Air Canada-led consortium to buy Aeroplan program from Aimia

A consortium led by Air Canada has reached a deal to acquire the Aeroplan loyalty program from Aimia Inc.

The group, which includes TD Bank, CIBC and Visa Canada Corp., has agreed to pay $450 million in cash and assume the approximately $1.9-billion liability associated with Aeroplan miles customers have accumulated.

“We are pleased to see that an agreement in principle has been reached as Aeroplan members can continue to earn and redeem with confidence,” Air Canada chief executive Calin Rovinescu said in a statement on behalf of the consortium Tuesday.

Read Air Canada’s complete statement here.

The price is up from an initial offer of $250 million in cash and the assumption of the reward point liability in July that was rejected by Aimia.

Aimia shares were up more than 11 per cent at $4.30 in mid-day trading, while Air Canada shares were up 7.36 per cent at $26.54.

“This transaction, if completed, should produce the best outcome for all stakeholders, including Aeroplan members, as it would allow for a smooth transition to Air Canada’s new loyalty program launching in 2020, safeguarding their miles and providing convenience and value for millions of Canadians,” said GMP Securities analyst Martin Landry.

National Bank Financial analyst Adam Shine said he was “left wondering how Aimia could trumpet its Plan B strategy with such optimism and yet set a seemingly low Aeroplan value.”

The Aeroplan deal is expected to close this fall.

The agreement, which is supported by Aimia’s board and Mittleman Brothers, Aimia’s largest shareholder, is subject to shareholder approval and other closing conditions.

Mittleman Brothers, which holds a 17.6-per-cent stake in Aimia, defended the investment firm’s “acquiescence” in the deal, calling it “the best available outcome for all Aimia stakeholders.”

The bid would leave Aimia with more than $1 billion in cash to invest elsewhere, the New York-based investment firm said in a statement Tuesday.

Christopher Mittleman, chief investment officer of the New York-based company, bristled earlier this month at a $325-million offer from the consortium, calling it “coercive” and “blatantly inadequate” in an open letter to Aimia’s board.

Mittleman had recommended that Aimia accept no less than $1 billion, “especially not with a gun held to its head by its key commercial partners.”

Aimia’s recent Aeroplan partnership agreements with Air Transat, Flair Airlines and Porter Airlines are now up in the air.

Aimia had also been in discussions with the Oneworld airline alliance, whose members include British Airways, American Airlines and Cathay Pacific.

Aimia management said in a conference call this month it has considered more asset sales and a wind-up of the company, analysts noted — one speculated it resembled a “holding company with limited assets.”

“With the sale of Aeroplan, the focus for Aimia investors will shift to actual net proceeds received from the sale and the company’s subsequent capital redeployment strategy,” RBC Dominion Securities analyst Drew McReynolds said.

The future of the program has faced questions since Air Canada announced last year that it planned to launch its own loyalty rewards plan in 2020 when its partnership with Aimia expires.

Air Canada created Aeroplan as in-house loyalty program, but it was spun off as an independent business as part of a court-supervised restructuring of the airline. At the time, CIBC was Aeroplan’s main bank partner.

Since 2014, TD has been Aeroplan’s main Visa card partner although CIBC continues to offer cards that earn Aeroplan points that can be redeemed for Air Canada flights and other rewards.

CANADA: Biological Man Files Human Rights Complaint For Having To Buy Breast Implants

Should the radical Left ever get its way in terms of what society classifies as a human “right” one day, then taxpayer dollars will go beyond funding abortions and into funding a transgender’s breast implants. Just take a peek up north in Canada.

According to LifeSiteNews, a man presenting himself as a woman “launched a human rights complaint against Nova Scotia’s health department for refusing to pay for his breast implants.” Canada currently does not pay for breast augmentation of any kind (male or female) that is for cosmetic surgery.

“Implants are not covered for any individuals who would prefer larger breasts,” health ministry spokeswoman Tracy Barron told Canadian Press. “Breast implants are covered in Nova Scotia for severe congenital or developmental asymmetries and also in breast cancer reconstruction.”

Barron added that men who wish to look more like women through enlarged breasts can do so via hormonal therapy, which taxpayers already fund. However, women who wish to look more like men can have their breasts removed with taxpayer dollars because that is the only way they can fully achieve their preferred gender identity.

The man, “Serina” Slaunwhite, says the policy violates his human rights and constitutes “gender discrimination.”

“This should be included along with the rest of the surgeries that are publicly funded by the province for sex reassignment surgery. … It’s gender discrimination,” Slaunwhite said in the filed claim.

Slaunwhite’s lawyer, Susanne Litke of Dalhousie Legal Aid Service, says the current policy discriminates because hormonal therapy typically does not enlarge the breasts enough. “When that breast development isn’t enough for the person to be comfortable in their body, then it’s a medical necessity,” she said.

Dutch psychiatrist Gerard van den Aardweg dismissed the claims as “wild nonsense” in an interview with LifeSiteNews.

“First, the transgender’s (transsexual’s) urge to be operated upon is an expression of a serious mental disorder,” Aardweg told the outlet. “Second, the fake-therapy of surgery etc., does nothing except mutilate him/her for life and aggravate his/her mental alienation.”

Toronto Zoo welcomes new addition — a baby pygmy hippopotamus

The Toronto Zoo is celebrating the birth of a rare and endangered pygmy hippopotamus.

Kindia, a 12-year-old female, gave birth to a female calf late Friday night.

The zoo says the species is endangered and there are only about 2,000 to 3,000 left in the wild in West Africa, mostly in Liberia. Small numbers also found in neighbouring Sierra Leone, Guinea and the Ivory Coast.

Over the past 100 years, the pygmy hippo’s habitat has declined dramatically due to logging, farming and human settlement.

While the calf appears healthy and is feeding well, the zoo says the first 30 days are critical for both mother and calf.

Kindia arrived at the Toronto Zoo from a zoo in France in June 2016 as part of a global breeding program. This is Kindia’s first surviving calf and the seventh birth of a pygmy hippopotamus in the Toronto Zoo’s history.