Bank of England puts note printing out to tender

According to a PrintWeek article dated 10 December 2012, De La Rue's contract to print the UK's banknotes could come to an end as the Bank of England (BoE) has issued a tender notice asking up to five operators to bid for the £1bn contract.

It is only the second time that the contract has been outsourced since De La Rue took over banknote printing for BoE in 2003.

The contract, which could potentially run for up to 14 years, will see alternative suppliers bidding to print up to 12bn banknotes at BoE’s Debden, Essex facility.

BoE expects that the 200 staff at the Debden plant will be transferred to the new supplier should the contract be awarded away from De La Rue.

The new supplier would be responsible for the maintenance of Debden’s printing machinery, which is expected to be refurbished or replaced with the payment of capital costs coming from BoE.

The tender also states that the new supplier would need to accomodate changes in the features or substrates included in banknote production in line with security reviews by the governing body.

Bidding operators must have at least three years of experience in commercial banknote printing and have printed at least 500m banknotes over a 12-month period at one site in the past three years as payment will depend on the volumes of accepted banknotes produced.

The deadline for bids is 31 January 2013, and BoE expects that banknote production will commence from April 2015 following a six to twelve month transition period between suppliers. The successful participant will have the option to extend the contract by a further 36 months.

One provision in the tender that has gotten the attention of banknote collectors is the requirement that the printers be able to handle printing on polymer, not just the paper substrate traditionally used on Bank of England notes. To be clear, however, the bank hasn't committed to printing new notes on polymer; it's simply ensuring that polymer is an option regardless of who it chooses as its new printer.