty programs. Customers are not necessarily loyal, negative (extractive) aspects of these programs frequently resurface and many cards stay in wallets but good loyalty programs are efficient ways to extract value from customers and infringe consumer surplus. Well designed loyalty programs have value. The questions are: how to appropriate the value, proprietary or coalition? And how to share the value if an intermediate agent is used? My opinion is that Aimia is likely to continue to play this game profitably even if the recent AC announcement leaves some questions unanswered at this point.

For reference of general industry trends: see pages 14-17
http://www.finaccord.com/documents/report_prospectus_global_coalition_loyalty_programs.pdf

Recent survey:
http://strategyonline.ca/2017/05/24/is-your-loyalty-program-satisfying-your-customers/

To outsource or not is a recurring theme in this fluid environment and it comes to a question that each and everyone of us ask ourselves from time to time. Should I do it myself or should I pay somebody else to do it for me? For those interested, here are a few examples of commercial loyalty relationships that got or are getting redefined. Recently Metro, a grocer, has been going through this kind of questioning: proprietary vs Air Miles. Westjet went through this when it left Air Miles a few years ago and started its own rewards program in 2010.  Sainsbury (grocer) left Air Miles UK before joining Nectar UK in 2002 and became an “anchor” partner. In 2009, Nectar UK recruited Homebase (#2 hardware retailer in the UK) at a time when Homebase had its own proprietary reward program (#4 position in loyalty programs in UK then, based on number of members). Homebase recently changed owner and is leaving Nectar UK in 2017. Anybody with relevant knowledge from these or similar scenarios should pitch in. From my point of view, in another life and for many years, I was involved in a business whereby large and medium firms could do work in-house, could delegate some work or could outsource completely a specialized part of human resources management. These market segments are constantly redefining as contracts are typically short term in nature and as contract renewal is never guaranteed. The moat is hard to define and is based on specific people/culture involved. This helps to understand the high level of goodwill and intangibles found on the balance sheet of Aimia. My opinion is that some loyalty programs provide little or no value especially the proprietary subtype. Loyalty programs, especially the coalition type, need specialized service that is very hard to develop in-house. I submit that the key is to create value (customer loyalty) AND to share this created value (reasonable win-win) between the 3rd party (Aimia) and the retailer/airline. On balance, I find that Aimia has done this quite well over the years.  Aeroplan started very small and maybe Rupert Duchesne was just the guy at the right place and at the right time when AC had to let go of this unit with a knife on the neck. Circumstances that existed then versus the negotiation power between AC and Aeroplan gave way to very favorable terms for Aeroplan. Aimia was able to earn abnormal profits for a long time. My opinion is that this aspect of the business was well managed. Somehow, new more balanced terms had to be negotiated (to share more with AC). Maybe, Aimia was too rigid. More likely, I think that AC had come to think that they were not in the sharing mood anymore. So now, there is a big bump on the road.

Air Canada announced that they will start their own proprietary program (more on that below, topic #3). If AC leaves Aeroplan as a core partner, one has to evaluate if there is room for two national loyalty programs in Canada, which is considered mature for this market. Not sure. I appreciate attempts by some to analyze (quantitative) the cash flow impact after June 2020. Very difficult exercise. It’s like if you ask a grocery store owner to evaluate the value of losing the right to sell beer and fresh products. It’s not simple math. Losing a core aspect of your earning potential could be lethal. My opinion is that there would still be value after but it would be a small fraction of what it is now. Not sure fixed costs would be covered. This opinion is based on static conditions. Of course, the situation will be dynamic.

One of the potential problems is that this is a business based on cash flow coming from gross billings. The model would not work well in a run-off mode and the downward spiral would be compounded by customers redeeming points more rapidly. This is loyalty business and management have to avoid trust erosion in the brand. There is the usual stickiness and resistance to change but participants have questions and will look for alternatives. Potential death spiral unless management has something to show. Timeline is not days and maybe not even weeks but my take is that light has to be seen at the end of the tunnel before next fall. Renewal and non-renewal of commercial partners are relatively expected in this business. However, in this specific case, AC was the core partner for the CDN loyalty unit, which was the primary cash flow driver for the entity and this why management have to show how the transition will be managed. See topic #4.
The investment thesis is based on the assumption that, on balance, the Aeroplan plan has value and alternatives (with AC, other airline partners or other partners) will likely compensate at least partially the business lost with AC as defined by the present contract. This is still unknown, is uncomfortable but represents a real opportunity (more on that below, topic #4).

Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on June 02, 2017, 01:10:22 PM
Part 2

Topic #3: timing and nature of Air Canada’s announcement

Somewhat unusual. Isn’t it? However, when you look at AC’s history and Mr. Rovinescu’s “strategies”, it makes more sense. Just think of what happened to Aveos. In 2007, Air Canada spun off its in-house maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) unit, Air Canada Technical Services, as a separate company.  It then stopped sending work there and the unit went bankrupt…It is ironic that AC recently negotiated litigation termination around this issue with the government in exchange for an engagement for maintenance of C-Series planes bought on discount. Air Canada’s business has been up and down but they sure do know how to squeeze the lemon sometimes. In the Aimia case, do not expect sentimental business dealings for the “loyalty” component that had been spun off many years ago. However, whichever form the AC loyalty program takes may give rise to opportunities for Aimia.

Another relevant historical example has to do with what happened to the contract between AC and Jazz air (regional carrier, became Chorus Aviation in 2010). Jazz Air was the result of another of these moves made by AC during its corporate restructuring. Under ACE, in 2006, Jazz Air became an income trust and obtained a relatively favorable arrangement with AC that became over the years an increasingly high and no longer necessary burden. The last contract was supposed to last until 2020. What did AC do? The story, in fact, is quite interesting and possibly relevant. My take, from public disclosures, is that, in 2015, “unscheduled” negotiations occurred and a new agreement was pretty much imposed by AC resulting in an extraction of about 550 millions for the following 5 year period in favor of AC. During negotiations, AC had mentioned the possibility of going to alternative regional providers… and, in fact, did to a certain extent for the US routes without getting Chorus involved in the bidding…I don’t know what was said behind closed doors (I only wish I could be in some of these board rooms when these things happen), but Chorus Aviation announced that the “new agreement” was a “win-win”. BTW, Since the new agreement, AC has done better than Chorus but Chorus has continued to thrive despite “adjustments” to their contract with AC. History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes. You’d think that you need to watch House of Cards to get this kind of entertainment. For the aficionados, Fairfax has held shares of Chorus around 2012 and recently participated in a convertible debt investment in the regional carrier.

The fact that this announcement is made years in advance is a good thing. It gives time for interim cash flows to accumulate and gives times to assess alternatives including a new form of partnership with AC.

AC sees now the loyalty component as a significant profit center (just look at the financial statements of Aimia (Aeroplan segment) for the last few years; enough for any capitalist to salivate). But setting up an in-house proprietary system takes time, talent and money. The program may not be as successful as predicted and there may be negative reactions from airline customers. Also, the present arrangement with Aimia has advantages to AC that will be lost (guaranteed cash flows, partnership with a loyalty currency, ties with major credit card issuers and others) when the present deal finishes in 2020. Aimia was spun-off from ACE even if cash flow positive because the parent needed immediate monetization during the restructuring process. Now, AC has funds to develop its own program. That situation may change. As we all know, the airline industry is very cyclical. In the next few years until 2020, in the event that AIMIA does not find an airline core partner, maybe AC would be more open to negotiations (share the value) if short term cash position becomes again an issue. But we don’t hope for a major downturn or a threat of bankruptcy, don’t we?  Something to consider nonetheless. Interesting to remember that, as recently as 2009-2010, Aimia lent 150 millions to help AC “get through a difficult period”.

In fact, if the loyalty program has so much value for AC (“ 2 billion over 15 years” BTW, I ran some IRR/NPV numbers using some inputs from a CIBC analyst report and find that this is still largely hypothetical), why don’t they buy Aimia at present market based enterprise value and then opportunistically sell the international subs after (UK Nectar, Air Miles Middle East, and Club Premier and else). If Aimia management has aces up their sleeves, then we can all relax. Otherwise, especially if the 2019 Sainsbury renewal (anchor partner in UK) is at risk, they need to be pro-active and creative. Why not propose to AC a joint partnership type of arrangement (à la Club Premier with Aeromexico) with AC having 51% and Aimia 49% of a new entity responsible for the Canadian loyalty program. Aimia would lose control but would survive and would allow the CEO to save face as he could still lead the rest of Aimia including the Europe and Middle East unit. There are many ways to skin a cat. A risk of a definite non-renewal definitely exists if positions become entrenched and/or if there is procrastination. But both Aimia and AC need to remember that value will be lost if the partnership ends. The best scenarios (even if relatively disadvantageous to Aimia) involves somehow the maintenance of the Aeroplan brand. This would also be a way to recover the value implicit in the contracts between the credit card issuers (CIBC, TD and Amex) and Aimia. My opinion is that AC is well positioned to negotiate, has made a move (somewhat risky, not exactly gentleman-like but not unusual for them) to put the screws on its old ally and Aimia has the most to lose and will have to compromise. But, we are still in the first innings.

In 2016, after winning an award, a journalist asked the following to Calin Rovinescu: “In the past seven-plus years, you’ve definitely gone through some turbulent times. What have you learned about yourself?” His answer: “Well, there’s a line from a poem that somebody, my sister, in fact, gave me on my high school graduation and it’s stuck with me: Out of adversity comes strength. You have that notion that the greater the adversity, the greater that people’s personalities are going to come out, and you don’t have to compromise your values and your principles as you’re actually going through that level of adversity. ” Rupert Duchesne is said to have used sophisticated scenario planning models in order to prepare for “black swan” events such as can occur from possible outcomes of business negotiation. These models have costs but “those costs help insure the company against surprises”, said he.

Well, to some extent, we’re in uncharted territory here.

See the following links for perspective on 1- the airline loyalty business history, on 2- why the loyalty unit, which were initially created to increase loyalty, eventually became identified as profit centers, on 3- why AC may want to start their own proprietary program, on 4- the challenges that AC faces in setting their in-house program and on 5- valuation issues.

http://www.wns.com/Portals/0/Documents/Whitepapers/Revitalizing-Airline-Loyalty-Frequent-Flyer-Programs-Travel-and-Leisure.pdf?timestamp=1449570172526
https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/Consumer-Business/gx-cb-living-the-dream-or-just-dreaming-070915.pdf
http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/etude-ey-sur-les-programmes-de-fidelite-des-compagnies-aeriennes/$FILE/etude-ey-sur-les-programmes-de-fidelite-des-compagnies-aeriennes.pdf

Any relevant comments on other publicly listed coalition firms (Multiplus and Smiles in Brazil) would be appreciated.

Please note that the third link is dated. In 2015, Ethihad (airline) bought Alitalia’s FFP at much lower multiples.

Please also note that valuation parameters described involve the “potential” value of frequent flyer programs.

I submit that, on balance, even if this announcement is quite negative to Aimia, the timing now versus later gives time to look at alternatives. Three years is a very long time. Anything can happen but my opinion is that this is a window of opportunity going forward that is a net favorable (using now as a reference point) to Aimia. Time will tell.

Potential opportunities could come from low cost carriers who may already have some kind of frequent flyer programs and who may want to expand in Canada. Southwest is interesting (2018-9). Westjet, who knows?

https://www.aimia.com/content/dam/aimiawebsite/CaseStudiesWhitepapersResearch/english/AirlineLoyalty_LowCostCarriers.pdf
https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/flights/todayinthesky/2017/05/17/southwest-airlines-says-hawaii-flights-priority/101808310/

The investment thesis relies on the fact that three years is a long time. Aimia is likely to find alternatives. I think that somehow AC will eventually openly recognize Aimia’s expertise and existing infrastructure. The brutal announcement is a statement that underlies the fact that the return for Aimia, whichever scenario plays out, will be much less and perhaps much much less but my take is that there is a sufficient margin of safety for the preferreds.

Topic #4: preferreds, the place to be?

Let’s look at numbers. Again, attempts by others to quantify this are much appreciated.

Looking back, I agree that Aimia management does not look stellar for all aspects and the compensation levels and trend for top executives does not seem tightly connected to underlying economic fundamentals. One also has to wonder about some aspects of capital allocation. The new cost consciousness seems to be a priority but is not meshed within their DNA. The new CFO may bring some discipline. And insider ownership is relatively quite low. But there many things that they did well. See below.

I have looked back at financials and have prepared a summary of findings for fiscal years 2008-2016 (9 years). I checked my numbers carefully but cannot guarantee precision. Please do your own due diligence.

Positive cash flows (consolidated and cumulative):

-CFO: 2596 millions
-preferreds issues, net: 318,4 millions
-share issues (compensation): 28,3 millions

Total: 2943 millions

Negative cash flows (consolidated and cumulative):

-capex: 493,6 millions
-net debt decrease: 248 millions
-acquisitions: 475 millions
-share repurchases: 607,8 millions
-dividends (CS and prefs): 1110,4 millions (more than 90% of this amount for CS div.)

Total: 2935 millions

What are the “messages”?

The business model (with the core airline partner on board) produces very significant cash flows with little need for capex.

I like that and I understand AC’s goal to repatriate the program in-house in order to make $.

Some of this cash flow potential will be lost (net result) if the Aeroplan brand is completely separated from AC.

Overall, the net cash flows have been fairly consistent and recurrent. In the last years, there has been a slight negative trend likely because of improvements of terms and conditions for the redeemers but this trend has stabilized recently and maybe is improving because ? of cost measures and focus on core business.
BTW, for the same period, the cumulative “adjusted” EBITDA comes to 2564 millions which is comparable to CFO and which, despite obvious limitations, validates to a certain degree this measure of performance used by management.

Acquisitions and other “investments” on balance have not been significant contributors to the bottom line. Some maybe. A clear exception is Club Premier in Mexico. As some have mentioned (and see link mentioned above, EY publication), there are some market inputs that allow a rough valuation and it is significant.
Debt has been coming down and will likely continue to go down, given the present context. I submit that their debt management has been smart, especially in this “new era” of the ultra low interest rates. After 2009, they switched bank debt for a reasonable amount of public debt issues with extended and laddered maturities and fixed rates. They also issued preferreds. For a few months, they have not bought back shares. Overall, this results in a certain amount of financial flexibility now. In that limited sense, they were “ready”.

From an enterprise value point of view (ie not the subjective point of view of the preferred holder point of view only), the next logical step would be to cut the dividend on the common stock. What happens in the next few months here will be key for buying/holding/selling the preferred securities.

Maybe, again looking at this from a total enterprise value point of view,  especially if the management needs more time to consider “alternatives”, preferred dividends (even if much less of a cash flow drag vs CS div.), should perhaps also be suspended and put in a reserve because of  their cumulative nature. Maybe too much, but at least, it would send a message that they are in a business preservation mood and not a business as usual mood. “Over-reaction” on the safe side is OK.

Within the next few hours/days, I will send a letter, similar to what others have done, to investor relations stating my positions in preferred stock and my opinion versus the common share dividend.

In the last years, share repurchase was significant as money was coming through their ears and the institutional bias was definitely present but the average price paid for the years 2008-2016 was 12.19$ per share. Food for thought. I cannot come up with a reasonable range of value for the common shares at this point and that’s one of the reasons why I’m invested in the preferreds but I think that zero is clearly in the range of value for the shares. Buyer beware.

