A Home Office spokesperson has confirmed the UK government has selected a preferred bidder for the next UK passport deal following “a rigorous, fair and open competition”, with French firm Gemalto widely believed to have been chosen ahead of Britain's De La Rue.While the Home Office stopped short of naming the winner but said the company already had a number of government contracts, including the supply of UK driving licences. It said the winning bid for the 11.5-year contract would save taxpayers £120m. Gemalto won the contract to produce the new photo driving licence in 2012.Gemalto has declined to comment on whether it has won the contract. But De La Rue has reacted to the news with ire, saying UK Prime Minister Theresa May should explain the decision directly to its workers.Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Thursday, its chief executive, Martin Sutherland, said May or Home Secretary Amber Rudd, should “come to my factory and explain to my dedicated workforce why they think this is a sensible decision to offshore the manufacture of a British icon”.He said he would appeal against the decision, and he refused to guarantee that no jobs would be lost at the Gateshead factory the firm uses to produce the current burgundy EU version.Sutherland acknowledged that his company had been beaten on price in an open competition, but he said that was unfair. He said that in France, as a foreign-based firm, De La Rue would be barred from bidding to produce the French passport.French passports are made by Imprimerie Nationale, the state-run French printing organisation, with the French government having made the decision not to put the job out to tender, as allowed under EU rules.