Aimia, Porter Airlines form new Aeroplan partnership for post-Air Canada era

Aimia Inc. says it has a new deal for Toronto-based Porter Airlines to become a preferred Canadian airline for the Aeroplan loyalty points program as of July 2020, when the current arrangement with Air Canada ends.

The announcement follows Aimia’s rejection of a bid for Aeroplan from an Air Canada-led group that includes the key Aeroplan credit card partners Toronto-Dominion Bank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Visa Canada.

Porter’s fleet of aircraft is only a fraction the size of Air Canada’s but Aimia has also been in discussions with the Oneworld airline alliance, whose members include British Airways, American Airlines and Cathay Pacific.

Aimia chief executive Jeremy Rabe says that his company’s plan is to strengthen its air offering after July 2020.

Aimia announced Thursday that it had formally rejected an offer for Air Canada and its partners to buy the Aeroplan program and assume the responsibility for honouring about $2 billion worth of points that consumers have accumulated.



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Amid EpiPen shortage, a Canadian-based company has approval for an alternative

As a worsening EpiPen shortage prompts questions about why Canada relies on just one pharmaceutical manufacturer to supply a life-saving treatment, a Laval, Que., drug company says it is “actively seeking” to bring another epinephrine self-injector that stops anaphylactic reactions to this country. 

Bausch Health Companies, formerly called Valeant Pharmaceuticals, is one of four drug manufacturers that have received approval from Health Canada for epinephrine autoinjector products. According to Health Canada’s drug product database, Valeant Canada secured the regulatory go-ahead to market Emerade, which is also called adrenaline tartrate, and is available in several European countries.   

In an email, spokesperson Lainie Keller said the company was “actively seeking” to bring the autoinjector to “patients in Canada who need it as soon as possible.” 

She did not provide any further details about when that might happen. 

Pfizer Inc. is currently the sole supplier of epinephrine autoinjectors in Canada and has repeatedly announced shortages of the product over the past year.

This week, Pfizer Canada said it likely wouldn’t have new stock of EpiPens containing a 0.3 mg dose of epinephrine — used by adults and most children over 10 years old — until the end of August, worrying severe allergy sufferers, parents, pharmacists and doctors.

“We have gone from what I would call an inconvenience to a concern,” said Jennifer Gerdts, executive director of Food Allergy Canada and the mother of twin 16-year-old boys who both carry EpiPens.

‘We really shouldn’t be in a situation where we only have one product available for life-saving medication,’ says Jennifer Gerdts, executive director of Food Allergy Canada. (Food Allergy Canada)

During Pfizer’s previous shortages, people at risk of anaphylaxis — the most severe form of an allergy that can lead to death — have usually been able to find an EpiPen after going to a few different pharmacies, Gerdts said. 

“We really shouldn’t be in a situation where we only have one product available for life-saving medication,” Gerdts said. “We need to take action … so that we don’t continue to be vulnerable to these outages.”

On Wednesday, the Conservatives and NDP called on the federal government to take action. 

“It is unacceptable that the Liberal government has taken no action to secure a second source of this essential medicine,” said Conservative MP and health critic Marilyn Gladu in an emailed statement on Wednesday. 

NDP health critic Don Davies told The Canadian Press that the government must ensure that EpiPens are always available in sufficient supply.

In an emailed response to CBC News, Thierry Bélair, press secretary to Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, said Health Canada is “doing everything in its power to resolve the EpiPen shortage as soon as possible for Canadians with allergies and their loved ones.” 

In an interview on Tuesday, Dr. Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser for Health Canada, said the department recognizes the problem with having a single supplier of epinephrine autoinjectors.

“Absolutely from a Health Canada perspective, we would want to see other products available,” she said. “It’s always best when you have alternatives.”

It is up to manufacturers, however, to decide to market their medications in Canada, Sharma said, adding that Health Canada was trying to “encourage them.” 

‘Really bad time’

The current shortage is deeply concerning, said Phil Emberley, an Ottawa-based pharmacist and spokesperson for the Canadian Pharmacists Association. 

“This comes at a really bad time in our minds, because it’s really peak time for demand,” he said. 

