Governments in early talks with banknote maker over vaccine security

Governments and private companies are tentatively speaking with banknote printer De La Rue about potential ways to ensure any Covid-19 vaccines can be properly traced.

The chief executive of the firm, which also makes authentication and security products, said he had been approached but it was “too early to say” what services would be required.

Clive Vacher told the PA news agency: “We have digital and physical products which would be well suited. But it’s very early to say because we still don’t know what a vaccine will look like.

“We’ve had some conversations with some Governments and private companies but it’s far too early.”

New fifty pound note
New fifty pound note

Possible products being discussed internally include “seals on vaccines and codes on vaccine vials that would ensure they are genuine”.

Other measures include holograms on certificates and tracking services for drugs through the supply chain, he said.

Mr Vacher’s comments came as the business, which recently won an extension to print banknotes for the Bank of England until 2028 including the new £50 polymer note, revealed its half-year results.

The company is going through a three-year turnaround plan which includes reducing debts and moving away from making passports.

As a result of stepping back from passports – or “identity solutions” – revenues fell 22.6% in the six months to September 28 compared with a year ago to £179.7 million.

Adjusted operating profits – the company’s preferred measure – jumped to £15.3 million from £2.2 million.

Net debt was reduced to £21.6 million, compared with £170.7 million at the same point a year ago, helped by raising £100 million from shareholders over the summer.

The future of cash is also safe, Mr Vacher said, explaining that he expects hard currency to continue to play a vital role in global economies. De La Rue’s five global printing sites are at 100% capacity he added.

He said the company continues to invest in polymer notes and is seeing greater interest globally for them due to their strength and security features.

“The important thing to note is we need to look worldwide because it’s very counter-intuitive. Cash is incredibly resilient. There is significant population growth and we see currency notes as symbols of national identity.”

He refused to be drawn on whether the recent contract extension with the Bank of England also meant the amounts being required had fallen – especially with moves towards a greater cashless society.

De La Rue started making the Bank of England’s first polymer notes in 2015, launching England’s first plastic £5 note a year later.

The contract had been due to end in 2025 but a three-year extension clause was triggered last month.

Notes will be printed at the bank’s facility in Debden, Essex, and De La Rue announced a £15 million investment in its polymer production in June.