One way to evaluate a scenario where the CDN coalition would simply become an ordinary CDN coalition program without a core airline partner and to come up with residual cash flows (also valuation) implies to look at Nectar UK. On this board, some have estimated the “hit” that could would occur to cash flows after 2020, ie historical cash flows minus adjustments. I will analyze this from a slightly different angle: given the competitive landscape in Canada and the numbers that the EMEA (mostly Nectar UK) unit produced over the years, what could be expected in terms of gross billings and margins for the residual CDN entity? The UK and Canada are comparable mature markets for loyalty programs. There are differences but, like in Canada, Aimia competes with the Air Miles program (now Avios, as a sub of British Airways) and other loyalty programs in the UK. Nectar UK did not have a core airline partner initially and still does not have a true “anchor” airline partner. Nectar UK has been able to enter the loyalty segment convincingly in 2002, but that was before Aimia. To look at this, I tabulated the gross billings and adjusted EBITDA numbers for the EMEA division from 2008 to 2016. The EMEA division also includes Air Miles Middle East and other smaller operations but, mostly, revenues and cash flows have been derived from Nectar UK. Numbers need to be dissected because, during those years, there was an adverse VAT judgement (legacy issue) and then recovery after reversal. Interesting to remember that Aimia paid 715,4 millions for LMG (Nectar UK, Air miles ME and analytics sub) in 2008. Since 2008, despite a very competitive and mature market, Aimia has been able to grow active members ++ and to grow gross billings + (variable). But there has been quite a high turnover of retail members. The average annual adjusted EBITDA over the 9 year-period is 47,3 millions. Over the last 3 years, the average annual adjusted EBITDA is 68,5 millions. The average adjusted EBTDA margin for the last 3 years is 11,0%.

References for Nectar UK:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/mckinsey/2014/02/03/making-loyalty-pay-six-lessons-from-the-innovators/#6b639b9a2bda
https://www.forbes.com/sites/mckinsey/2014/02/03/making-loyalty-pay-six-lessons-from-the-innovators/#6b639b9a2bda

So, taking into account the competitive landscape for loyalty programs in Canada, the number of active users in Canada for Aeroplan, the reported numbers that can be inferred from the EMEA division that corresponds to Nectar UK as a “generic” coalition program and the negative impact that can be expected from AC leaving the Aeroplan Program, I estimate that gross billings AND adjusted EBITDA margin could be roughly cut in half for the new CDN Aeroplan, giving rise to a +/- 75% net decrease in adjusted EBITDA. This scenario is more adverse than what some analysts describe and may be explained by an underlying assumption that conditions otherwise remain static, which, as mentioned above, is unlikely to be the case. However, in this adverse scenario, there is no value left for common shares and preferred, being next in line, become threatened, at least partially.

However, on balance, long term cash flow analysis allows me to conclude that the actual capital structure and potential cash flow possibilities going forward creates a reasonable profit opportunity for the preferreds.

Topic #5: Possible upside

Many things can go wrong here and RISKS abound but, if I put myself in the position of a private equity player, I see value here. Yes, Onex was interested before and presumably, presently, may look at the opportunity. PE people are usually good at value resurfacing, especially short term, but they are also good at value extraction. One more reason for the preferreds over the common at present price levels and outlook.

Somehow, Air Miles could buy part or all of Aimia even if AC is out of the picture. Buying your closest competitor can be a good idea. I don’t think there would be regulatory issues.

Conclusion

I plan to be pro-active with investor relations, and maybe will eventually send letters directly to the Board, if I continue to hold the preferreds and if I find that management lacks prudence and vision.

So, I see this as value contrarian play and a reasonable opportunity for profit. Please, if you made it this far, try to disrupt (rational basis) my assumptions.

Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on June 09, 2017, 01:44:09 PM
So the CFO is going.

My take is that this is a net negative. Despite often used as a pretext, I buy, at least partly, the personal reasons excuse.
A related positive is that this may inject some sense of relative urgency.

I happened to be in downtown Montreal today. Dropped by Aimia’s headquarters and left a letter to investor relations and one to Mr. Robert Brown, Chairman.

----

To: Investor Relations, Karen Keyes
Hi,

I have followed Aimia for a long time and I am holding, directly and indirectly, a significant amount of Aimia preferred shares (A,B and C).

The aim of this letter is to share concern for the enterprise value of Aimia going forward. This concern is now compounded by the recent CFO departure announcement. Please share the concerns contained in this letter with top management.

Last October 2016, the then CEO, Mr. Duchesne stated the following, referring to the negotiation for renewal with Air Canada: “So I think the stage is well-set. When they're ready and when we're ready we'll get into a negotiation. But I think the prospect of a divorce would be so horrible for both parties that we'll actually get to a fairly straightforward deal.” 

So now, there is a question of “alternatives” and new management has referred to business as usual conditions but clearly the core of Aimia is threatened and the margin of safety is gone.

From a total enterprise value point of view, management should strongly consider options in order to avoid going concern issues. The first obvious step is to completely eliminate the common share dividend going forward. As an investor in the company, I submit that, in order to save the company, a joint partnership should be considered with Air Canada for the Canadian Aeroplan loyalty program. The partnership could be modeled on the arrangement with AeroMexico. This could bring Air Canada back to the negotiating table and could maintain the value implicit in the contracts with the major credit card issuers.

Whatever scenarios considered, I suggest that management define a vision and communicate, in a transparent way, the strategic plan to get through this difficult transition period.

As a private investor, I will follow the evolution of this situation very closely.

Thank you for your attention,

----

June 9th, 2017
Tour Aimia
525 Viger Avenue West, Suite 1000
Montreal, Quebec H2Z 0B2
Canada
To: Mr. Robert Brown, Chairman of Aimia’s Board

Mr. Brown,

I have followed Aimia for a long time and I am holding, directly and indirectly, a significant amount of Aimia preferred shares (A,B and C).

I also have followed your business career over the years. I trust that, as Aimia’s Chairman of the Board, you will use business acumen and strategic vision skills that you were able to deploy when developing regional jets or leading CAE, as Aimia is entering turbulent times. Your record shows that you can guide difficult restructurings and I commend you for that.

Today, I personally brought this letter to Montreal Headquarters and include a copy of another letter sent to the Investor Relations department. I understand that the management team may be “ready” and perhaps needs to “take a breath” before the next steps but I submit that a transparent process needs to be put in place in order to avoid erosion of Aimia’s value as a loyalty program manager. This business is based on trust.

Financial flexibility will only be preserved on strength of the balance sheet.

I understand that Air Canada’s announcement was brutal but the best scenarios imply some kind of a “win-win” solution with them even if the terms are less favorable to Aimia.

I understand also that Mr. Tor Lonnum is leaving for personal reasons. A review of what he has achieved at Tryg makes me conclude that this is a significant loss occurring at a difficult juncture for Aimia.

When you won an honorary degree at Concordia in 2003, the citation referred to your military training as a cadet and mentioned the following: “Throughout his career, Robert Brown has inspired many with his intense work ethic and talent for getting things accomplished quickly and effectively.” I submit that is the right template for Aimia right now.

As a private investor, I will follow the evolution of this situation very closely.

Thank you for your attention,
Avec respect,

----

So, it’s wait and see for now.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on June 14, 2017, 05:40:54 AM
News release.
http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/aimia-provides-update-on-dividends-628376883.html

I guess the reality is starting to sink in.
So, the prospect of "going through a divorce" is no longer a prospect.
Likely, they were not entirely "ready".

If I were from top management, I would cancel my summer vacation.

Enjoy the ride?

Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cardboard on June 14, 2017, 06:08:17 AM
Truly a stupid bunch. Instead of attacking the issue head on and saying: we are cancelling the dividend to save cash and protect for any eventuality since our business future is uncertain at the moment, they are relying on a CBCA clause to justify it...

Or they are trying to protect themselves from some directors liability since they made really misleading statements with the Q1 release: still in negotiation with AC, plenty of options, improper financial statements without appropriate write-offs? Or it is a way/combination with the above to claw-back on already declared dividends?

Regarding not paying the obligation to the preferreds that is another bad decision. It saves $16.8 million/year while the common dividend is $122 million/year. Again, the dividend on the preferred is an obligation, not some discretionary payment like for the common and to cut this either shows desperation or that they want to treat both classes of security equally which is wrong.

Cardboard
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: clutch on June 14, 2017, 07:00:33 AM
Truly a stupid bunch.

That is an understatement...
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: samaniv on June 14, 2017, 07:17:40 AM
I think, as we've seen from prior analysis - that the financial impact of losing classic fares isnt the end of the world.

It really boils down to Aimia ability to attract a new partner and provide value to customers, so that they will continue using their loyalty program. I am hoping that we get an announcement of a new partner (perhaps Sunwing? or cruise ships etc). sooner rather than later. Otherwise they risk losing customers in a mean time.

In terms of cutting the dividend, I think it was a good decision. Of course, I would have liked to see the preferred dividend maintained. At least it is cumulative, so as long as Aimia is able to secure a new partner - they will be okay. Given their buying power, I am not sure why they haven't already.

Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on June 14, 2017, 07:18:04 AM
Folks, with all due respect, I have to disagree.  And I own some pref shares so I'm feeling the mark to market pain today (which could be temporary as there are always yield-hogs in these situations that care about nothing else.  and maybe some funds that can't own anything that doesn't produce income).

Several voices on this thread - including my own - have advocated for a suspension of dividends.  Well, we got it.  Who cares what reasons mgmt gives for this move?  They mentioned the decision by Air Canada and probably threw in the other stuff to avoid the appearance of desperation, which was smart.  Imagine if the Canadian news were suddenly filled with stories of "financial troubles" at Aimia - if that were to happen, perception could become reality as Aeroplan members might think they need to redeem miles now before the company runs out of cash to pay for flights.

And if it makes sense to suspend the common dividend, it also makes sense to suspend the pref dividends.  (Again, I own prefs.)  We've always known that the company has the right to do this, and since these dividends are cumulative it should be clear that Aimia isn't/can't do this to cheat us out of anything.

Nothing in the press release suggests that the company is no longer in discussions with Air Canada or that any partnering options have disappeared. 
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: samaniv on June 14, 2017, 07:35:30 AM
Misterkrusty,

When are you hoping to hear something re: potential new partners? I figure they should be able to sign on new partners fairly easily...  but I understand they wouldn't want to rush into something so it may take some time.

I guess part of me is fearful they will not secure a partner before they lose a lot of customers. That would be worst case in my mind.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on June 14, 2017, 08:00:57 AM
honestly I just don't know when we'll hear about new partners, or a new deal with Air Canada (but obviously not for their FFP). 

I agree with you that they should be seeing decent interest from airlines given their buying power.  It's only been ~33 days since AC dropped the bomb and that's not really a long time in terms of negotiations like this, especially since they're probably talking to multiple parties regarding some of the same routes (for flights) and would tend to get a better price by concentrating their buying power.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on June 14, 2017, 08:52:13 AM
A couple of thoughts:

1) If the CBCA thing is true it may mean they can't pay the preferred dividend, rather than that they chose not to.   Remember it is a dividend, not an interest payment, so it may be regulated the same way as a common dividend.

2) Worst case there has already been a major "run on the bank", triggering the capital breach.   However their commentary around the CBCA breach makes it sound like the capital breach has to do with market cap and shareholder equity line items on the balance sheet, not cash flows.   In fact, they say the business continues to generate free cash flow.

3) It's worth remembering that in a breakup of the business preferred holders will get back $25 plus accrued dividends before common shareholders get a cent.   My guess is that a breakup is getting more likely (I have little evidence for this but the wholesale flight of execs and directors makes me wonder).   

EDIT: I'd also speculate that at the right price, which might not have to be very high for the prefs to be money good (the EV of the business is now $700m with the prefs at par), AC might buy Aeroplan.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on June 14, 2017, 09:01:44 AM
I think the CBCA thing is a bunch of nonsense thrown in so that folks don't get the impression that this decision was forced upon them by trends in the business.  If it were true, I don't think they would ever have declared the last dividend.

for what it's worth, this doesn't suggest any rush to redeem points:  https://www.semrush.com/info/aeroplan.com   but I'm no expert on web traffic, so correct me if wrong!
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: screefer on June 14, 2017, 09:19:58 AM
If it were true, I don't think they would ever have declared the last dividend.

Most recent dividend was declared before the share price was shredded with the Air Canada news.
After the AC news, the SP dropped and the capital impairment clause came into play.
Makes sense to me.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on June 14, 2017, 09:21:24 AM
I think the CBCA thing is a bunch of nonsense thrown in so that folks don't get the impression that this decision was forced upon them by trends in the business.  If it were true, I don't think they would ever have declared the last dividend.


The release says they are compliant with CBCA clause 42(a) but not compliant with 42 (b) due to the decline in the market cap and the high value of the capital account due to the issue of shares at higher prices.   The clauses are below.   What they are saying is the value of the business is now lower than the liabilities plus the stated capital of all classes.   And they're almost certainly right about that!   That wasn't the case when they last declared a dividend (May 10th) because the market cap was higher.   So this doesn't have to be an excuse.   It is, however, very positive for pref holders: they should have stopped the common dividend immediately and stopping it transfers a lot of value back to pref holders.   

The clauses:

42 A corporation shall not declare or pay a dividend if there are reasonable grounds for believing that

(a) the corporation is, or would after the payment be, unable to pay its liabilities as they become due; or

(b) the realizable value of the corporation’s assets would thereby be less than the aggregate of its liabilities and stated capital of all classes.

EDIT: it occurs to me that even if there is wiggle room under 42(b), it might be possible for pref and debtholders to sue them under this clause if they keep paying the common dividend.   They might even have had this called to their attention by a debtholder.   
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on June 14, 2017, 10:00:03 AM
Not quite what we expected.  Funny enough I sold some of my a's a couple of days ago, at a decent gain. 

After my initial reaction of wanting to sell right away (I only have the prefs) I settled down and started thinking that this looks like a buying opportunity.  Not sure I have the guts to pull the trigger. 

The COB, CEO, and CFO are in place (CFO for four months).  They have enough cash flow ex. Aeroplan to resume the Pref. dividend, and catch it up. 

They have bought alot of time to stabilize the brand.  We can only hope they have the ability to do it. 

Regarding Ac making a bid.  I dont think AC can do it.  They would get their asses sued into another dimension for torpedoing the stock and trying a stunt like that.  Now aother airline could.  In fact any airline that might be interested in taking up a bigger presence in Canada, say a Mexican or US airline. 
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on June 14, 2017, 11:40:12 PM
I'm not suggesting AC make a bid for Aimia.   I'm suggesting they could buy the Aeroplan unit (effectively the existing points base).   However that might well still leave them vulnerable legally - I don't know.   Maybe not if it was at a demonstrably fair price.   But you are right, far more likely someone else buys it.   There must be activist value guys looking at this.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on June 14, 2017, 11:42:50 PM
Separately: if they take a writeoff on Aeroplan, does that reduce "the stated capital of all classes" or does it just reduce retained earnings?   In other words, would a writedown allow a resumption of pref dividends?

