June 11, 2009 11:04 pm

De La Rue wins biometric passports contract

De La Rue, the banknote printer, has won the £400m contract to supply the UK’s new biometric passports, supplanting incumbents 3M and underlining its links with the UK authorities.

The 10-year contract is the largest awarded so far from the Home Office’s £4.7bn plan to upgrade passports and introduce identity cards.

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In April, CSC and IBM were awarded contracts worth £375m and £265m to build a computer system and database for the fingerprint and facial ID data.

The programme has been dogged with political opposition, with the Conservatives pledging to scrap the £1.2bn ID cards scheme if they win the next election.

The first biometric passports, which will be almost identical to existing passports but will contain personal information on embedded microchips, will be issued by next October, the Home Office said.

James Hussey, De La Rue chief executive, said that the win “reinforces De La Rue’s strong growth in the identity sector”. The identity division made £2.3m in operating profits last year, out of a total £96.5m from continuing operations.

Last month the company also announced a five-year extension of its contract with the Bank of England, under which it has an exclusive deal to print all UK paper currency. De La Rue produced its first passport in 1915 and also produces the UK’s emergency passports, which are issued to citizens overseas who have lost their original documents.

Gill Rider, a non-executive director and chairman of De La Rue’s remuneration committee, also rejoined the board.

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