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Aimia buys stake in Asia's Think Big Digital for $17M; could invest $7M more

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MONTREAL - Aimia Inc. (TSX:AIM) is acquiring a minority stake in Think Big Digital, owner and operator of the loyalty program for fast-growing carrier AirAsia Berhad and Tune Group, owner of hotels, pre-paid Visa cards and other businesses.

Montreal-based Aimia says it will initially invest $17 million for its stake, plus an additional $7 million if certain milestones are met by the end of 2015.

The partnership combines AirAsia's success in the Asian market, which has seen it grow from just two aircraft to more than 160 in 12 years, Tune Group's portfolio of companies and Aimia's expertise in the design and management of travel-based loyalty programs, the Canadian company said Wednesday.

"The partnership between AirAsia, Think Big Digital and Aimia is yet another way that AirAsia and Tune Group are innovating and driving change in the Asian airline market," said Tony Fernandes, group CEO of AirAsia and co-founder of Tune Group.

"With its experience running the world's largest stand-alone frequent flyer programs, the Aimia team has unique and invaluable insight."

Aimia Group chief executive Rupert Duchesne said the BIG loyalty program provides "a great opportunity to export Aimia's coalition business model and to help our partners create deep and lasting relationships with their customers."

"Through this partnership with AirAsia and Tune Group, we look forward to sharing our experience with the BIG program, while also growing our presence in the high-potential Asian loyalty market."

AirAsia BIG loyalty program spans Southeast Asia, a growing market with a population of 634 million. The region is ranked fourth globally in airline market size.

Aimia, with more than 4,000 employees in over 20 countries, owns and operates Aeroplan, Canada's premier coalition loyalty program, Nectar, the United Kingdom's largest coalition loyalty program, Nectar Italia and Smart Button.

In addition, Aimia owns stakes in Air Miles Middle East as well as Club Premier, Mexico's leading coalition loyalty program, Brazil's Prismah Fidelidade and China Rewards as well as a number of other businesses.

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