April 2, 2018 / 9:28 PM / a year ago

British firm De La Rue to challenge government on passport contract -FT

April 2 (Reuters) - British passport-making company De La Rue Plc is set to challenge the British government's decision that allows Franco-Dutch company Gemalto NV to make new blue national passports from 2019, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

De La Rue, the FT said, is initiating a judicial review of the provisional decision by the High Court to award the contract to the part-state owned firm Gemalto whose headquarters are in Paris.

When Gemalto was awarded the passport-making contract in March, the decision was roundly criticised, especially from U.K. citizens who recognized the return of blue-coloured passports as a patriotic Brexit bonus, the FT said.

De La Rue and Gemalto were not immediately available for comment on the FT report.

The Daily Mail newspaper led an extended campaign against the governmental decision and organised a petition inclusive of over 227,000 signatures, according to the FT.

On Sunday, the Home Office extended the original deadline for legal challenges to the decision from April 3 to April 17 as De La Rue sought further information from the ministry on its decision-making process, the FT reported.

De La Rue executives, the newspaper said, perceive that Gemalto is in a favourable position simply because it has undercut its competitors.

"Based on our knowledge of the market, it's our view that ours was the highest quality and technically most secure bid," the company said, while admitting that its bid was not the cheapest, the FT said.

The news produced awkward headlines for Prime Minister Theresa May, who announced in December that Britain, which adopted burgundy passports in 1988 in line with EU recommendations, would switch back to the "iconic" dark blue it had used for decades.

Britain's biggest trade union Unite hit out at the government's choice and said the French government would never have made such a move. (Reporting by Shalini Nagarajan in Bengaluru; editing by Grant McCool)

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