EDIT: I may be being thick but I can't actually see where on the FS shareholder equity is broken into its constituent parts (e.g. in the US you have common stock at par, value above par, retained earnings, etc.).   Does Canadian accounting require this split?   
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: gokou3 on June 15, 2017, 12:22:45 AM
Sucks to be a shareholder today.  Free cash flow for 2016 was ~$200M.  Assuming things stay as-is until the AC agreement terminates (i.e no new partner, no merger / buyout / activist, etc), Aimia will need to use all of its cash flow and more in the next 2 years to pay off its debts maturing in Jan. 2018 ($200M) and May 2019 ($250M).  Any hope of the company aggressively buying back the common/preferred shares would be too optimistic, agree?
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: writser on June 15, 2017, 01:20:19 AM
I spent a few minutes looking at this and it looks to me as if they got paid cash for points, paid out that cash to shareholders and are left with the liabilities. What happens if their business shrinks the next few years (suppose they don't find a good alternative for the AC plan) and people start to spend points instead of save them? Seems to me as if a 'point run' could easily bankrupt the company. Wrong way to look at things? I see a lot of talk about being able to pay off debt but deferred revenue is a much larger liability and if I understand correctly they already account for 12% leakage. What do you guys think is the intrinsic liability (and what are the cash requirements) of the issued points in several scenarios? Or should I take the Warren Buffett approach and see it as a 3b asset?!

Any insights / primers would be appreciated. I'm a bit out of my depth here.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: screefer on June 15, 2017, 06:04:55 AM
From PrefBlog
http://prefblog.com/?p=35002 (http://prefblog.com/?p=35002)

"As far as the stated reason for suspending dividends is concerned, well, having $2-billion goodwill on the balance sheet vs. $115-million of shareholders’ equity doesn’t help matters much, and neither does a Retained Earnings (Deficit) balance of $2.7-billion. I’ll need a little convincing before I believe that “past common share issuances at significantly higher prices than the current market” has anything to do with. Looks more like the company has simply pissed away its capital."
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: roark33 on June 15, 2017, 09:29:07 AM
Seems like the longs, people here and on VIC are under-estimating the risks:

1. Top of the wallet to bottom of the wallet.  No new float coming in is not a good situation for AIM.  If people stop using their Aeroplan cards, you basically have a situation where all the benefits of a float are reversed.

2. Liabilities pulled forward.  Even if people know they have three years to use their rewards, they may begin to use them much faster.

3. Why would WestJet partner?  Even though Aimia has lots of purchasing power, they need to have a lot of unused capacity to make it worth their time and money to partner with Aimia to sell this capacity at a discount to market. 

If they sign a new deal in the near future, this could work out ok, but it seems like there are some catastrophic risks not being taken into account here.  (but the stock does seem to be taking these risk into account).
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Foreign Tuffett on June 15, 2017, 09:53:28 AM
I spent a few minutes looking at this and it looks to me as if they got paid cash for points, paid out that cash to shareholders and are left with the liabilities. What happens if their business shrinks the next few years (suppose they don't find a good alternative for the AC plan) and people start to spend points instead of save them? Seems to me as if a 'point run' could easily bankrupt the company. Wrong way to look at things? I see a lot of talk about being able to pay off debt but deferred revenue is a much larger liability and if I understand correctly they already account for 12% leakage. What do you guys think is the intrinsic liability (and what are the cash requirements) of the issued points in several scenarios? Or should I take the Warren Buffett approach and see it as a 3b asset?!

Any insights / primers would be appreciated. I'm a bit out of my depth here.

I was looking at this last week and saw some of the same things. The equity could be a zero if members accelerate point redemptions before the Air Canada agreement expires. I think to invest in this you have to trust that management will make moves to enhance the program's value proposition to consumers. I don't see any reasons to trust this management team, so I'm staying away.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: longlake95 on June 15, 2017, 10:05:43 AM
Gee what a mess. For me, my simple filter: "would I buy the whole business and keep present management?" has keep me out of the this name. Doubt WJ will partner with Aima, they already have a points program and partner with RBC for credit cards that earn points.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on June 15, 2017, 10:10:47 AM
gokou -  the 2018 notes have been refi'd using the credit facility, which matures mid-2020.  so depending on spending patterns with Aeroplan credit cards, they might have cash to do buybacks, but probably won't consider doing so until new airline partners are secured.

writser - in a worst case scenario, Aeroplan can re-write the redemption rules at will.  of course this could seriously damage the Aeroplan brand, so it's only a last-ditch solution.

roark/longlake - every airline has unused capacity.  filling up those last unfilled seats brings huge incremental margins.  I have little doubt WestJet could find a way to work with Aeroplan, and it doesn't have to involve their FFP.  Sure, they already have a credit card partnership with RBC ... so what?  As long is it isn't exclusive, why wouldn't you bring in more revenue?  Also, keep in mind that Aeroplan isn't limited to partnering with just one airline.

It all boils down to lining up attractive new flight options for Aeroplan post June 2020, and doing so quickly such that members don't stop spending on their Aeroplan credit cards. 

I have no position in the equity but do still own some preferreds.  If the 2019 notes ever trade back to ~80 they might be interesting too.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on June 15, 2017, 10:24:22 AM
I'd add that if Aeroplan has a run on the bank it's probably done, but it should be in a separate legal entity that can be allowed to die and the other assets have a good chance of covering the value of the prefs.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: writser on June 15, 2017, 11:08:39 AM
I'd add that if Aeroplan has a run on the bank it's probably done, but it should be in a separate legal entity that can be allowed to die and the other assets have a good chance of covering the value of the prefs.

Yeah, I was wondering about that. What's the legal status of loyalty points? Are they senior to equity? Preferred equity? Maybe technically not but I have a hard time believing that they can impair / rewrite their loyalty programs while the equity still has significant value. At the very least there would be a huge backlash. Interesting stuff.

Looks to me as if Aimia is in a bit of a pickle. They desperately need cash to keep the machine running but with all the bad news partners drop out, customers will redeem points so they need even more cash - rinse and repeat. Hard for me to judge whether Aimia can survive that in the short term - I have no clue how customers will react and what the resulting cash flows will be (if everybody was like me they'd be bankrupt already). Also I have absolutely no clue about the chances of them striking another airline contract. Situation seems dire and management seems incompetent - not a good negotiation position. This name is too difficult for me but I see the upside potential.

Has anybody actually tried modelling some scenarios?
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: screefer on June 15, 2017, 12:28:48 PM
Has anybody actually tried modelling some scenarios?
FWIW...

https://seekingalpha.com/article/4078021-aimia-offers-deep-value-investors-high-risk-tolerance (https://seekingalpha.com/article/4078021-aimia-offers-deep-value-investors-high-risk-tolerance)
https://seekingalpha.com/article/4081743-aimia-deferred-revenue-redemption-threat-manageable (https://seekingalpha.com/article/4081743-aimia-deferred-revenue-redemption-threat-manageable)
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on June 15, 2017, 03:59:53 PM
writser-  I agree the situation could be dire.  but we just don't know what redemption & accumulation trends are. 

traffic to the aeroplan site doesn't appear to be spiking:  https://www.semrush.com/info/www5.aeroplan.com   but frankly I'm not that worried about a rush to redeem with 3 years left on the contract.  more concerning to me is accumulation trends - mainly the level of spending on Aeroplan credit cards.  and that's why the CFO and board member departures worry me.

I would think that in the worst case scenario they gate redemptions, leaving enough value in the cash & equivalents plus businesses outside of north america ($88m combined ebitda in 2016) that the debt is money good with enough left over to cover at least the current $94.5m market cap of the preferreds.  how much better than that I don't really know.  The equity would be toast.

but I'm not a big believer in the WCS.  I don't see why - if nothing else - they couldn't just strike a deal with Air Canada to buy all their flights at Market Fare rates, which would be an incremental ~$60m/year at 2016 levels of member activity.  Loss of Air Canada FFP is maybe about an $80m hit to EBITDA.  But then there's apparently $70m of cost savings.

Just to make a point, I'll assume for a moment that accumulation & redemption patterns stay around 2016 levels, which equates to ~$220m FCF.

$220
-80
-60
+70
=150

my point here is that Aeroplan could get a lot less popular and there would still be enough FCF to cover the $17m of preferred dividends and pay off the debt when it matures.  Also probably enough left for the equity to support the current $225m market cap - but as for upside on the stock, I'll leave it to y'all to run your own numbers.





Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on June 15, 2017, 04:09:17 PM
also, I disagree that management seems incompetent.  They could be, but I don't think we've seen any evidence.

We don't know what went on in negotiations with Air Canada, so it's way too early to blame them for AC's decision.  Frankly, I suspect that decision had to do mainly with events beyond Aimia's control - namely the recent entry of WestJet into the business class market (see my earlier post).

Suspending dividends was a prudent move - I gotta admit that even though I own some pref shares.

Mgmt has stated in at least a couple press articles that finding new reward partners is their top priority, as it should be.  They've also said they're keeping close tabs on redemption & accumulation trends, as they should. 

Lastly, while we don't know what's the real reason those directors are leaving, I frankly would have cut the board down to 9 people if I ran the show.  what board needs more than 9 members?  you save money and make faster decisions.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on June 15, 2017, 06:57:58 PM
Several good points.

In these cases, it often gets worse before it gets better. The reason why this is an opportunity is that there is a clear risk for a downward spiral.

Somehow holding the preferreds here feels like being scheduled for a vasectomy. You thought about it, you know it is probably the right decision, you assume that people know what they are doing and you expect some pain but you could always cancel the appointment.

Keeping an open mind here. I think they did the right thing by rapidly and completely cutting the dividends (technical rule or not). This feels uncomfortable but the context may bring a catalyst for improvement earlier. Added some more.

-On their cash flow business model, downside and upside

Over the years, they have produced free cash flows that were used essentially to pay dividends and buy back shares causing the accumulation of retained earnings deficiency. BTW petec, you may find what you are looking for on p112/189 of the 2016 AR, Consolidated statements of changes in equity. Retained earnings = (2,74 billion). The GW of Aeroplan is 1,68 billion and 85% of GW for all of Aimia. Without AC, the trend is clearly unsustainable whichever way you look at it. The run issue is important but I don't think that this is a problem now. The risk is that once a run starts with the redeemers, things could go downhill very rapidly.

Looking at different scenarios and comparing to the recent links from seeking alpha, I still think that there is some margin of safety for the preferreds if Aimia has to integrate less profitable alternatives.

My opinion is that Aimia allowed itself to be vulnerable. I still think that they can recover value by somehow negotiating a new deal with Air Canada and preserving the inherent value in Aeroplan. Looking at this from the outside, I assume that they are trying to build negotiating leverage with AC (with alternatives). They have to balance the positive of building that leverage versus the negative of value erosion of the brand as time passes by. Given the relative precarity of the situation, I would tend to say that they have to act rapidly even if that means a better deal for AC. I recognize that we have to rely on management and this is hard to assess.

Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: clutch on June 15, 2017, 07:13:55 PM
Just looking at this from a high level perspective, I wonder if the commons is now a better bet?
So the price has dropped 30% since the news of the dividend cut. Wasn't the market expecting this already for the commons (in contrast to preferreds)? In fact, many here wanted the company to do this. So, it seems like a major panic move by many investors.
Maybe i'm being too simplistic...
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on June 16, 2017, 04:26:02 AM
Just looking at this from a high level perspective, I wonder if the commons is now a better bet?
So the price has dropped 30% since the news of the dividend cut. Wasn't the market expecting this already for the commons (in contrast to preferreds)? In fact, many here wanted the company to do this. So, it seems like a major panic move by many investors.
Maybe i'm being too simplistic...

The dividend cut is a major transfer of wealth from common to pref: they will now get the cash in the business before the common shareholders do, which was not the case before.   The prefs will double to get back to where they were before if things go OK, and could treble to par if things go great or if the company is broken up, plus they accumulate their dividend (the commons don't).   There is a decent probability they are not a zero, but they probably need to be worth much more than the current price before the commons are worth a cent.   Prefs all the way for me.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on June 16, 2017, 05:11:16 AM
I have considered the common as well.
This is not an investment that you buy and don't have to worry about for years.

When looking at these "distressed" cases, I try to remember what Mr. Buffett said during a Berkshire Shareholder meeting:

"Take the probability of loss times the amount of possible loss from the probability of gain times the amount of possible gain. That is what we’re trying to do. It’s imperfect but that’s what it’s all about.”

My humble way to see it:

For Aimia preferreds, the most likely returns lie between -50% and +100%, with a positive skew.
For Aimia common shares, the most likely returns lie between -75% and a four-bagger, with a negative skew.

I hope to continue to do well over time with these basket cases but there is no guarantee.
This is a grey zone but I submit committing capital in the common instead of preferreds here marks the difference between investment and speculation.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: samaniv on June 18, 2017, 08:46:43 AM
I agree that there are several consumer related trends ( run on the points , usage etc.) and it's hard for us to determine how consumers are reacting. I'm sure if everyone was watching the market closely , they would redeem points , decrease usage etc. But the fact is a lot of these people are everyday individuals and even with the news coverage, they might have missed it or misunderstood it.

I asked some of my friends ( I am Canadian ) who use Aeroplan points and they seemed pretty clueless. They heard something about it in the news but didn't think much of it. It didn't seem like big shifts but it's hard to extrapolate this and know what is happening with the masses.

Another point is you can simply line up and withdraw your points like a bank run. To redeem points you need time off for a vacation , planning etc. which mitigate the redemption risk to some extent. If I had to guess , I would say most people aren't following this as closely and taking big actions on it - probably instead a more wait and see approach - but again it's a guess - k don't know.

Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on June 21, 2017, 06:05:30 PM
I am out.  Took a loss, not too severe after accounting for dividends. 

I simply dont trust this situation.  Even if it recovers somehow, in a rising interest rate environment, the prefs wont get much above where they were a few weeks ago. 



Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Sergio8 on June 22, 2017, 02:23:21 AM
It seems to me that the decision to cut dividends in order to preserve liquidity is wise or at least cautious. It looks like that while deferred revenue was favorable to cash generation in the past, it may weigh negatively on the business in the future, and it is very hard to assess the extent of the impact.

If we back out deferred revenue from cash and liquid investments (probably a bit too severe as the business historically has positive margins), we get a heavily indebted business, and it would need 5 years of historical cash-flows just to pay down the debt.

Of course, should the company be able to replace its lost contract, the impact would probably be somewhat mitigated... But figuring the future remains tricky.

I am aware that I am not an expert of the situation, just trying to figure things out, and the situation looks quite compex to me (it seems to me that we can't just take historical financials and extrapolate them to figure out the cash-flows), with a levered balance sheet.

Can someone that studied this company for sometime tell me how he looks at the balance sheet issue there? Is it easy for you to be comfortable with the deferred revenue portion of the business and its debt levels when you know the business well?

Thank you in advance for your insights.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: petec on June 22, 2017, 07:02:24 AM
In a rising interest rate environment, the prefs wont get much above where they were a few weeks ago.

But they are (lagged) floaters!
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: misterkrusty on June 22, 2017, 07:36:47 AM
the Series B/2 preferred coupons are reset every 90 days.  a rising rate environment would be great for them.

sergio - the redemption liabilities need to be considered when calculating an EV.  but as far as liquidity issues go, they're not exactly liabilities that are due on demand.  Aeroplan can adjust the redemption rules at will (at some cost to the value of the brand), or in a worst case scenario cancel the Aeroplan program alltogether.
Title: Re: TSX:AIM - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on June 23, 2017, 09:51:46 AM
In a rising interest rate environment, the prefs wont get much above where they were a few weeks ago.

But they are (lagged) floaters!

Yeah, my mistake.  I have too many balls in the air. 

I reread part of this thread where we (the group) go back and forth. 

Cardboard was consistent in advising people to avoid the common which was good. 

Otherwise, the thesis has changed dramatically through the course of the thread.  We started with speculation about whether they would get the renewal with AC and what those terms might be.  Now, the general theme is: Will there be a run on the bank?  Can they service their debt, especially after paying out 120 million a year for the last few years?  Did they borrow from the future?  Will they get another partner?  Will the terms with another partner be as good as with AC (not likely)? And so on.  The thesis is definitely different. 