Contrary to initial media reports, the affected EpiPens are used not only by adults, but also most children aged 10 or older, Emberley said. 

Pfizer has said it can currently continue supplying its EpiPen Jr., a smaller dose of 0.15 mg of epinephrine with a shorter needle for younger children, although those injectors were limited. Children who weigh more than 30 kilograms use the regular EpiPen, Emberley said, which is running out altogether.    

Pfizer and Health Canada have directed pharmacists to ration their current EpiPen stocks by only dispensing one injector per person, so that there are enough to go around for everyone who needs them. 

But each injector delivers a single dose of epinephrine and about 20 per cent of anaphylaxis patients have “biphasic” or two-phase reactions, meaning they need a second dose, Emberley said.

Because patients are supposed to give themselves an injection and then seek medical attention, that second dose can often be administered at a hospital or doctor’s office, if needed. 

“If a child is at camp, for example, they’re not really close to a hospital,” Emberley said. “That could pose a real problem.”

In the U.S., EpiPens are available in packages of two, as seen in this photo. But in Canada, they are just sold as single doses, says pharmacist Phil Emberley. It’s usually recommended that patients have more than one of the injectors, but during the current shortage, pharmacists are being asked to ration them. ( Joe Raedle/Getty)

As an emergency measure, Emberley agrees with Health Canada’s directive that people should keep and use their expired EpiPens if they are needed during the current shortage, noting that studies have shown they retain some effectiveness even after the expiry date. 

Additionally, the expiry dates refer to the end of the month indicated: so if it says August, the medication is good until the end of August, which is when Pfizer expects to have supplies restored. 

What’s causing the shortage?

Sharma, the chief medical adviser for Health Canada, said Pfizer has faced “a few manufacturing issues” that have caused the ongoing EpiPen shortages over the past several months. 

In the past, Sharma said, there were issues securing epinephrine itself. But the current problem lies with a manufacturing issue that delayed the production of the autoinjector device, she said. 

That, in turn, led to delays in getting them inspected and out the door to pharmacies. 

A spokesperson for Pfizer Canada would not confirm the specifics to CBC News, but said in an email that “supply of epinephrine is not causing the delay.”

“This shortage is as a result of manufacturing delays of the product. Stock that was scheduled to be shipped in early August is currently being inspected, which has caused a delay,” said Kerri Elkas. 

What to do if you or your child is an EpiPen user

Health Canada, Food Allergy Canada and the Canadian Pharmacists Association recommend the following:

  • Check your EpiPen to see when it expires. Remember that the expiry date refers to the end of the month.
  • If it has expired, speak to your health-care provider or pharmacist to get a new one before it runs out.
  • If it has not expired, hold off on purchasing new EpiPens or stockpiling until the shortage is resolved so that the limited stock will go to people who need it the most. 
  • If the EpiPen has expired, and you or your child have an anaphylactic reaction, use it anyway and call 911.
  • Be extra vigilant about avoiding allergens (wasps, bees, food, etc.) that trigger anaphylaxis in you or your child.

With files from CBC’s Renee Filippone and The Canadian Press



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Can shortage has brewers feeling tapped out

Tariffs and price hikes could soon make it harder to crack open a cold can of craft beer. 

Ottawa-area breweries say they are facing an aluminum can shortage, with deliveries delayed and prices rising.

Some are blaming the trade war between Canada and the United States.

Brewers fear retaliatory tariffs the Canadian government imposed on aluminum imports from the U.S. are tapping out the supply.

Ottawa’s Kichesippi Beer Company has enough cans to last until the end of August. (CBC News)

“With the tariff issue there’s a lot of uncertainty in our community,” said Paul Meek, owner of Kichesippi Beer Company in Ottawa.

Meek said he’s unsure when his next shipment will arrive.

“Just this morning we got a call from our main supplier of cans and they said your order isn’t going to be ready in August and we don’t know when it will be,” Meek said.

Meek said it usually costs him 21 cents a can, but that would double if he turns to another supplier to fill the gap in the short term.

“An extra 20 cents is what my cost will be. How do I absorb that?” Meek said. “The customer is not going to want to take that hit.”

