BAE hires Bell Pottinger following press attacks

LONDON - BAE Systems, the UK's largest defence and aerospace company, has drafted in a second financial PR firm amid a series of stinging attacks in the press.

The company, which has just emerged from a bruising encounter with the Ministry of Defence over the procurement contract for UK aircraft carriers, bought in Bell Pottinger Financial last week after a pitch believed to have been against Brunswick and The Maitland Consultancy.

The company continues to retain its long-term adviser CardewChancery, whose chairman Anthony Cardew has a relationship with the company stretching back many years.

The Bell Pottinger Financial team is led by chairman Piers Pottinger and board director Charlotte Lambkin, but includes public affairs MD Peter Bingle on the lobbying side.

Fees have yet to be worked out in detail, but are likely to hit £300,000 in the first year.

BAE, which emerged from the merger of British Aerospace and the defence interests of the old GEC, competed with French contractor Thales to win the right to build two aircraft carriers with the MoD. Although it eventually won lead contractor rights two weeks ago, the basic design of the ships will be handled by Thales UK.

Ten days ago the company was pushed into denying reports in the press of boardroom splits and dissent among some non-executive directors on corporate strategy.

Bell Pottinger sources said the perception of soured relations with the MoD -- over attempts to renegotiate contracts on projects including Nimrod surveillance planes and Astute Class submarines -- were a core issue for BAE.

The 950 foot aircraft carriers will be the largest ships the Royal Navy has ever owned and are designed to replace HMS Invincible, HMS Illustrious and HMS Ark Royal.

Pottinger said: 'The company faces a lot of challenges in communications terms which we are looking forward to working on.'

The account team reports to director of corporate communications Hugh Colver.

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