I expect, once they get it all sorted out they will honour the cumulative on the prefs... they pretty much have to unless they go into CCAA.  But I wont be there to participate.  It is likely a farly good Graham style investment but it doesn't fit my byline which is my mission statement. 

 I have been repositioning my holdings across the board into companies that have long runways, consistent earnings, and consistently raise their dividends.  In the long run it will work. 
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: kab60 on June 23, 2017, 11:06:41 AM
I'm also out. I picked the pref because I thought it would do okay without an extension and it actually did after the indiscriminate selling. That's when I should've sold, but I sucked my thump and have taken a 30 pct. loss instead of 10 pct. after divys. I think it was a good and assymetric bet, but now it's a different case, and I can't really figure out the odds other than the common looks more attractive now. I knew from the start that I knew too little about this business, so here's to sticking to simple stuff, preferbly with a boooring name.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on July 04, 2017, 08:32:28 AM
More perspective on potential options and outcomes.
Here's a link with comments at the end.
One comment refers to an article about Westjet (from a few years ago).

 https://seekingalpha.com/article/4085113-aimia-preferreds-foresight-20-20?page=3
 https://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/westjet-takes-aim-at-aeroplan/article4316401/
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: petec on August 10, 2017, 08:37:24 AM
No sign of a run on the bank so far.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Saj on August 10, 2017, 04:11:52 PM
Agreed. Very positive report today. Now just need mgmt to execute by replacing AC with something reasonable over the next year or two.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on August 10, 2017, 04:57:28 PM
A benign redemption pattern is reassuring. For now.
I submit that management is walking on a tight rope.
They need to translate this "sense of urgency" into tangible and material results.

I still think that the best way to preserve value is to negotiate with Air Canada.
They seem to try building some kind of negotiating leverage but my opinion is that they have to realize that they are no longer in the driver's seat.

Will watch this very closely.

I did some research on potential multi-airline partnerships. Options are there but seem to be limited for a variety of reasons.
Any thoughts?
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: StubbleJumper on August 10, 2017, 06:03:26 PM
No sign of a run on the bank so far.


So far so good. 

The spouse and I have begun the process of aggressively burning down our Aeroplan miles.  By this time next year, I expect that we'll only have scraps remaining in our accounts.  Of course, this means that I'll be "forced" to take three trans-Atlantic vacations over the next 12 or 13 months...

I would say that consumers in Canada are just not that astute and are unaware that their Aeroplan miles will quite likely be heavily de-valued in the next five years.  The fact that nobody is rushing to the exits is a real plus for AIM.  IMO, they need to implement a devaluation of about 35% or so in the next three years...so, say about 10% per year for three consecutive years.  Reality will hit home in 2020 when AC launches its own frequent flyer programme and consumer will no longer get miles for AC flights.  Those who are currently blissfully unaware will be in for a shock when they can no longer accumulate points from flights.  If everybody rushes to the exit at that point, at least the liability might have already been significantly haircut.

In the mean time, AIM has an excellent opportunity.  They have about $450m of bank debt and notes outstanding, which is only about two years of FCF.  Perhaps in August 2019, they'll have no cash-debt outstanding (but precious little prospect of renewing their credit lines).  At least they'll have a prayer of remaining a going-concern.


SJ
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on August 25, 2017, 08:29:54 AM
Thinking out loud.

Just looked at Club Premier (PLM joint venture) in some detail.

-Comment about loyalty management industry dynamics.

Air Canada let go of its frequent flyer program because it had to. Most airlines kept their programs in house. Ways to maximize/capture value continues to be put into question in this field.

The expansion of the AC frequent flyer program into a broader coalition has created value. The Club Premier story since 2010 shows the same trend.

-The Club Premier joint venture

Aeromexico has remained the owner and the operator of the venture but Aimia has a 48,9% interest and has “joint control”. Interesting.

Aimia, since 2010, has built its 48,9% in tranches with total contribution of 124,2 million USD. Since 2012, Aimia has received cumulative distributions for a total of 84,3 million USD. In 2015, an IPO for Club Premier was rumored for 2017 with potential value of 1 billion USD. Club Premier is growing profitably and now has more than 5,1 million active members. The valuation mentioned before appears relatively generous but it would be fair and conservative to now value Aimia’s share of this investment at 300 to 400 million USD. This has been a great investment for Aimia even if they are not in the driver’s seat.

For reference (2012)

https://www.aimia.com/content/dam/aimiawebsite/CaseStudiesWhitepapersResearch/english/ClubPremier_CaseStudy.pdf

-So what’s the point?

Many scenarios can play out:

   -Airline buys Aimia
   -Club Premier IPO
   -Aimia finds alternatives +/- with multi-airline arrangement

Air Canada now is well positioned from a negotiation standpoint but could lose some feathers as developing a FFP takes time, is associated with risks and development of a wider coalition program is even more complicated.

I submit that the most rational scenario implies preservation of the Aeroplan brand with maintenance of the Air Canada partnership.

My opinion is that the best way to achieve this is through the formation of a joint partnership with Air Canada. Air Canada could obtain +/- 51% ownership of the new Air Canada/Aeroplan entity. This would maximize the collaboration of competing interests. Also, a solid partnership would strengthen the long term arrangements with banks and would help to recruit large scale redeemer partners such as grocery chains and others. In present circumstances, Air Canada should control an entity driving a frequent flyer program and the best partner is Aimia. Obviously, everything has a price. There is no clear template for this and many models could be used. Using many historical inputs and many variables, I come up with a price tag for AC of +/- 850 million CDN $ for the transaction.

I submit that this scenario would be a fair win-win for both, could be achieved rapidly and clearly would clarify Aimia’s future in its capacity to continue as a going concern.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: petec on August 29, 2017, 06:48:01 AM
Am I reading this deal correctly, that Aimia held the Air Miles royalty and therefore received royalty payments from its major competitor?

Nice way to reduce a bit of debt.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on August 29, 2017, 05:15:53 PM
This was an asset that had been acquired as part of the LMG acquisition in 2007-8, consisting of the worldwide "Air Miles" trademark (brand, logo etc). That was when the sky was not the limit (from the annual report cover).

The royalty stream sold is the Canadian component of this asset. Before, this was included in "other revenues" and likely was not matched to any material expense. So, we're told, 8,5 million coming in per year on average. My opinion is that this is likely to grow slightly over time and possibly grow faster than inflation for at least a while. Premise: I think Air Miles in Canada has a future.   How much would you pay for that?

From the buyer's perspective, Diversified Royalty Corp, they seem to have a paid a lower multiple compared to previous acquisitions of royalty streams with a similar profile.  This deal is even more advantageous for the buyer if you consider that the contingency part of the acquisition is equivalent to interest free loans over two years.

From a balance sheet strength (one of the three pillars of the new vision based on a "sense of urgency) point of view, the transaction makes sense. However, the price obtained seems low and includes a financial distress component. Also, I would assume that there is likely some buyers for this stable and slowly growing royalty stream? Did they offer it to LoyaltyOne, the owner of Air Miles Canada?

So, I like the cash balance to grow but I wonder about the timing. Maybe they are just aiming for a solid balance sheet? Or is it uncertainty related to the UK Sainsbury (anchor partner) contract renewal?

But the sky has now fallen and they need to show progress on the main front, the fate of Aeroplan.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: petec on August 31, 2017, 01:18:05 AM
Agreed that the price didn't look great.   But as a pref holder I think I prefer the lump sum which hopefully promotes me up the capital structure a bit.

You imply they still have the rest of world Air Miles rights.   Is that so?
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on August 31, 2017, 03:48:35 AM
My understanding is that they still have the international rights.
Their Middle East operation uses the Air Miles trademark.
The brand is also used in the Netherlands and in Spain (?).
In the UK, it seems that the Air Lines brand is no longer around as British Airways changed it to "Avios".

Any insight on the Nectar program ie market penetration, brand recognition, satisfaction with points collection and redemption?
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on September 01, 2017, 08:30:48 AM
Give limited value to people who agree with investment ideas and prefer polite attempts to kill the thesis.
But interesting to note that Mittleman Brothers have recently built a more than 10% stake in the common share ownership of AIM.

Looked into this and like what I see. They seem to be long term oriented, value based and may get "involved" for what seem to be valid reasons.
Anybody know them in a material way?

I especially like the fact that more concentrated ownership may help to inject some clarity of purpose.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: petec on September 01, 2017, 08:46:55 AM
Any insight on the Nectar program ie market penetration, brand recognition, satisfaction with points collection and redemption?

No, not really.   I was a Nectar user about a decade ago with an Amex card, but didn't have a Sainsbury's close by and kept nearly running out of fuel waiting till I found a BP service station ;)   Plus frankly Amex wasn't that widely received and so when my bank set up its own points system on MC credit cards I switched to that.   Interestingly they have since closed that and moved to cashback instead - same value to the consumer and a lot less hassle?   I am now on Avios because I travel a lot with work (and back with Amex as a result, which is more widely accepted now). Avios is a fairly low grade system (very poor reward flights availability) but it's a no-brainer for me because of the work flights.

My overall view is that these systems don't represent better value than cashback on card spend UNLESS they have a deep discount relationship with a key provider.   A supermarket or petrol station will never give deep discounts - the only businesses that can do that are ones whose marginal cost is tiny.   It makes sense for an airline to virtually give away empty seats in return for customer loyalty; it does not make sense for Sainsbury to give me my shopping in return for customer loyalty.   

My view is that Nectar is a good mid-low end reward scheme: millions of members getting to whom small savings are important, and big mass partners who get some loyalty benefits. But because the savings are small and the loyalty benefits aren't huge, the margins are low.   The entire system has economic value, but less than it would if the anchor partner could give real discounts at no cost in return for real loyalty.

The best system of all, of course, is one in which party one (employer) pays for flights chosen by party two (employee) who gets points to spend on cheap flights in return for loyalty to party three (the airline).   This is a wonderful case of misaligned incentives which allows for big margins for party four (the loyalty scheme owner)!
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: petec on September 01, 2017, 08:53:32 AM
Give limited value to people who agree with investment ideas and prefer polite attempts to kill the thesis.
But interesting to note that Mittleman Brothers have recently built a more than 10% stake in the common share ownership of AIM.

Looked into this and like what I see. They seem to be long term oriented, value based and may get "involved" for what seem to be valid reasons.
Anybody know them in a material way?

I especially like the fact that more concentrated ownership may help to inject some clarity of purpose.

Good spot.   They have very good performance since inception.   And yes if they are activist then things could get very interesting.

Prefs are back around my in-price, which I find oddly satisfying since I felt when I bought them that they were a good value even if AC pulled out!   No doubt it will be temporary but I think I am in this for the long haul.   
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on September 06, 2017, 04:37:16 PM
For those still following, there is a new write-up floating around.

https://seekingalpha.com/article/4104139-aimia-blood-streets

Again, at this point, I would prefer to spend time trying to kill the thesis instead of pseudo-confirmation.

Looked at this in some detail.

The author essentially describes a very bullish pretty much best scenario analysis.

Also, he puts the focus on the sum-of-the-parts approach.

My assessment is much more conservative.

   -I more or less agree with the equity investments fair value, in total, because, contrary to the rest of the report, I find that the value of PLM is more than stated. PLM is very good business with good prospects. However the other analytics businesses are probably only useful in the sense that they provide value to the other coalition programs within Aimia. On their own, they may have little or no free cash flow potential especially if sold separately. The Cardlytics sub though may have value on its own. In total for this aspect, I had put 350-450 million value.

   -I used more conservative assumptions for the present value of FCFs until 2020.

   -I put a value of 0-350 million for the international coalitions as there is potentially a risk of non-renewal with Sainsbury.

   -I put 0 value on the GLS part as this sub has struggled considerably in recent years.

   -The Aeroplan sub remains the hardest to value, as it really depends on outcomes. Without anchor airline partner(s), I feel that the adjusted EBITDA would be +/- decreased by 75%.

Using a sum-of-the-parts approach, even with very conservative assumptions, the preferreds still appear to be the fulcrum security. If you accept the generous assumptions, then some will hit it out of the park.

The author, however, assumes that the Sainsbury renewal is in the bag, that management will realize the value of the assets until 2020 and beyond and does not really factor in an eventual run on the points.

Using a cash flow perspective for a firm in distress, one has to consider that the enterprise value may end up corresponding to the low end of the sum-of-the-parts valuation.

I continue to think that the clock is ticking, management still needs to show that they can manage the transition and the earlier the better.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: petec on September 07, 2017, 01:52:20 AM
Thanks Cigarbutt!
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: NewbieD on September 08, 2017, 07:32:06 AM
Is there any difference to dividend rights in the A, B, C prefs?
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on September 18, 2017, 08:37:39 AM
I no longer have any position in this but do have an update for those who do. 

This past week TD Bank has started their own rewards program.  I have a 'normal' TD credit card. 

They have enrolled my card automatically in their rewards program.  I already have 92 points.  Not sure what I can do with them yet. 

Just an FYI. 
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on September 30, 2017, 06:32:40 AM
Sold everything.

The investment thesis was based on:

-Management capability
This is still a question mark for me, especially if you're looking at the new alternatives scenario and model transformation.
-Value of loyalty programs
Loyalty programs will continue to have value but the moat is somewhat conditional on the renewal of key partner contracts.
-Aeroplan value
The preservation of the brand was largely based on the possibility of a new adjusted arrangement with Air Canada. That may still be in the works but I see risks that positions become entrenched.
-The preferreds as a margin of safety position
The way I see it, the odds are increasing that the lower bound of value may be tested.

So, quite a decent return over a weighted period of about four months but result explained maybe 1+ because entry points were opportunistically quite low and especially 3+ because of positive "momentum" during the period.
So, I won't put this in the success file.

Will keep following. Good luck for those who hang on.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: petec on October 10, 2017, 05:33:30 AM
I no longer have any position in this but do have an update for those who do. 

This past week TD Bank has started their own rewards program.  I have a 'normal' TD credit card. 

They have enrolled my card automatically in their rewards program.  I already have 92 points.  Not sure what I can do with them yet. 

Just an FYI.

Interesting. Years ago I had a Nectar card. When my bank rolled out their own rewards scheme I canned Nectar and collected bank points. Eventually the bank binned its points scheme in favour of a cashback system - cheaper to administer and more attractive for consumers. This underlines my main worry about these companies: everyone would actually be better off if interchange fees were lower and prices were lower. The points are basically a (regressive) scam - EXCEPT when the rewards are available at zero marginal cost (like airline seats) and giving them away engenders loyalty. In that case everyone's a winner. I wonder about the sustainability of the scam side of the business.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: petec on October 10, 2017, 05:38:09 AM

-The preferreds as a margin of safety position
The way I see it, the odds are increasing that the lower bound of value may be tested.

Why's that?

I bought the prefs at around the current price, thinking they were far too cheap if AC renewed and probably money-good if they did not. Clearly that thesis has been tested more than I wanted! I'm now struggling over whether to declare victory (everything went tits up and I didn't lose money) or hang on in the hope that the other assets cover most of the pref, the value of which is theoretically increasing with every accumulated dividend.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: kab60 on October 10, 2017, 08:12:54 AM

-The preferreds as a margin of safety position
The way I see it, the odds are increasing that the lower bound of value may be tested.

Why's that?

