Group Aeroplan completes acquisition of Carlson Marketing

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Montreal-based Groupe Aeroplan has completed its acquisition of Carlson Marketing, a loyalty marketing firm based in Minneapolis. The $175.3 million deal was announced early last month.

Groupe Aeroplan's businesses and Carlson will continue to operate separately and Carlson will retain its branding for at least two years. Jeff Balagna, president and CEO of Carlson Marketing, has also been named EVP of Groupe Aeroplan. No other staff changes are planned. Carlson will continue to be headquarted in Minneapolis.

Balagna said the companies have worked jointly on “all of the transition exercises one would expect,” including competition and anti-trust reviews in both the US and Canada.

Rupert Duchesne, president and CEO of Groupe Aeroplan, said that in the past month, as the companies awaited the thumbs up from government agencies, both firms' clients have inquired about utilizing the others' services.

“In the US where [Group Aeroplan] doesn't currently have business, we'll make sure we start to deliver [our services] on a careful basis. The worst thing you can do is run off everywhere pursuing every tiny piece of interest,” he said. “We're going to make sure, in the first half of 2010, we focus on our core business and begin to catalog the existing interest in offering new services.”

Duchesne said that an example of the two companies working together is their recent entry into the Indian market.

“Now we can go into client meetings and say, ‘Look at spread of services we can offer you.' Previously neither company could do that,” he said.

Groupe Aeroplan owns Aeroplan, a leading Canadian loyalty program, and Nectar, a UK coalition loyalty program.

Groupe Aeroplan named Mark Mortimer-Davies CEO of its Air Miles Middle East division in October. Earlier this month, it signed a business-to-business loyalty agreement with Astral media, a Canadian media conglomerate.

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