A shortage of aluminum beer cans is causing worry for craft breweries. (CBC News)

Brewers say the demand has risen as the industry shifts from bottles to cans, and suppliers should have anticipated this trend.

But no one saw the tariffs coming.

Steve Beauchesne of the the family-run Beau’s Brewery in Vankleek Hill, Ont., east of Ottawa, said cans only represent 20 per cent of his company’s product. 

“But it’s still scary,” Beauchesne said.

“Losing 20 per cent of your business overnight is not something any business wants to do.”

Tariffs can be “potentially devastating and ruinous for small businesses,” said Adam Taylor, a consultant on international trade.

“These types of actions always hit small businesses first,” Taylor said. 

“The big guys can afford to stock up on cans … It’s the small folks who have to rely on weekly, biweekly and monthly shipments.”

Some local breweries say they may need to cut back production because of a beer can shortage. 8:05



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U.S. ‘showing more flexibility’ on autos in NAFTA talks, Mexican official says

The United States and Mexico are nearing a deal on the key issue of autos content rules at talks to renew the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexican and Canadian officials said on Wednesday.

Guillermo Malpica, head of the trade and NAFTA office for the Mexican government, said the United States had “started showing more flexibility last week” on autos content and other topics at the negotiations, which have dragged on for almost a year.

Speaking to reporters, Malpica said “we are getting close” to an agreement on the so-called autos rules of origin, which dictate how much of a vehicle must be made in the three NAFTA nations to qualify for duty-free status.

Canadian trade negotiator Colin Bird told an auto industry conference in Michigan on Wednesday that NAFTA negotiators are making progress on auto content rules, and endorsed the concept of linking those rules to improving workers’ wages.

“Harnessing the power of trade agreements to promote higher wages is the kind of policy all three countries can get behind,” Bird said.

Speaking to local media on Tuesday, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo also suggested that negotiators have made progress on auto salaries. U.S. and Canadian trade unions have complained that more manufacturing has gravitated to Mexico due to the country’s low wages.

Mexico balked at the prospect of foreign intervention in salaries, but the debate has shifted, Guajardo said.

“Now what we are talking about is that a percentage of what is made in North America would be made in a high-salary zone,” he said. “What does this mean? That clearly, within the component of 100 percent of an automobile made in (the NAFTA zone), a percentage, it could be about 35 to 40 percent, is made in a high-salary zone.”

U.S. still pushing sunset clause

The Mexican peso spiked 0.2 percent to its strongest level of the day after news of progress on the autos element of talks, before slipping back. Some analysts forecast the peso will appreciate to below 18 per dollar from its current level of 18.6 if there is a deal.

Bird and Malpica said they are optimistic about the possibility of reaching a deal to renew the North American Free Trade Agreement and are hopeful of progress when ministers from Mexico and the United States meet this week.

Both officials cautioned that the issues remaining in the talks are challenging.

In May, Mexico offered to raise the autos content requirement to 70 percent from a current 62.5 percent. The United States is asking for the threshold to be 75 percent.

Malpica also said the United States was still pushing for a sunset clause that would require the treaty to be reopened every five years. Canada and Mexico strongly oppose the idea.

“Any one country being able to hold the agreement hostage every five years does not provide the certainty” businesses need to invest, Bird said.

Mexico and Canada support including in the main body of a renegotiated NAFTA provisions designed to set labor and environmental standards, Malpica and Bird said. Those issues are addressed in side agreements to the current NAFTA treaty. 



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1.4 million Ram pickups recalled for tailgates that can unexpectedly open

Fiat Chrysler is recalling more than 1.4 million Ram pickups in the U.S. and Canada because tailgates with power locks can open while the trucks are moving.

The recall covers Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 pickups from the 2015 through 2017 model years.

The company said in U.S. and Canadian government documents that if the tailgates open, unsecured cargo could fall into the road and cause a crash.

Fiat Chrysler said it has no reports of any crashes or injuries.

U.S. documents say FCA received more than 5,800 complaints and warranty claims about the problem.

Dealers will fix the tailgate locking mechanism at no cost to owners. The recall is expected to start Sept. 14.



