Points.com is still too dependent on its mainstay business of loyalty currency swaps for just a few major travel suppliers that are primarily in the U.S. Hopefully, its new cross-marketing deal with Amadeus will help.
Points.com, the reseller of airlines and hotels points, reported gains in revenue and profit in 2018 thanks to resilient economies in its key markets.
Last year Points revenue rose to $376.2 million, up 8 percent, year-over-year. Net income rose 130 percent, to $7.79 million, year-over-year.
Yet the growth came primarily from the Toronto-based company’s legacy, flagship business, and only a few partners contributed to much of its revenue.
Last year, Points generated 94 percent of its revenue from services related to loyalty currency sales, such as helping travelers swap points and miles between programs.
The corporation’s three largest, though unnamed, customers for this service represented 70 percent of the company’s total revenue, according to earnings-related financial filings released on Wednesday.
Friends of Points might call the customer concentration statistic misleading. Broadly speaking, the company’s services that generate the most of its revenue don’t drive the most of its profit. If Points were to have the misfortune of losing one of its three customers that contribute heavily to its revenue, it would still have many customers buying higher-margin services. In other words, losing a big customer could be manageable, given that its overall cost basis is aligned to gross profit rather than revenue.
In any case, Points had nothing to worry about last year. The gross value of sales processed through its system rose 13 percent year-over-year in 2018 from an undisclosed base amount, an executive said during an earnings call.
Still, Points has worked to diversify.
In a plus, Amadeus has many airline customers outside the U.S. That diversity may help Points, which generated 88 percent of its revenue last year from U.S.-based partners.
Amadeus may ultimately have its own interests in loyalty.
While Points doesn’t primarily try to offer to run airline loyalty programs, Amadeus’s loyalty services might have a mission creep that encroaches on Points’ turf over time.
Fans of Points might say the company’s focus is on helping airlines drive revenue, sometimes even with revenue guarantees. That’s a different proposition from Amadeus’s goal, which is to sell contracts for cloud-based software that saves costs. However, Amadeus, in other parts of its business, has increasingly been taking the role of helping airlines and other suppliers with retailing and revenue maximization. In the long-term, it might do the same in loyalty.
For now, Amadeus separately offers a Navitaire Loyalty system that it has paired with its New Skies passenger service system for airlines. The software helps airlines, such as AirAsia, manage their rewards programs. When an airline joins, Amadeus’s software ports over the airline’s passenger profile data and makes loyalty program details visible to airline staff via its software. The tool, for example, would let an agent redeem miles via a call center or allow a passenger cancel and receive a refund for points via the airline’s website with no customizations needed.
As a separate matter, Points is also surprisingly dependent upon proprietary technology rather than the open source technology that is becoming more popular in the industry. Maybe its exposure to primarily cloud-based Amadeus will be inspiring.
During a call with analysts on Wednesday, Points said its performance would have been even better last year except for two incidents. One, the Toronto-based company lost a contract with Saudia Airlines due to a broader geopolitical dispute between Saudi Arabia and Canada.
Two, Marriott, another partner, stumbled in its merger of loyalty programs with Starwood and also suffered negative press due to a security breach. Those events “considerably reduced” the combined loyalty program’s performance relative to the first half of the year, Points executives said using coded language to describe the business partner. Points executives expected continued turbulence in the first half of this year for Marriott as it relaunches its program as Bonvoy.
Points also had victories last year. One of the most notable was Singapore Airlines, which began enabling members to redeem KrisFlyer miles for hotels and car rentals using tech from Points.
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Photo credit: A traveler flying in in a first-class, lie-flat seat on American Airlines, one of the major customers of the loyalty sales services of Points.com. On Wednesday Points reported gains in revenue and net income year-over-year for 2018. American Airlines