I bought the prefs at around the current price, thinking they were far too cheap if AC renewed and probably money-good if they did not. Clearly that thesis has been tested more than I wanted! I'm now struggling over whether to declare victory (everything went tits up and I didn't lose money) or hang on in the hope that the other assets cover most of the pref, the value of which is theoretically increasing with every accumulated dividend.
That was pretty much my reason to go with the prefs as well. Sold for a small loss and actually thought it was a pretty good deal since it went tits up and the loss was small. Anyway, in the current case, I don't like the prefs. I think it is hard to handicap the odds, but upside is capped, and there is little equity buffer if things turn south. No position but I think the common is more attractive now.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on October 10, 2017, 11:15:00 AM
Why?
It's mostly a question about margin of safety.

With Aimia, my take is to value the firm using a weighted probability of scenarios. Basically, how the stock and prefs (to a lesser degree) behave more or less matches how you value the option of success to manage the transition.

I think that would explain why kab60 comes up to the conclusion that the common may be more attractive.
Based on the above description of valuation for this specific investment, I come now to a different conclusion.

If, somehow, the partnership with AC is renewed (less likely as time passes) or Aimia can successfully set up (risks) a renewed platform with other partners, then exposure to prefs or commons will be a winner. My take is that the odds here are getting lower that they will successfully realize the above.
In my first post on this, I submitted that the most likely scenario, in terms of valuation, if Aimia tries to develop a new platform without a preferential link with AC, would be +/- 75% decrease in value of the Aeroplan brand.(my opinion with +/- emphasized)

Working with those assumptions, I submit that, on a weighted scenario basis, enterprise value now approximates market value now for the prefs.
So the prefs have lower upside and a whittling margin of safety.
Add to that the uncertainty related to the key Sainsbury renewal coming up.

I respect that others may disagree.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on November 03, 2017, 07:00:01 AM
For those following and/or still holding.

-A recently released report by a relatively large shareholder:
https://www.docdroid.net/dN7Ue02/mittleman-q3-2017.pdf#page=6

-Would like to add that I disagree with one of their premises which is that Aimia is a float type business much like Blue Chip Stamps. Aimia may have the ability to generate float going forward but, from my understanding, contrary to Blue Chip, Aimia no longer has the accumulated float from the past as it has already been distributed mostly to shareholders. So I submit that your thesis has to rest on the going forward capacity to generate float only.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on November 03, 2017, 09:58:03 AM
I think the existence and durability of float in this type of business is overstated. 

Buffett basically put Blue Chip into runoff fairly quickly (for pre-internet times),and redeployed whatever cash he could get out of it elsewhere.  Compared to Blue Chip in the 1970s things move at lightspeed today. 

Every Canadian Bank is promoting its own loyalty programs including TD, which has aeroplan cards.

I dont see the programs anywhere else being any better protected than Aeroplan is/was.  If we completely write off aeroplan, maybe there is value left in the other brands, but how much?  That is the big unanswerable question.  To my mind the market is probably efficiently reflecting the actual business value ex. aeroplan.  To that end the common stock is dead money for years to come.  What the guys are hoping for is a big turnaround in fortunes.  Hope is not a good basis for investing a large chunk of your funds net worth in.  Aimia would have mad it into Walter Schloss' portfolio as a 1% holding. 

When you assess the value of an unnecessary commodity you really need to handicap to the downside.  In todays market so- called value investors are moving way down the quality curve and subjecting themselves to huge unnecessary risk. 
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: petec on November 09, 2017, 01:35:27 AM
For those following and/or still holding.

-A recently released report by a relatively large shareholder:
https://www.docdroid.net/dN7Ue02/mittleman-q3-2017.pdf#page=6

-Would like to add that I disagree with one of their premises which is that Aimia is a float type business much like Blue Chip Stamps. Aimia may have the ability to generate float going forward but, from my understanding, contrary to Blue Chip, Aimia no longer has the accumulated float from the past as it has already been distributed mostly to shareholders. So I submit that your thesis has to rest on the going forward capacity to generate float only.

Thanks and FWIW I agree on float. Aimia made two key errors: allowing AC to sell its majority stake (which could have been prohibited in the original agreement),and paying out its float. Combined, these two decisions represent huge risk to common shareholders.

I can't make the link work. You don't happen to have a copy of the report, do you?
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on November 09, 2017, 05:12:04 AM
Maybe, you want to try this:
http://www.valuewalk.com/2017/11/mittleman-brothers-letter/

Q3 results are out.
+/- more of the same. PLM continues to grow.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: sculpin on November 10, 2017, 09:34:38 AM

http://adventuresincapitalism.com/post/2017/11/10/Most-Canadian-PMs-Have-Crappy-AIM.aspx

Seems pretty damn cheap at ~$3 now, it's mostly de-risked after earnings, management seems to be doing the right things and buyers seem to finally be waking up to the above facts.

Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Picasso on November 10, 2017, 11:22:27 AM
I hate this stock so much. 

He ignores the preferred in his debt calculation that's sitting ahead of him and trading at half of par (for a reason).  It's disingenuous to say this is a 'net cash' business.

I think that if you look at the history of any loyalty program that goes kaput, first some small number redeems right away.  But most consumers are halfway through their next hurdle rate to get the actual reward (in this case flight) that they want to earn before the program goes away.  So they keep spending for a bit before switching cards.  I don't see how looking at the recent quarterly results and saying this thing is going back to up $19 makes any sense.  The outcome here is not linear in that way at all.  Redemption's will accelerate before the deadline if they can't strike a deal on par with the Air Canada.  I could go on about this for hours but I'd rather not pop a blood vessel before the weekend.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on November 10, 2017, 12:22:35 PM
There is enough to hate in this world.
A stock does not know if you own it or not.
Anyways, if markets are efficient, the value in preferreds should eventually be recognized. ;)
But this is puzzling.
Maybe not related but, in the noise, some say that Aimia will integrate blockchain opportunities.
Exciting?
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: bizaro86 on November 10, 2017, 05:47:10 PM
I only get excited if they are doing marijuana and blockchain and lithium mining.

Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: NewbieD on November 12, 2017, 08:10:28 AM
Seems likely that a virtuous circle will develop...Something like

Higher stock price -> higher likelihood of passing capital impairment test -> expectation of preferred dividends -> higher preferred and common stock price -> pass capital impairment test -> preferred dividends -> perceived financial health -> higher stock price

Agree with Picasso redemption development is not likely to be linear. But I also Believe a decent portion are not that into the program and will never redeem. Anyhow, I think such a development would be >1 year from now, giving the above development some time to play out.

Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: writser on November 12, 2017, 08:29:23 AM
I hate this stock so much. 

He ignores the preferred in his debt calculation that's sitting ahead of him and trading at half of par (for a reason).  It's disingenuous to say this is a 'net cash' business.

I think that if you look at the history of any loyalty program that goes kaput, first some small number redeems right away.  But most consumers are halfway through their next hurdle rate to get the actual reward (in this case flight) that they want to earn before the program goes away.  So they keep spending for a bit before switching cards.  I don't see how looking at the recent quarterly results and saying this thing is going back to up $19 makes any sense.  The outcome here is not linear in that way at all.  Redemption's will accelerate before the deadline if they can't strike a deal on par with the Air Canada.  I could go on about this for hours but I'd rather not pop a blood vessel before the weekend.

Well said. That blogpost is either intentionally misleading or extremely sloppy. Don’t get suckered into something complicated just because you fear you might be missing the next 10-bagger “cheapest no-brainer stock pick in the universe”.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: elc13 on December 28, 2017, 04:29:16 PM
Picasso (and any others) -- do you have any historical examples of loyalty programs going kaput as you described? Came across this company recently and doing preliminary research. Thanks to all for the informative discussion so far!
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Homestead31 on January 07, 2018, 07:23:44 AM
I no longer have any position in this but do have an update for those who do. 

This past week TD Bank has started their own rewards program.  I have a 'normal' TD credit card. 

They have enrolled my card automatically in their rewards program.  I already have 92 points.  Not sure what I can do with them yet. 

Just an FYI.

Uccmal - would you mind clarifying this for me?  If i am understanding correctly, your experience did not touch on Aeroplan at all?  In other words, you did not have a TD Aeroplan card that got switched to the TD rewards program, correct? 

I am assuming that the banks can't just pull people out of the Aeroplan program and into another program whenever they feel like.  seems like that would be a bit crazy for consumers.

thanks for clarifying.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: clutch on January 07, 2018, 07:48:06 AM
Slightly related to above...

I have Amex Gold, which I was mainly using it to collect Aeroplan points (by converting them from Amex points) and redeem for flights. This used to be a very good value, as for certain purchases I was getting at least 4% back - 2 Amex points (and hence 2 Aeroplan points) for each $1 purchase, and assuming $0.02 / miles for redeeming long-haul flights within North America.

Now I'm going to cancel it, because without Aeroplan's deal with Air Canada, I cannot get that much value neither through Amex rewards program nor other redemption purchases on Aeroplan. And I'm going to tell Amex the reason for cancelling is exactly because of Aeroplan's fallout with Air Canada.

I don't know how many people like me out there but it can't be good for Aimia when they are negotiating deals with credit card providers.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: StubbleJumper on January 07, 2018, 11:17:01 AM
Yep, in 2015 and 2016, TD, CIBC and AMEX were falling all over themselves to offer potential new customers the best introductory offer for Aeroplan credit cards (or membership rewards cards for which points tend to be converted into Aeroplan miles), even resorting to the use of expensive TV commercials.  Since last summer's announcement, I have not seen any major promotion from any of those banks to issue new Aeroplan rewards cards.

Even if TD and CIBC don't start converting people's cards away from Aeroplan, the absence of card promotions must at least hurt somewhat.  Those banks had to buy $400 or $500 worth of miles from AIM every time they issued a new CC with a 25,000 mile introductory offer.


SJ
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Homestead31 on January 08, 2018, 11:20:23 AM
Slightly related to above...

I have Amex Gold, which I was mainly using it to collect Aeroplan points (by converting them from Amex points) and redeem for flights. This used to be a very good value, as for certain purchases I was getting at least 4% back - 2 Amex points (and hence 2 Aeroplan points) for each $1 purchase, and assuming $0.02 / miles for redeeming long-haul flights within North America.

Now I'm going to cancel it, because without Aeroplan's deal with Air Canada, I cannot get that much value neither through Amex rewards program nor other redemption purchases on Aeroplan. And I'm going to tell Amex the reason for cancelling is exactly because of Aeroplan's fallout with Air Canada.

I don't know how many people like me out there but it can't be good for Aimia when they are negotiating deals with credit card providers.

clutch - are you saying that you have already noticed a decline in value?  the existing deal is in place through 2020, and Aeroplan will still work with Air Canada after that point - just not on classic fares.  My understanding is that post 2020 Aeroplan will be on the same terms with Air Canada as any other point system, with the exception of Air Canada's internal system.

could you clarify?  thanks
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: clutch on January 08, 2018, 12:59:46 PM
Slightly related to above...

I have Amex Gold, which I was mainly using it to collect Aeroplan points (by converting them from Amex points) and redeem for flights. This used to be a very good value, as for certain purchases I was getting at least 4% back - 2 Amex points (and hence 2 Aeroplan points) for each $1 purchase, and assuming $0.02 / miles for redeeming long-haul flights within North America.

Now I'm going to cancel it, because without Aeroplan's deal with Air Canada, I cannot get that much value neither through Amex rewards program nor other redemption purchases on Aeroplan. And I'm going to tell Amex the reason for cancelling is exactly because of Aeroplan's fallout with Air Canada.

I don't know how many people like me out there but it can't be good for Aimia when they are negotiating deals with credit card providers.

clutch - are you saying that you have already noticed a decline in value?  the existing deal is in place through 2020, and Aeroplan will still work with Air Canada after that point - just not on classic fares.  My understanding is that post 2020 Aeroplan will be on the same terms with Air Canada as any other point system, with the exception of Air Canada's internal system.

could you clarify?  thanks

Classic fares are where the values of Aeroplan points can be maximized. Market fares are usually horrible value.

No change in the values of classic fares right now, but without them after 2020, I don't see much point in collecting Aeroplan points for flight reception.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: bizaro86 on January 09, 2018, 02:49:29 PM
Anyone using market fares would be objectively better off getting a cash back credit card. Classic fares also have the aspirational yet achievable business class awards, which probably drive business.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: clutch on January 09, 2018, 05:32:18 PM
Anyone using market fares would be objectively better off getting a cash back credit card. Classic fares also have the aspirational yet achievable business class awards, which probably drive business.

Yes, I preferred to redeem for business class whenever possible.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: petec on January 10, 2018, 01:39:11 AM
Has anyone seen evidence that Aeroplan has changed redemption terms subtly to disincentivise redemptions?
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: StubbleJumper on January 10, 2018, 06:02:29 AM
Has anyone seen evidence that Aeroplan has changed redemption terms subtly to disincentivise redemptions?



Haven't seen it yet, but I would certainly advise the company to take measures to reduce its reward liability and to do it soon.  AIM needs to crank up the number of miles required for a reward flight by perhaps 30-35%  if they want to have any equity remaining in 2021.  IMO, the easiest way to do this is change the rules of the program by bumping up the mileage requirements by 10-15% on two or three occasions over the next couple of years.

I cannot discern what the company's strategy is to manage the loss of AC and the considerable reduction in revenues that this will represent.  As a former pref-holder and an Aeroplan program participant, the lack of direction is frustrating.  I sold my prefs and I'm taking three vacations to Europe in less than a year to burn my miles...


SJ
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: petec on January 10, 2018, 07:19:19 AM
Thanks.

The deferred revenue on the BS is $3.2bn but a) that includes international coalitions and b) that's the deferred revenue rather than the actual cost of redemptions. Does anyone have a decent estimate of the cash cost if all Aeroplan points were redeemed tomorrow?

EDIT: my best guess is that 79% of the deferred revenue belongs to Americas Coalitions (equal to the 9M17 revenue split), and that 70% of that is cash cost of redemptions (equal to cost of redemptions/revenues from loyalty units for Americas Coalitions). $3,200 x 79% x 70% suggests that if all points were redeemed on normal terms the cash outflow would be c. $1760m. Does that make sense?

My back of the envelope SOTP is as follows:
$675m cash and bonds +
$400m PLM stake  +
$300m other bits based on c10x adjusted ebitda for international coalitions +
$300m in FCF to 2020 =
$1.7bn gross asset value -
$550m Pension+debt -
$325m prefs at par =
$800m to cover redemptions

If that's correct then there's about $1bn of uncovered redemption liability from the perspective of a pref holder in a windup. Basically even the gross asset value doesn't quite cover the cost of a full run in the bank because these morons have paid out their float as dividend.
 
What am I missing?
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: StubbleJumper on January 10, 2018, 07:49:39 AM
Thanks.

The deferred revenue on the BS is $3.2bn but a) that includes international coalitions and b) that's the deferred revenue rather than the actual cost of redemptions. Does anyone have a decent estimate of the cash cost if all Aeroplan points were redeemed tomorrow?

EDIT: my best guess is that 79% of the deferred revenue belongs to Americas Coalitions (equal to the 9M17 revenue split), and that 70% of that is cash cost of redemptions (equal to cost of redemptions/revenues from loyalty units for Americas Coalitions). $3,200 x 79% x 70% suggests that if all points were redeemed on normal terms the cash outflow would be c. $1760m. Does that make sense?