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CBS 2Q net income up as CEO faces sexual-misconduct probe

CBS on Thursday reported a boost in second-quarter net income from the tax overhaul and higher fees from affiliates and subscribers, as turmoil swirls around the media company ahead of the important fall TV season.

CEO Les Moonves is facing an investigation after the New Yorker magazine published a story last Friday detailing accounts by six women accusing him of sexual misconduct spanning three decades. The allegations include complaints of forced kissing, unwanted sexual advances and career retaliation against women who rebuffed him.

CBS’ board will keep Moonves in his job while two outside law firms investigate the complaints.

Moonves said Thursday the company’s streaming services, including CBS All Access and Showtime, are on tract to reach 8 million subscribers by next year. The company’s goal was to hit that number in 2020.

During the April-to-June quarter net income jumped to $400 million, or $1.06 per share, from $58 million, or 14 cents per share last year. Adjusted for one-time items, net income was $1.12 per share. Analysts expected $1.10 share, according to FactSet.

Revenue rose 6 percent to $3.47 billion, edging past analyst expectations of $3.46 billion.

Moonves joined CBS in 1995 and quickly climbed the ranks, becoming CEO of CBS Television in 1998 and CEO of the newly created CBS Corp. in 2006 after its split from Viacom. He revived the company with hit shows like NCIS and The Big Bang Theory.

CBS’ upcoming lineup for the fall season, when the networks debut their high-profile shows, has a mix of renewed hits and reboots, including new versions of Murphy Brown and Magnum P.I. and renewals of The Big Bang Theory and its spinoff Young Sheldon.

CBS said late Wednesday that it has hired two high-profile law firms to investigate the sexual-misconduct claims. Both teams will be led by women. Covington & Burling’s investigation will be led by Nancy Kestenbaum, who has led independent investigations of sexual misconduct for private schools Choate Rosemary Hall and The Brearley School. Debevoise & Plimpton’s investigation will be led by Mary Jo White, former chairwoman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Meanwhile, The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that CBS board members knew several months ago of an investigation by police in Los Angeles into allegations that Moonves had assaulted a woman three decades ago when they both worked at TV studio Lorimar Productions. No charges were filed, but Moonves revealed the existence of the investigation to a board committee, which hired a law firm to investigate, according to the Times, which cited two unnamed people familiar with the matter. CBS didn’t immediately return messages for comment.

As the future of CBS’ leadership comes into question, CBS is also locked in a court battle with its parent company, National Amusements, which also owns Viacom. CBS fears that the head of National Amusements, Shari Redstone, will try to combine CBS and Viacom. Under Moonves, CBS has resisted because CBS is more profitable and Viacom networks such as Nickelodeon struggle with viewership. CBS has sought to implement a special dividend to reduce National Amusements’ control of the company. Redstone is challenging that in a Delaware court.

CBS is facing an industry roiled by consolidation. Media companies are combining to better compete against fast-growing internet companies like Netflix and Amazon. AT&T bought Time Warner for $85 billion in June and Disney is in the process of buying Fox’s entertainment businesses for $71 billion.



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Canadian newsprint producer hopes U.S. trade commission will overturn duties

North America’s largest newsprint producer hopes rare bipartisan political support in the United States will convince the U.S. International Trade Commission to overturn final import duties announced Thursday.

The United States government gave most Canadian newsprint producers a reprieve by lowering final anti-dumping and countervailing duties on uncoated groundwood, a category that includes newsprint and book grade paper, in its final determination.

The move comes after several American businesses and politicians from both major parties complained the tax on Canadian newsprint would threaten the already-struggling newspaper industry.

Resolute Forest Products CEO Yves Laflamme said he hopes the commission will reject the Commerce Department’s determination, just as it did in January when the panel sided with Bombardier against U.S. aerospace giant Boeing over the C Series commercial jet that Airbus now controls and has renamed.

Scores of politicians have pressed the independent agency to quash the duties to save newsprint mills and industry jobs, Laflamme said.

“It’s not about helping the Canadian industry, it’s about saving the newspaper industry,” he said, noting that the duties are passed along to publishers through higher prices.

“It’s just going to kill that business faster than it is right now.”

