Qantas buys 51 percent of Taylor Firm to upgrade analytics arm

Qantas has bought a 51 percent share in Taylor Firm to expand its Qantas Loyalty business in light of achieving AU$375 million in benefits during the first half of its financial year.

Qantas has bought a 51 percent stake in analytics and actuarial consulting company Taylor Firm to expand Qantas Loyalty's data and analytics capabilities.

Taylor Firm, which services government departments and "high-profile" Australian brands,will join the Qantas Loyalty group known best for the Qantas Frequent Flyer program.

Under the acquisition agreement, Taylor Firm will continue to run as a separate business and retain its existing name, branding, and offices in Sydney and Melbourne.

Qantas Loyalty CEO Lesley Grant said that while the Qantas Frequent Flyer program remains core to Qantas Loyalty, the company aims to grow the business by pursuing opportunities to work in the big data market and data-driven customer insights.

"Harnessing data is not new to us thanks to over 27 years of knowledge and insights from Qantas Frequent Flyer, so we certainly feel we have the credibility to operate in the data and analytics space, and consider this an area of great potential for our business," he said.

In light of this, Qantas announced that for the first half of the 2015 financial year, Qantas Loyalty saw an underlying EBIT of AU$160 million, up 10 percent on the prior corresponding period.

More specifically, the Qantas Frequent Flyer program added more than 400,000 new members in the half to reach a total membership of 10.5 million.

Similarly, its Aquire loyalty program saw over 55,000 SMEs join the program, while its Qantas Cash travel money and membership card were up 27 percent from the second half of financial year 2014, with approximately AU$800 million loaded on the cards.

The airline giant also reported that the group achieved a statutory profit after tax of AU$206 million, and an underlying profit before tax of AU$367 million, a $619 million improvement over the same period last year.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, who described the results as the "best half-year performance for four years", attributed the bumper results to the company's transformation program, which he said delivered AU$374 million in benefits in the half year.

"Without the impact of transformation, Qantas would not be profitable today," he said.

Since the launch of the transformation program in December 2013, Qantas said it has made "disciplined investment" in staged introduction of automatic SMS check-in for domestic passengers and expanded in-flight entertainment, as well as its A330 aircraft that features lie-flat beds in business class, and new lounges in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Los Angeles.

Qantas is now targeting to achieve AU$675 million of transformation benefits in financial year 2015, up from the previous target of AU$600 million.

Joyce also stressed the company's plans to reach its net debt reduction goal of AU$1 billion by the end of the year.