I haven't done the math because I sold ~6 months ago.  But, my fuzzy recollection is that AIM's deal with AC includes the right to purchase a certain number of AC seats per year at a ~8% discount.  So, it would be a mistake to assume that the redemption cost will not go higher, because if everyone rushes to the exit before June 2020, it would likely exceed AIM's maximum number of seats that qualify for a discount, and for those who redeem after June 2020 there presumably will be no discount at all.  So, perhaps add another $100m to your estimate for conservatism?

On a cash-in, cash-out basis, this one will be pretty scary if people rush for the exit.


EDIT:

Not sure whether they have exactly $700m for redemptions, or whether it's a shade better.  Cash from ops has run at ~$300m/year for the past few years, but has been disappointing for the first three quarters of 2017.  You've pencilled in a total of $300m of FCF until 2020, so is that optimistic, pessimistic, or realistic (I can't really say).  Certainly an argument could be made in favour of another couple hundred million of cash from ops over that period.  But, counterbalancing that, you have to figure that their revolving credit line will not be renewed, which will chew up ~$200m.

So, yes, they have a hell of a mess on their hands.  If they de-value the miles (I have suggested a ~30% devaluation), then there's no problem remaining solvent, but I'm not sure that there's much equity left for shareholders (even the prefs could end up being a zero).



SJ
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: petec on January 10, 2018, 08:51:13 AM
Cash from ops has run at ~$300m/year for the past few years, but has been disappointing for the first three quarters of 2017.  You've pencilled in a total of $300m of FCF until 2020, so is that optimistic, pessimistic, or realistic (I can't really say).  Certainly an argument could be made in favour of another couple hundred million of cash from ops over that period. 


Yes, agreed. My thinking is that $300m total is actually an aggressive estimate if there is a run on the bank, because in that scenario you can assume that gross billings will slow. I was trying to be kind, believe it or not!

Some time ago I estimated the prefs had a decent chance of being money good even if AC cancelled. I can't find the maths for that but I don't think I captured the destructive power of a potential run. It seems to me that the potential replacement for AC has every incentive to delay signing unless it looks like there is a queue of interested parties, which I doubt there is. So I can easily imagine this going to the wire, which materially increases the odds of a run.

Also, I believe 76% of points come from 20% of customers although I have lost the source for that stat. In a best case scenario these customers accrue points because they are heavy spenders on credit cards, and don't care who they fly with. But if they are AC frequent flyers - which they probably are on the basis that to accrue that many points you need to spend a lot on cards AND pay for flights often - then Aeroplan will have a tough time preventing them from migrating to AC's internal programme. That possibility seriously dents the attractiveness of Aeroplan to a new partner. The new partner would have to have a network & offering very similar to AC's in order to have a hope in hell of retaining those customers. I don't know enough about AC to know who that would be.

EDIT: one positive is that AC might offer to buy points from Aimia to avoid having to explain to their most-valued customers, who will have accrued a lot of points, why those points are now worthless. Probably a pipe dream but it could be a major reputational issue for AC.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: bizaro86 on January 11, 2018, 03:21:19 PM
I bet more than 79% of deferred revenue is Aeroplan, simply because it is the oldest, so I don't think current run rate is the right number. Might not matter anyway.

I actually think if they could credibly tell AC that they are burning the program down unless they buy some points over (maybe for elites?) that threat might work, especially  if they do it soon. They still have dibs on AC frequent flier program for a couple more years, and AC won't want to be giving out worthless points during that time because it will hurt their main business.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: StubbleJumper on January 11, 2018, 06:36:55 PM
I bet more than 79% of deferred revenue is Aeroplan, simply because it is the oldest, so I don't think current run rate is the right number. Might not matter anyway.

I actually think if they could credibly tell AC that they are burning the program down unless they buy some points over (maybe for elites?) that threat might work, especially  if they do it soon. They still have dibs on AC frequent flier program for a couple more years, and AC won't want to be giving out worthless points during that time because it will hurt their main business.


Well, that's something that I've never quite understood.  Irrespective of what AC does at this point, it is virtually certain that AC will totally piss off a great many of their customers by starting a new frequent flier program.  IMO, most Canadians are currently blissfully unaware that Aeroplan will be toast in 2.5 years, but in late 2019 or early 2020 it will become abundantly clear that their miles will be drastically devalued.  People will be furious with AC.

I understand that AC probably wanted to get a large slice of the considerable credit card pie and that AIM probably told them to take a long walk off a short dock.  But what I don't quite get is why AC appears to be of the view that the start-up costs for a new program and the bevy of pissed off customers is less important than scooping a couple hundred million bucks per year.  I confess that I am completely baffled about how it has come to this.  AIM has committed suicide and AC has "won" by alienating millions of their customers.

Personally, I lost a few thousand bucks by taking a small position in the prefs because I was convinced that a deal was in everybody's interest and that neither party would be stupid enough to go nuclear.


SJ
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Uccmal on January 12, 2018, 04:39:05 AM
SJ,

I dont know about people being blissfully unaware.  I was sitting in Starbucks and overheard a conversation between two guys about the pointlessness (no pun intended) of using aeroplan anymore.

Just some scuttlebut.  IMO, word has spread and the run on the bank has started. 

Now this could just be selective hearing on my part as I lost a little money on this deal and its human nature to want confirmation that the loss was the right thing to do.  So take it for what its worth... just Scuttlebut. 
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: doc75 on January 12, 2018, 04:54:42 AM
For what it's worth, I've mentioned what's happening to a number of friends and others (essentially whenever someone happens to mention using their points).  In most cases, the reaction is along the lines "yeah, I heard they changed the program somehow".  Either that or total surprise.  Nobody I've spoken with has known what's really going on.

Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on January 12, 2018, 06:02:25 AM
On the value of scuttlebutt.
Often wondered about the value of this, especially the way Peter Lynch described it (more anecdotal).
Maybe better when done in a systematic way the way Philip Fisher described it?

When I built a position in MegaBrands some time ago, I used to visit stores and check the toy alleys. Not sure it added anything.
It may be helpful to try to obtain the opinion of competitors?

Anyways, for Aimia, I remember seeing posters (elsewhere) commenting on the volume of internet activity for certain sites that could potentially give an idea about the volume of redemptions. Useful?
Aimia is in the business of loyalty and reflecting on what happened to market share of US car manufacturers, the value of loyalty may be over-estimated. Easy to lose and hard to recover.
The "stickiness" of consumers is related to decision simplicity and trends.
It seems to me that players in the loyalty business should anticipate and react quickly to consumer preferences and business risks with key partners.
Of course, with Aimia, the trend can change but, in my opinion, what happened in the last year is not promising.

Like SJ, I'm "baffled" at how this was handled but when two people pull in two different directions, it is hard to see who will collect the prize. Not elegant.


Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: zhengmit on January 12, 2018, 06:46:17 AM
Talked to a few people, and the risk of losing Sainsbury is real given the development.  Also people talked about discount and gating to protect Aimia.  Talked to some people and it seems the clause in the contract with credit card companies will prevent them doing this on a large scale.

Cigarbutt: what do you own these days and what do you like most?
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: petec on January 12, 2018, 07:11:10 AM
Irrespective of what AC does at this point, it is virtually certain that AC will totally piss off a great many of their customers by starting a new frequent flier program. 

They're not really starting a new one - they already have Altitude so what they are doing is preventing Altitude miles from going to Aeroplan, and allowing them to be redeemed in-house. They gave people 3.5 years to run down their points so they don't NEED to lose value - especially if AC offer to buy the few Aeroplan points remaining in 2020. And even if customers are pissed off, it may well be that they don't have much option other than to fly AC on many key routes.

Against that, these are incredible -ve WC businesses that require no capital and generate more cash the faster they grow. Bringing the NPV in-house is a smart move.

Just playing devil's advocate.



Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: StubbleJumper on January 12, 2018, 07:48:42 AM
Irrespective of what AC does at this point, it is virtually certain that AC will totally piss off a great many of their customers by starting a new frequent flier program. 

They're not really starting a new one - they already have Altitude so what they are doing is preventing Altitude miles from going to Aeroplan, and allowing them to be redeemed in-house. They gave people 3.5 years to run down their points so they don't NEED to lose value - especially if AC offer to buy the few Aeroplan points remaining in 2020. And even if customers are pissed off, it may well be that they don't have much option other than to fly AC on many key routes.

Against that, these are incredible -ve WC businesses that require no capital and generate more cash the faster they grow. Bringing the NPV in-house is a smart move.

Just playing devil's advocate.



No, they are starting a new program.  All of your existing Aeroplan miles from previous flights appear as if they will be orphaned.  All of your existing credit cards appear as if they will be orphaned.  A current Aeroplan participant has the option of participating in both the old program and the new one, but collecting loyalty points works best for consumers when a consumer concentrates his efforts on a few programs.  Consumers will be able to recover some value from their existing miles, but every consumer who makes the switch will end up losing to some degree (ie, you might be able to redeem the lion's share of your points, but there will still be a remainder which is insufficient for a flight reward....this could be a few thousand miles for some consumers or it could be many thousand for others).  Unless the new program is sexy as hell and includes very attractive start-up bonuses, there will be some unhappy people.

The loyalty business itself is certainly attractive, for all of the reasons you mentioned.  I don't at all doubt that AC wanted a bigger piece of the action from AIM, and when that didn't happen AC walked.  But, there will be start-up costs, and these shouldn't be ignored.  I do not know the size of the army of employees at AIM or the significance of AIM's information systems, but they will be costly to re-build (the information systems are the most important because much of the value is in the data).  After having been snake-bitten by the abandonment of Aeroplan, it will be interesting to see how quickly Canadian financial institutions will sign agreements to issue new credit cards (that's where much of the money is earned).  In particular, if I were TD, I'd be pissed about having spent a pile of money on an Aeroplan contract and having invested a pile of money in promoting those cards on television only to have had the rug ripped out from underneath me.  It might take a while to sign up loyalty partners, like the banks, to profitable contracts.  Finally, as I suggested earlier, a new program would be best launched with some sort of smoke and noise, preferably with attractive sign-up bonuses to get clients on board.  It could be a few years before AC makes any money of the new program, but presumably it will ultimately be profitable.

So, will there be any behavioural change from AC's existing client base?  With Aeroplan abandoned and a new program launched will AC retain all of its existing business, or will some of the flying public move their business to WestJet?  A good loyalty program does what its name implies, it builds loyalty.  When you abandon the program, do you effectively reduce your clients' switching costs?  This remains to be seen, but I personally have always considered the value of $20 of Aeroplan miles when doing price comparisons between AC and WJ.  Will this make WJ more attractive for the flying public?

Still baffled that an agreement wasn't reached...

SJ
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: bizaro86 on January 12, 2018, 09:11:16 AM
I don't have a position here so haven't done this, but if you want scuttlebutt, I would read this:
https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/air-canada-aeroplan/1841934-air-canada-launch-its-own-loyalty-program-2020-a-68.html

It's the 1000+ post thread on the change on Flyertalk, the forum for people who really, really care about frequent flier programs and airline status. These are the customers both AC and Aeroplan will need to keep, so what they are saying is pretty important, imo.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on January 12, 2018, 10:32:20 AM
Hi zhengmit,

Leaving Aimia for a minute.

Sorry, wrong person to ask at this point.
If you are looking for investable ideas, there are out there on this Board superior participants who likely continue to identify and benefit from profitable opportunities.

I came to this Board about a year ago in the context of my disappearing ability to find targets with a sufficient margin of safety in my investment circle. Since I started to participate, my investment IQ has moved from 78 to 82. Little progress, not because of the absence of quality on this Board but because of mental slowness/resistance.

I have long positions in cash (which I don’t like, but can tolerate) and long-term USA government bonds, (TLT), a relatively large position that I have trimmed down to less than 10% of portfolio since 2011.

This year, I invested in Aimia as I felt there was potential value realization in the preferreds associated with a rapid reconnection with Air Canada.
I see you are new to the Board and would like to read your answer to your question.

Back to Aimia.

Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: petec on January 22, 2018, 12:43:23 AM
FWIW I am out of the prefs with a 20-30% profit in 18 months depending on the account. Oddly, I consider this to have been a highly successful investment. My assessment when I bought was that Aimia would probably not lose the AC contract, but that if they did the prefs would likely still be worth the price I paid and might even be worth par in a breakup. I also thought they'd be a great security to hold if rates rose. To have witnessed the loss of the AC contract and still made money feels like it proves my thesis. Sitting here today though, it's much harder to assess the probability of real upside, which hinges on getting another partner or breaking up the business in such a way that the pref holders receive par value. Also, the probability of the worst case outcome (the loss of AC and a run on the bank per my SOTP above) has risen markedly because the first part of it has already happened.

If I am making a mistake here it is because I am anchoring to my purchase price - when AC cut the cord I decided to have faith in my original thesis and not realise the loss; now that I can realise a profit, I am doing so. If I had bought at 9 I'd probably have sold earlier, but I bought between 10 and 12. That's probably an emotional red flag.

Thanks to everyone on here for a) flagging the opportunity and b) helping me understand it!
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: StubbleJumper on February 01, 2018, 05:16:47 AM
Looks like AIM has raised CAD$105m by selling one of its British loyalty programs:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/aimia-sells-nectar-loyalty-card-business-to-uks-sainsburys-for-105-million/article37814207/


First they cut the dividend to staunch the cash outflows and now they are selling assets to raise cash.  Will it be enough?


SJ
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on February 01, 2018, 05:41:42 AM
The transaction is effective now, the value is quite low and has cash flow implications.
https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/aimia-sells-nectar-business-to-sainsburys-672106213.html

They still have Aeromexico and their "core" Aeroplan program.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: zhengmit on February 01, 2018, 05:42:26 AM
In 2016, Sainsbury contributed C$340 and the international segment total gross billing is C$617.5 and EBITDA margin on gross billing is 11.3%.  Since Nectar has gross billing other than Sainsbury, its gross billing is probably C$425m range (assuming Sainsbury accounts for 80% of Nectar's gross billing).  Using 11% EBITDA margin, so Aimia sold the business at 2.5x EBITDA (105/42.5).  Not sure this $105 is USD or CAD but you get the picture.  Nectar does represent another major risk in renewing and there is another C$400m liability associated with it.  At this valuation, what can I say?
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on February 02, 2018, 08:41:06 AM
petec,
Short term wise, your decision to sell was timely. Good for you.
Any thought on the Nectar conclusion?

The last transaction perhaps reflects the price to pay for disorderly redemption.
Despite and maybe because of recent troubles, will look into this again.

This may become interesting in an orderly liquidation-like scenario. Management will need to cooperate.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: petec on February 02, 2018, 10:19:44 AM
My thoughts, roughly summarised, are: "Christ, that was lucky".

If I'd thought Nectar was only worth $100m I'd have sold sooner (see my SOTP above).

I wonder whether Sainsbury's basically said: sell it to us at a knockdown price or we leave.

Future looks very binary to me on this one. And my concern is this: what incentive does any new Aeroplan partner have to sign early? Better to wait until they see the whites of Aeroplan's management's eyes in, say, late 2019.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: bizaro86 on February 02, 2018, 10:36:04 AM
The only partner they might get on similar terms to the old AC deal would be a startup. Someone like Canada Jetlines, who would benefit from Aeroplan name recognition and a big chunk of ticket purchases right at startup.

Established airlines all have their own programs already, and would mostly be happy to sell tickets to Aeroplan at regular retail price.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: mcliu on February 02, 2018, 01:30:22 PM
Looks like AIM has raised CAD$105m by selling one of its British loyalty programs:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/aimia-sells-nectar-loyalty-card-business-to-uks-sainsburys-for-105-million/article37814207/


First they cut the dividend to staunch the cash outflows and now they are selling assets to raise cash.  Will it be enough?