Tariffs lowered

The U.S. International Trade Commission is slated to decide in mid-September whether the complainant, Washington-based North Pacific Paper Co., suffered harm.

Under the Commerce Department’s final determination, British Columbia-based Catalyst Paper Corp. still faces a sizable total 20.26 per cent tariff, but that’s down from 28.25 per cent imposed earlier in the year during the preliminary phase.

The company’s anti-dumping rate was decreased to 16.88 per cent from 22.16, and its countervailing duty (CVD) rate was lowered to 3.38 per cent from 6.09 per cent.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a release that no other Canadian uncoated groundwood producer will have to pay anti-dumping tariffs because of the unique facts of the department’s investigation and arguments made by interested parties.

Montreal-based Kruger’s CVD rate was lowered slightly to 9.53 per cent but the final rates for Resolute, White Birch Paper and other Canadian producers increased.

Resolute’s countervailing tariff increased to 9.81 per cent from 4.42 per cent, White Birch was .82 from .65 per cent and all others has risen to 8.54 per cent from 6.53 per cent.

The U.S. says US$1.21 billion worth of uncoated groundwood paper was imported from Canada last year.

The Trump administration began investigating Canada’s newsprint industry after North Pacific complained Canada was dumping newsprint into the American market and unfairly subsidizing its industry at home.

It is the same argument made against Canada’s softwood industry, which led to the imposition of both countervailing and anti-dumping duties on most lumber imports from Canada.

Unlike the softwood lumber trade dispute backed by a powerful U.S. coalition, the newsprint complaint is led by a small producer co-owned by hedge funds that received little support during recent public hearings.

The U.S. recently ended countervailing duties on supercalendered paper from Canada that have been in place since 2015 a day after the World Trade Organization ruled largely in favour of Canada in the dispute over perceived subsidies on supercalendered paper, which is mainly used in magazines, catalogues, corporate brochures and advertising inserts.



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Bombardier says C Series shift to Airbus allows it to focus on regional planes

With its focus no longer diverted by the aircraft formerly known as the C Series, Bombardier Inc. says it is working to improve the profitability of its regional jets and turboprops by boosting sales and cutting costs.

The Montreal-based transportation giant’s regional aircraft order backlog rose to 116 planes, enough for three years of production that sets it up for the potential to increase production rates. Its commercial aircraft segment won orders for a total of 16 Q400 aircraft and 35 CRJ Series equipped with its new cabin design.

“Adding a little bit of volume here also is very beneficial to those programs as you add units especially at the current rates — that does improve the cost structure,” chief financial officer John Di Bert said Thursday during a conference call about its second-quarter results.

“It’s about continuing to focus on adding volume, it’s about leaning out the cost structure and make sure we have very efficient programs, really focusing on that aftermarket and then we’ll take it from there,” said Di Bert.

Bombardier’s shares increased nearly five per cent at $4.99 in Thursday trading after the company posted strong results and signalled that its turnaround plan remains on track.

“Our solid performance positions us to achieve our free cash flow break even target for this year and more importantly to sustain cash generation well into the future,” Di Bert added.

Bombardier, which reports in U.S. dollars, said overall revenues increased three per cent to $4.26 billion in the second quarter.

Most of the improvement was due to an 11 per cent increase in revenue at Bombardier Transportation, which accounted for $2.26 billion of the total. Revenue fell at Bombardier’s commercial aircraft and business aircraft divisions.

The company achieved a second-quarter profit of $70 million as it posted a $232 million increase free cash flow, helped by $600 million net proceeds from the sale of Downsview airport in Toronto.

Net income was equal to two cents per share and compared with a year-earlier loss of $243 million or 11 cents per share.

On an adjusted basis, Bombardier earned $87 million or three cents per share.

Analysts had estimated one cent per share of net income and an adjusted loss of one cent per share, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

“With our heavy investment cycle largely behind us, our focus is now on ramping-up production and improving operational efficiency to accelerate growth,” CEO Alain Bellemare told analysts.

The results were “impressive” with solid free cash flow and plenty of momentum for the second half of the fiscal year, said Benoit Poirier of Desjardins Capital Markets.

Bombardier concluded a number of key strategic actions in the quarter, including closing a partnership deal with European giant Airbus.

