United Plans MyPoints Buy to Lift Loyalty Program

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United NewVentures, an Internet holding company of United Airlines owner UAL Corp., has agreed to buy online loyalty marketing service MyPoints.com Inc. for $112.5 million in cash, the holding company said yesterday.


The acquisition will bolster UAL's loyalty offerings for United Airlines' Mileage Plus program and united.com users. MyPoints, San Francisco, will keep its name after it becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of United NewVentures.


"We offer them e-mail direct marketing expertise and the infrastructure for online rewards," said Geoff Ossias, vice president of corporate relations at MyPoints.com.


United's Mileage Plus frequent-flier program has an estimated 40 million members. Members earn miles when they fly on United, United Shuttle, United Express or other airlines with which the Chicago company has partnered.


Smaller but rich with an online consumer database, MyPoints and its CyberGold service have 16 million opt-in members who earn points for activities such as reading e-mail, shopping on the Internet and touring Web sites.


Points can be redeemed for miles, food and merchandise from MyPoints partners such as Olive Garden, Blockbuster, Macy's, Hilton HHonors and Barnes & Noble.


"There's a lot of synergies with their Mileage Plus program," Ossias said. "At the outset, United travel awards will become part of our redemption, so our members can redeem their points for United travel awards, but not United frequent-flier miles.


"And down the road, there's the potential to market to the Mileage Plus audience and finally deliver messages to our members on behalf of the United program," he said.


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