SJ

Are they really raising cash here since they're paying Sainsbury $183 million to cover redemptions..?

"Along with the sale of Nectar business and Aimia’s Intelligent Shopper Solutions U.K. and Intelligent Research businesses, and a 50% equity stake in its i2c joint venture with Sainsbury’s, the agreement also provides for the transfer to Sainsbury’s of approximately $183 million (£105 million) of cash providing coverage against the Nectar redemption liability. Aimia will continue to deliver customer insights and data analytics platforms to customers outside the U.K."

"As at September 30, 2017, Aimia had close to $670 million of cash and cash equivalents (including investments in corporate and government bonds). Adjusting for and giving effect to the Nectar transaction, Aimia’s net cash and liquidity position will be reduced by approximately $174 million."
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: StubbleJumper on February 02, 2018, 02:10:51 PM
Looks like AIM has raised CAD$105m by selling one of its British loyalty programs:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/aimia-sells-nectar-loyalty-card-business-to-uks-sainsburys-for-105-million/article37814207/


First they cut the dividend to staunch the cash outflows and now they are selling assets to raise cash.  Will it be enough?


SJ

Are they really raising cash here since they're paying Sainsbury $183 million to cover redemptions..?

"Along with the sale of Nectar business and Aimia’s Intelligent Shopper Solutions U.K. and Intelligent Research businesses, and a 50% equity stake in its i2c joint venture with Sainsbury’s, the agreement also provides for the transfer to Sainsbury’s of approximately $183 million (£105 million) of cash providing coverage against the Nectar redemption liability. Aimia will continue to deliver customer insights and data analytics platforms to customers outside the U.K."

"As at September 30, 2017, Aimia had close to $670 million of cash and cash equivalents (including investments in corporate and government bonds). Adjusting for and giving effect to the Nectar transaction, Aimia’s net cash and liquidity position will be reduced by approximately $174 million."



Yep, short term it looks like it might be cash-reducing.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on February 02, 2018, 02:25:14 PM
"Yep, short term it looks like it might be cash-reducing."
From the CC (1st question), it appears that the 183 million was the price to pay to transfer the matching redemption reserve liability of about 230 million.
Nectar is not Aeroplan but it helps to paint the picture if redemption activity would pick up in their core program.
It seems that they were in a tough spot.
"Some wounds never heal, they just stop bleeding". Unknown
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on February 05, 2018, 08:45:41 AM
Had the impression that the recent news may cause an excessive downward movement in the prices of the shares and especially preferreds. Looked into this. Conclusion: the worse may be yet to come.

I had run various scenarios for Nectar and the end result, with what is disclosed now, is in the very low range of potential outcomes.

The transaction implies that Aimia had a weak negotiating position but may also imply that redemption trends were increasingly unfavorable at Nectar. Average life of mile for Nectar was 15 months vs 30 months for Aeroplan but the result shows the corrosive power of the redemption liability over time if there is an imbalance between accumulation and redemption.

Re-assessed going way back in the history. Interesting because parallels can be drawn with the principles behind P+C insurance underwriting and building a float (asset) to balance reserves (liability). When Aimia changed their breakage rate from 18% to 11% and made other “enhancements” to the Aeroplan program in 2013, the banks were asked to contribute but dissection of the numbers shows the beginning of a diverging trend between the asset side of the business and the growing redemption liability. Looking back, I submit that it would have been reasonable to build a larger reserve (in addition to the required reserves by contracts) of liquid assets to match the growing liability. There is no problem with that divergence as long as the business grows or at least maintains a balance between accumulation and redemption. Since 2012, the total (short term and long term) redemption liability has grown to 3,33 billion from 2,25 billion and gross billings as an indicator of accumulation is now about the same level (2017 annualized +/- 1,66 billion versus 2012 1,63 billion).

The divergence continues to deteriorate and the ratio of the current redemption liability over non-current is increasing. Will update when Q4 results are reported. I assume that goodwill at Nectar will be written down to zero and wonder about the potential associated effect on Aeroplan. A non-cash event but significant in the sense that liabilities may have a stronger tendency to bite going forward.

What this means has serious implications for the cash flow position going forward.

I see three potential scenarios:

1-Aimia becomes exposed to a negative trend in accumulation/redemption and the feedback loop reinforces and it becomes a runoff. Using different scenarios and keeping in mind different inputs from previous disclosures and the more recent Nectar transaction, conceptually, the owners of the unredeemed points would be squeezed but would rank higher than everything below in the structure including preferreds. My take is that it could happen fast and this means 0 value for the preferreds.

2-Aimia “reinvents” its Aeroplan program with new partners. The way I see it, even in the best of circumstances, the new Aeroplan would operate on a smaller scale and would be less profitable, which means that the redemption liability would negatively pressure the potential positive cash flow that they could generate. Using different scenarios, my take is that the preferred would be then the fulcrum security but the eventual recovery may be less than present market value and the value eventually recovered may have to be discounted as this may play out over a fairly long period.

3-Air Canada gets involved. This is a mistake I made earlier because I overestimated the possibility that Air Canada gets involved and the amount that they would pay. I assume that there was a large discrepancy between their assessment and Aimia’s opinion on how challenged Aimia was in early 2017. Air Canada has time on their side and can choose when/if they want to recover value in Aimia. I cannot precisely assess the cost for them to set up a new loyalty program but it must be high. Nevertheless, buying Aimia now would mean that they would have to transfer on their books a huge redemption liability. If Air Canada makes an offer for Aimia, I would tend to think that it will be very low.

Here’s a recent report by GMP, who, I think, have been more optimistic than most. They appear to describe a more cautious outlook now:

 https://gmpsecurities.bluematrix.com/sellside/EmailDocViewer?encrypt=9eed26e1-3352-476f-a960-e24ca26546d7&mime=PDF&co=Gmpsecurities&id=noauthentication@bluematrix.com&source=libraryView&htmlToPdf=true

I submit that their work is good but I would also say that the numbers suffer from what I would call the pro-forma bias, ie the forward-looking numbers are largely derived from the rear-view mirror. The model may fail to account for the fact that the large redemption liability will have a tendency to translate into higher revenues but also higher net negative cash flows.

Club Premier remains a wild card but, like Tor Lonnum , the previous CFO said on a previous conference call, on this one also, Aimia is not in the driver’s seat.
I’m not the type to short individual names and will keep following just in case, but decided to share this and see if anybody can come up with a more optimistic assessment.

Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: petec on February 05, 2018, 09:25:09 AM
When Aimia changed their breakage rate from 18% to 11% ... since 2012, the total redemption liability has grown to 3,33 billion from 2,25 billion and gross billings as an indicator of accumulation is now about the same level (2017 annualized +/- 1,66 billion versus 2012 1,63 billion).


Odd - you would think less breakage = more redemptions and less redemption liability.


1-Aimia becomes exposed to a negative trend in accumulation/redemption and the feedback loop reinforces and it becomes a runoff. Using different scenarios and keeping in mind different inputs from previous disclosures and the more recent Nectar transaction, conceptually, the owners of the unredeemed points would be squeezed but would rank higher than everything below in the structure including preferreds. My take is that it could happen fast and this means 0 value for the preferreds.


Where I am more bullish than you is that I think Aimia can change redemption prices, e.g. they could double the points charged for a reward. That would either stop a run or diminish its impact on cash, leaving enough to satisfy the prefs. In effect this means the prefs rank above pointholders in the liability waterfall.

I can't see AC getting involved and can only imagine they would be sued to kingdom come for destroying Aimia and then buying it cheap.

As I have said before, Aimia made a catastrophic error in paying out too much float as dividend. They clearly overestimated the probability AC would renew, which was an unforgivable error given that AC had sold its shares in Aimia and had almost no incentive to remain.

My best guess is that some big airline will partner with Aimia some time in 2019, but the terms will be lousy - Aimia will have to pay something close to full prices for seats, thereby transferring a lot of the value of the redemption liability to the new partner. That might or might not stabilise the cash situation; if it does, Aimia might make enough to start paying the dividend on the prefs, which might therefore do OK; if it doesn't then Aimia's cash flows will simply fund redemptions for years to come. Either way I would not touch the common with a bargepole.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on February 05, 2018, 09:44:08 AM
"Odd - you would think less breakage = more redemptions and less redemption liability."

If you invite 100 people to your pizza party and expect that 18 people won't come and then "discover" that only 11 people won't come, yes, you can expect more pizza to be consumed but you have to modify (up) your order. My take is that Aimia is in the unfortunate position of making an accounting profit on their revenues, but more recognized revenues means more cash leaving head office. Cash is most expensive when you most need it.
 
To complete the parallel with the insurance business, Aimia can "control" the combined ratio (modify terms of the contract) but they cannot easily control the timing of redeeming triggers and they now have to deal with the fact that short term liability reserves are potentially much larger than their asset reserves.

I now see Aimia as a liquidating scenario but thanks for the perspective.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: mcliu on February 05, 2018, 10:32:33 AM
Is it possible for Aimia to stop redemptions or declare that Aeroplan points are worthless?
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: StubbleJumper on February 05, 2018, 11:22:36 AM
Is it possible for Aimia to stop redemptions or declare that Aeroplan points are worthless?


Yes, it can be done quite easily.  A long haul flight in North America currently requires 25,000 miles.  Aimia can arbitrarily bump that up to 500,000 miles if it chooses (along with changes to overseas flights).  In one stroke of a pen, the miles would be devalued 95%.

In response, it's possible that plan participants could try to get a class certified and seek legal redress, but as far as I understood, the legal relationship between Aimia and the general public constitutes a gratuitous promise, so it's not clear to me that participants could even get a favourable court decision.


SJ
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: petec on February 05, 2018, 01:24:11 PM
"Odd - you would think less breakage = more redemptions and less redemption liability."

If you invite 100 people to your pizza party and expect that 18 people won't come and then "discover" that only 11 people won't come, yes, you can expect more pizza to be consumed but you have to modify (up) your order. My take is that Aimia is in the unfortunate position of making an accounting profit on their revenues, but more recognized revenues means more cash leaving head office.
 

Yes, but the redemption reserve is held for points that haven't been redeemed yet. Breakage revenue is recognised on billing, not redemption. If the redemption liability is rising, that implies points are not being redeemed, as would be the case if breakage is rising. If breakage drops, more points are redeemed, cash flows out, and the redemption liability falls.

Or am I being thick?
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: petec on February 05, 2018, 01:25:43 PM
Is it possible for Aimia to stop redemptions or declare that Aeroplan points are worthless?


Yes, it can be done quite easily.  A long haul flight in North America currently requires 25,000 miles.  Aimia can arbitrarily bump that up to 500,000 miles if it chooses (along with changes to overseas flights).  In one stroke of a pen, the miles would be devalued 95%.

In response, it's possible that plan participants could try to get a class certified and seek legal redress, but as far as I understood, the legal relationship between Aimia and the general public constitutes a gratuitous promise, so it's not clear to me that participants could even get a favourable court decision.


SJ

This is why, ultimately, there won't be a run and the prefs rank above the points. IF management choose this course.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on February 05, 2018, 06:00:00 PM
Good discussion.

From AR 2016:

Unfunded Future Redemption Costs
In the coalition loyalty program model, Gross Billings are derived from the sale of Loyalty Units to Accumulation Partners. The earnings process is not complete at the time a Loyalty Unit is sold as most of the costs are incurred on the redemption thereof. Based on historical data, the estimated period between the issuance of a Loyalty Unit and its redemption is currently approximately 30 months for the Aeroplan Program and 13 months for the Nectar Program; however, Aeroplan and Nectar have no control over the timing of the redemption or the number of units redeemed. Aeroplan and Nectar currently use proceeds from Gross Billings (which are deferred for accounting purposes) in the fiscal year from the issuance of the unit to pay for the redemption costs incurred in the year. As a result, if Aeroplan or Nectar were to cease to carry on business, or if redemption costs incurred in a given year were in excess of the revenues received in the year from the issuance of the Loyalty Units, they would face unfunded Future Redemption Costs, which could increase the need for working capital and, consequently, affect the payment of dividends to Shareholders. (my bold)

Changes to Coalition Loyalty Programs
From time to time we may make changes to our coalition loyalty programs that may not be well received by certain segments of the membership and may affect their level of engagement. In addition, these members may choose to seek such legal and other recourses as available to them, which if successful, could have a negative impact on results of operations and /or reputation.

-------------------------

In terms of revenue recognized related to breakage:

"The amount of revenue recognized related to Breakage is based on the number of Loyalty Units redeemed in a period in relation to the total number expected to be redeemed, which factors in the Corporation's estimate for Breakage. Breakage represents the estimated Loyalty Units that are not expected to be redeemed by members." (my bold)

--------------------------

In terms of the redemption reserve:

"Aeroplan maintains the Aeroplan Miles redemption reserve (the "Reserve"), which, subject to compliance with the provisions of the Corporation’s credit facilities, may be used to supplement cash flows generated from operations in order to pay for rewards during periods of unusually high redemption activity associated with Aeroplan Miles under the Aeroplan Program. In the event that the Reserve is accessed, Aeroplan has agreed to replenish it as soon as practicable, with available cash generated from operations. To date, Aimia has not used the funds held in the Reserve.  At December 31, 2016, the Reserve amounted to $300.0 million and was included in short-term investments and long-term investments."  (my bold)

----------------------------
So,
-Maybe a way to look at this is to see the potential cash flow impact of a mismatch between accumulation and redemption.
-Concerning what SJ alludes to, I agree that they can modify their "contracts" with people holding the points but that may contribute to the potential mismatch described above. Not long ago, there was a lot of uproar from consumers with Air Miles when they tried to make miles expire. They had to retract and apologize. This is uncharted territory but if this comes down to the wire, it is hard to see equity holders collecting before consumers.
Would you continue accumulating points if they lose redeeming value?
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: zhengmit on February 06, 2018, 06:24:40 AM
"Yes, it can be done quite easily.  A long haul flight in North America currently requires 25,000 miles.  Aimia can arbitrarily bump that up to 500,000 miles if it chooses (along with changes to overseas flights).  In one stroke of a pen, the miles would be devalued 95%.

In response, it's possible that plan participants could try to get a class certified and seek legal redress, but as far as I understood, the legal relationship between Aimia and the general public constitutes a gratuitous promise, so it's not clear to me that participants could even get a favourable court decision.
"


People always assume this is easy and I was made to believe this as well.  If you talk to any consultant, they will tell you it is doable in theory but impossible in reality.  In Aimia's contract with TD or CIBC, there is legal clause to prevent Aimia to devalue the points to a large extent.  There is some clause requiring that Aimia to maintain a reasonable value for points.  Without reading contract, outsiders have no idea but devaluing points by 95% is simply impossible (10-15% per year might get by but I am even not sure about that).
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: StubbleJumper on February 06, 2018, 06:39:52 AM
"Yes, it can be done quite easily.  A long haul flight in North America currently requires 25,000 miles.  Aimia can arbitrarily bump that up to 500,000 miles if it chooses (along with changes to overseas flights).  In one stroke of a pen, the miles would be devalued 95%.

In response, it's possible that plan participants could try to get a class certified and seek legal redress, but as far as I understood, the legal relationship between Aimia and the general public constitutes a gratuitous promise, so it's not clear to me that participants could even get a favourable court decision.
"


People always assume this is easy and I was made to believe this as well.  If you talk to any consultant, they will tell you it is doable in theory but impossible in reality.  In Aimia's contract with TD or CIBC, there is legal clause to prevent Aimia to devalue the points to a large extent.  There is some clause requiring that Aimia to maintain a reasonable value for points.  Without reading contract, outsiders have no idea but devaluing points by 95% is simply impossible (10-15% per year might get by but I am even not sure about that).