Under the partnership, the European aircraft manufacturer acquired a majority 50.01 per cent stake in the C Series commercial jet program effective July 1.

Airbus has since renamed the two models of C Series passenger jets to the A220-100 and A220-300.



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Apple hits record $1 trillion US stock market valuation

Apple Inc. became the first $1 trillion publicly listed U.S. company on Thursday, crowning a decade-long rise fuelled by its ubiquitous iPhone that transformed it from a niche player in personal computers into a global powerhouse spanning entertainment and communications.

The tech company’s stock jumped 2.8 per cent on Nasdaq to as high as $207.05 US, bringing its gain to about nine per cent since Tuesday when it reported June-quarter results above expectations and said it bought back $20 billion of its own shares.

Started in the garage of co-founder Steve Jobs in 1976, Apple has pushed its revenue beyond the economic outputs of Portugal, New Zealand and other countries. Along the way, it has changed how consumers connect with one another and how businesses conduct daily commerce.

Apple’s stock market value is greater than the combined capitalization of Exxon Mobil, Procter & Gamble and AT&T. It now accounts for four per cent of the S&P 500.

One of three founders, Jobs was driven out of Apple in the mid-1980s, only to return a decade later and rescue the computer company from near bankruptcy.

Stock surge

He launched the iPhone in 2007, dropping “Computer” from Apple’s name and super-charging the cellphone industry, catching Microsoft, Intel, Samsung Electronics and Nokia off guard. That put Apple on a path to overtake Exxon Mobil in 2011 as the largest U.S. company by market value.

The Silicon Valley stalwart’s stock has surged more than 50,000 per cent since its 1980 initial public offering, dwarfing the S&P 500’s approximately 2,000-per cent increase during the same almost four decades.

During that time, Apple evolved from selling Mac personal computers to becoming an architect of the mobile revolution with a cult-like following.

Jobs, who died in 2011, was succeeded as chief executive by Tim Cook, who has doubled the company’s profits but struggled to develop a new product to replicate the society-altering success of the iPhone, which has seen sales taper off in recent years.

In 2006, the year before the iPhone launch, Apple generated less than $20 billion in sales and net profit just shy of $2 billion. By last year, its sales had grown to $229 billion — the fourth highest in the S&P 500 — and net income had mushroomed at twice that rate to $48.4 billion, making it the most profitable publicly listed U.S. company.

One of five U.S. companies since the 1980s to take a turn as Wall Street’s largest company by market capitalization, Apple could lose its lead to the likes of Alphabet or Amazon.com if it does not find a major new product or service as demand for smartphones loses steam.



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Aimia in talks with Oneworld alliance as potential Aeroplan partner

Aimia Inc. says it’s in talks with the Oneworld airline alliance, a potential partner for its Aeroplan program, which is currently a takeover target by an Air Canada-led group that has offered to buy the loyalty points program.

The Montreal-based company confirmed the discussions with Oneworld, whose members include British Airways, American Airlines and Cathay Pacific, the same day that the Air Canada bid is set to expire.

The group has offered to pay Aimia $250 million and assume about $2 billion in liabilities, making its offer worth about $2.25 billion.

Aimia declined to elaborate on its strategic talks and referred further inquiries to Oneworld, a direct rival to the Star alliance that includes Air Canada as a member.

Shares of Aimia were higher by 0.6 per cent to $3.49 in morning trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Air Canada said last week that Toronto-Dominion Bank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Visa Canada wants to buy the Aeroplan loyalty business to allow customers to transfer their points to its own platform in 2020.

The group said the offer would expire Aug. 2 but such deadlines are often amended.

Some analysts have said the Air Canada group would need to increase its offer but the airline said last week that it is offering a substantial premium.

Under the proposal, a corporation to be formed by the consortium would acquire Aimia’s loyalty business, including roughly $2 billion worth of Aeroplan points obligations as of March 31, 2018, for $250 million in cash.

The future of Aeroplan, which has more than five million members, has been in doubt since Air Canada announced in May 2017 that it planned to launch its own loyalty rewards plan in 2020.

Aimia’s 30-year-partnership with Air Canada is due to expire in July 2020.



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