So, to clarify your argument, you are essentially saying that AIM risk litigation from a couple of its partners if it does a massive devaluation.  That's definitely a possibility, because the relationship between CIBC or TD and AIM is not a gratuitous promise.  In Canadian courts, litigants need to demonstrate that economic damage has occurred.  It would be very interesting to see the argumentation that CIBC or TD would make to support that contention.  And it would be very interesting to see how many years it would take for that type of litigation to work its way through the system (perhaps it would take more than five years but fewer than ten?). 

At this point, if I were running AIM, litigation from the banks wouldn't be my primary concern.  IMO, they need to devalue the outstanding miles and they should begin the process soon.  Even two or three devaluations of 10 to 15 percent each over the next two or three years would go a long way to protecting AIM's solvency.  If they don't deal with their immediate solvency challenge, they won't even be around to worry about litigation from the banks in 5 or 10 years.


SJ
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: petec on February 07, 2018, 12:40:59 AM
"Yes, it can be done quite easily.  A long haul flight in North America currently requires 25,000 miles.  Aimia can arbitrarily bump that up to 500,000 miles if it chooses (along with changes to overseas flights).  In one stroke of a pen, the miles would be devalued 95%.

In response, it's possible that plan participants could try to get a class certified and seek legal redress, but as far as I understood, the legal relationship between Aimia and the general public constitutes a gratuitous promise, so it's not clear to me that participants could even get a favourable court decision.
"


People always assume this is easy and I was made to believe this as well.  If you talk to any consultant, they will tell you it is doable in theory but impossible in reality.  In Aimia's contract with TD or CIBC, there is legal clause to prevent Aimia to devalue the points to a large extent.  There is some clause requiring that Aimia to maintain a reasonable value for points.  Without reading contract, outsiders have no idea but devaluing points by 95% is simply impossible (10-15% per year might get by but I am even not sure about that).


So, to clarify your argument, you are essentially saying that AIM risk litigation from a couple of its partners if it does a massive devaluation.  That's definitely a possibility, because the relationship between CIBC or TD and AIM is not a gratuitous promise.  In Canadian courts, litigants need to demonstrate that economic damage has occurred.  It would be very interesting to see the argumentation that CIBC or TD would make to support that contention.  And it would be very interesting to see how many years it would take for that type of litigation to work its way through the system (perhaps it would take more than five years but fewer than ten?). 

At this point, if I were running AIM, litigation from the banks wouldn't be my primary concern.  IMO, they need to devalue the outstanding miles and they should begin the process soon.  Even two or three devaluations of 10 to 15 percent each over the next two or three years would go a long way to protecting AIM's solvency.  If they don't deal with their immediate solvency challenge, they won't even be around to worry about litigation from the banks in 5 or 10 years.


SJ

Agreed - especially if the devaluation is temporary i.e. Aimia reverses it having done a deal.

Of course the risk is that a devaluation simply accelerates a run. It would reduce the cash outflow, but also reduce the buying power Aimia represents, and therefore reduce the attractiveness to a new partner. There are no simple answers here.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on February 07, 2018, 12:24:42 PM
Here is an interesting analysis that would tend to validate a more optimistic assessment:
https://seekingalpha.com/article/4143261-aimia-clown-car-fell-gold-mine-still-golden

There is a lot of info circulating on Aimia and the quality is uneven but this piece is quite good in terms of business insights and relevance.
Still, the author describes a potentially favorable transition and, at the same time, suggests that the Board and mangement should be replaced...
Recent Sedar disclosures suggest that a shareholder may want to take a more active role.

I viewed this investment mainly as event driven and not as a transition opportunity.
AIM will report Q4 numbers on Valentine's day.

Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: bizaro86 on February 07, 2018, 01:08:25 PM
Here is an interesting analysis that would tend to validate a more optimistic assessment:
https://seekingalpha.com/article/4143261-aimia-clown-car-fell-gold-mine-still-golden

There is a lot of info circulating on Aimia and the quality is uneven but this piece is quite good in terms of business insights and relevance.
Still, the author describes a potentially favorable transition and, at the same time, suggests that the Board and mangement should be replaced...
Recent Sedar disclosures suggest that a shareholder may want to take a more active role.

I viewed this investment mainly as event driven and not as a transition opportunity.
AIM will report Q4 numbers on Valentine's day.

Some of the assumptions there don't seem very conservative. The part where they take the PV of the remaining term on the Mexican contract and then put a terminal value at that level seems especially aggressive to me. I know their airline partner owns part of the business there, but why wouldn't you expect the terms to get worse on a renewal.

I don't think Air Miles is analogous at all, and Aeroplan has negative momentum getting new partners, which they had even prior to losing Air Canada. They lost Sobeys (big grocery chain) to Air Miles when they bought Canada Safeway. They also lost Rexall to Air Miles. Basically, aeroplan is the second tier here, and without Air Canada I don't see why retail partners would sign up. If they get Porter or someone similar maybe that helps, but why would those (second tier) airlines give them a big discount?

Air Canada gave them the discount because they were selling Aimia equity for big $$. What does someone else get out of it? Maybe you get 3% off for buying in bulk, but that'd be about it.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: StubbleJumper on February 07, 2018, 03:54:51 PM
Well, that's certainly the optimistic viewpoint, and it might actually work out that way.  AIM will be okay if their Aeroplan mile holders do not rush to the exits.  And on that point, so far, so good.

The risk is principally one of cash flow as rewards reserves are  only ~$400m while the value of outstanding miles awarded is $2b+.  You can add some cash from ops to that, but you still end up with considerably less cash available to fund rewards than the value of the outstanding miles.  If a healthy percentage of plan participants redeem, it could be ugly.  For whatever reason, the Seeking Alpha cash stress test doesn't seem to have examined scenarios where participants redeem more heavily. The rest of the cash flow analysis looks thorough and has reasonable assumptions, but there is also much doubt about the acquisition of retail partners as AirMiles seems to have already wrapped up the most attractive targets.

Beyond the risk of higher redemptions, there remains much doubt in my mind about the behaviour of credit card holders.  In particular, to my knowledge all of the cards have an annual fee.  Are people going to continue to collect de-valued Aeroplan miles and blissfully pay the annual fee and forego other rewards?  Certainly consumers have demonstrated a great deal of inertia in their behaviour, but how many will get a clue and switch to a better credit card?  The cash stress test assumes that they'll lose 10% of the credit card mile accumulation, but it is reasonable to believe that 90% of card holders will be oblivious to what is happening to the program, or too lazy to bother changing their credit card to a different program? I'm a little surprised that the pessimistic case didn't contemplate a higher level of abandonment.

I would certainly acknowledge that most Canadians seem blissfully unaware of what is happening to Aeroplan, but is it truly reasonable to expect this to continue through 2020?  The next couple of quarterly reports will be fascinating.


SJ
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on February 15, 2018, 05:24:17 AM
Q4 results are out.
SE (even including goodwill and intangibles) is negative as the real value of the Nectar franchise is off the books.

My take, on the whole, is the absence of a major break in the trend. Aimia will try to become a "better" basic loyalty plan that will look very much like Air Miles which is already well established in the Canadian (crowded?) market. So, over time, I expect a declining intrinsic enterprise value. May not be a straight line.

Too early for a significant trend but dissecting some significant numbers for the core Aeroplan coalition program:

Accumulation activity 2017 (YoY variance, %):   Q1:5,4   Q2:1,2   Q3:2,0   Q4:(0,9)
Redemption activity 2017   (YoY variance, %):   Q1:3,9   Q2:1,8   Q3:4,7   Q4:9,9
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: petec on February 15, 2018, 06:06:48 AM
Ha - that trend is really interesting!
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: StubbleJumper on February 15, 2018, 08:59:30 AM
Q4 results are out.
SE (even including goodwill and intangibles) is negative as the real value of the Nectar franchise is off the books.

My take, on the whole, is the absence of a major break in the trend. Aimia will try to become a "better" basic loyalty plan that will look very much like Air Miles which is already well established in the Canadian (crowded?) market. So, over time, I expect a declining intrinsic enterprise value. May not be a straight line.

Too early for a significant trend but dissecting some significant numbers for the core Aeroplan coalition program:

Accumulation activity 2017 (YoY variance, %):   Q1:5,4   Q2:1,2   Q3:2,0   Q4:(0,9)
Redemption activity 2017   (YoY variance, %):   Q1:3,9   Q2:1,8   Q3:4,7   Q4:9,9


Ouch.  The Q4 numbers are pretty scary.  I guess we'll see in the coming quarters whether this is a one-time blip, or a real trend that might have adverse cashflow consequences.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: zhengmit on February 16, 2018, 11:53:12 AM
What is difference between accumulation vs. gross billing?  GB is up 2.0% YoY and I assume that people are still accumulate points YoY up despite rising redemption. 
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on February 16, 2018, 01:44:44 PM
Gross billings and accumulation activity correspond to the same basic idea: selling Aeroplan units (miles issued) for cash.
You can expect quarterly noise in the normal course of operations and there are variable promotional activities that may cause fluctuations.
Historically, the Aeroplan Program has shown a seasonal pattern with relatively higher redemption activity in the first half of the year and relatively higher accumulation activity in the second half of the year.
So too early for a clear trend and you may complement your thought process by considering how you would react as a consumer with an Aeroplan credit card going forward.
I wonder if some of the consumers who still "re-engage" may simply have a target in mind before more definitive redemption?
 
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: clutch on March 12, 2018, 09:34:38 PM
Looks like they lost the partnership with Esso as well:
https://www.aeroplan.com/essonews.do?currentLanguage=en#esso-faq
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: gokou3 on April 11, 2018, 04:56:27 PM
Some passionate writing here:

Time To Grab My Pitchfork (AIM Edition)
http://adventuresincapitalism.com/2018/04/11/time-grab-pitchfork-aim-edition/

Disc: long preferred B, no voting rights
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: bizaro86 on April 11, 2018, 05:19:25 PM
That could have used more math and less immolation graphics. I don't see how you can get to that price target on what will be left after they drive aeroplan into the ground.

I think if a second tier or startup airline was looking for a partner, they'd pick PC Optimum over aeroplan.

Recap: aeroplan has lost a big grocer, a big pharmacy, and a big gas stain chain in the last few years. PC Optimum is a new program that has the biggest grocer, the biggest pharmacy, and the gas station that aeroplan lost. I know who I'd pick.


Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on April 11, 2018, 08:10:15 PM
From the article:
"On August 25th, Aimia announced the sale of its Air Miles Trademarks for total consideration of $53,750,000 (before up to $13,750,000 of future payments). This represented a sale price of approximately 7 times current pre-tax cash flow, at a time when well-known trademarks often transact at approximately two to three times this multiple."

I don't think that is a reasonable assessment. From what I know of this market and of of Diversified Royalty Corp (DIV), the purchase price was perhaps 10 to 25% lower than comparable transactions, reflecting distress at Aimia.

Anecdotal, but I've met a few Aeroplan frequent flyers lately. I understand that 1-they plan to use their points for AC flights and see 2020 as a clear deadline (ie aim to have points at zero then), 2-find very little value elsewhere in the redemption offers but 3-are relatively hopeful that Aimia will come up with alternatives to the Air Canada option and are still planning to accumulate points once that happens.

The annual meeting happens soon and there will be Boardroom changes. I understand Mr. Micheal Fortier is leaving. I see this as a negative because he is somebody I respect (competence and integrity).

Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: bathtime on April 12, 2018, 05:24:07 PM
Mittleman continue to increase their stake, now at 16%+, and now have 3 board positions which happened following this article:

http://business.financialpost.com/news/fp-street/u-s-shareholders-look-to-bust-some-heads-at-aimia-meeting





Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on April 13, 2018, 01:37:48 PM
I thought the following was interesting:
https://seekingalpha.com/article/4162810-mittleman-investment-management-1q18-commentary

The investment thesis primarily depends if you can think Aimia can renew its redemption offers.
IMO, the renewed option will disappoint.

However, from reading the above, learned two things:
1-will know more about the game plan on April 26th.
2-some assets (with real value) are apparently legally separated in a different shell and that is very interesting from the preferred point of view.

"Another key facet of our investment thesis with Aimia is that there is plenty of value in other Aimia holdings to protect us should Aeroplan not survive. That subsidiary, Aimia Canada Inc., is distinct from the holding company, Aimia Inc., so liabilities from that segment shouldn't destroy the value of the other assets held by the holding company, assets which include, for example, its 49% ownership of PLM Premier (5.3M member, fast growing coalition loyalty program anchored by Aeromexico, Mexico's flagship airline)."

...

"Even if Aeroplan were to implode on a tidal wave of redemptions due to the fear that Air Canada flight options would not be replaced by comparable seats on other airlines flying similar routes, then the other assets Aimia owns appear to be worth no less than US$1.60 (C$2.00), net of debt and preferred stock, which is 19% higher than the current price of US$1.34."

Will try to look into this as I understood that the redemption liability could negate the value of remaining assets in a liquidation scenario.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: gokou3 on April 13, 2018, 04:05:15 PM
Another fund wanting against the current board:

22NW Fund Issues Statement Against the Re-Election of Aimia Board of Directors
https://web.tmxmoney.com/article.php?newsid=6270142716812319&qm_symbol=AIM

Quote
22NW owns approximately 4.3 million shares, or about 3%, of Aimia.

...we note that the Company has adopted a Majority Voting Policy pursuant to which any director nominee receiving fewer than 50% of votes cast "for" his or her election at the AGM is required to immediately tender his or her resignation."

Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on April 27, 2018, 04:50:48 AM
Q1:
Numbers for the core Aeroplan coalition program:

Accumulation activity (YoY variance, %):  2017    Q1:5,4   Q2:1,2   Q3:2,0   Q4:(0,9)      2018     Q1:(2,8)
Redemption activity   (YoY variance, %):  2017    Q1:3,9   Q2:1,8   Q3:4,7   Q4:9,9         2018     Q1:9,6

The burn/earn ratio was at 109% in Q1. They expect moderation of that trend but redemption pressure is likely to persist.
PLM continues to perform well.

New CEO to come and evolving business model. The most likely scenario is to carry on until the 2020 transition.

Seen as a going concern, there is some potential value for the common share although I still think that, post 2020, the preferred will be the fulcrum security.

The problem I see at this point is the fact that preferred shareholders have a passive role and I can't clearly see how the preferred price may effectively relate to its share of the enterprise value as there are no dividends in sight and as the risk profile will tend to remain elevated during the transformation. The bank debt will continue to put pressure on cash flows as leverage is expected to come down and entities that are forcing change are common shareholders.

Preferred shares may come to be seen as cheap leverage with dividends that simply accrue.
The whole process may take a while and one has to discount the eventual value that may be realized.
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: KCLarkin on June 13, 2018, 02:14:45 PM
https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/a-very-big-deal-westjet-rbc-team-up-for-new-loyalty-program-1.1092288
Title: Re: AIM.TO - Aimia
Post by: Cigarbutt on June 13, 2018, 04:14:34 PM
Thanks for the link.

In the evolving crowded Canadian loyalty market:
-WestJet and RBC team up to increase market share.
-Air Canada (IMO unlikely to team again with Aimia) values (NPV) its own loyalty program at 2 to 2,5 billion$.
-Air Miles continues to consolidate its market share at the plain vanilla loyalty level.

What is left for Aimia?