* Maersk Line wins U.S. defence contract
* Order signals U.S. puts dispute behind it - analyst
* Maersk shares rise 4 percent (Corrects second paragraph to say that Maersk won the biggest of 22 contracts, not won the contract against 22 bidders)
By Jim Wolf and Mette Fraende
WASHINGTON/COPENHAGEN, July 3 (Reuters) - Maersk Line, part of Denmark’s A.P. Moller-Maersk, has won a contract worth up to $2.1 billion for shipping U.S. military cargo, signalling defence officials have put a dispute about overcharging behind them.
Maersk Line won the biggest of a total of 22 contracts awarded.
The Maersk group has for decades been a supplier of shipping to the U.S. military, but the relationship was chipped when Maersk Line was accused of overbilling.
Maersk Line in January agreed to pay $31.9 million to settle claims it overcharged the U.S. military for carrying cargo to support American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“It is positive that the U.S. military has put this dispute behind them and not only places the order, but awards Maersk Line the biggest of the orders,” Alm. Brand analyst Jesper Christensen said.
Nonetheless, Christensen said he would not change his estimates for Maersk Line’s 2012 or 2013 results as a result of the order.
Analysts at ABG Sundal Collier also said the order would not affect their estimates.
Shares in A.P. Moller-Maersk were up 4.1 percent by 1005 GMT, against a 1.4 percent rise in the Copenhagen stock exchange’s benchmark index of 20 most traded and most valuable Danish stocks.
American President Lines Ltd, part of Singapore-based Neptune Orient Lines Group, won the next-biggest such deal from the U.S. Transportation Command, valued at up to $1.7 billion, the Pentagon’s daily contract digest said late Monday.
Farrell Lines Inc was awarded a similar potential $565 million deal, as was American Roll-on Roll-Off Carrier, a unit of closely held American Shipping & Logistics Group Inc, worth up to $553 million, the announcement said.
Smaller military cargo transport contracts were announced by the Pentagon for eight other U.S. flag shippers. All of the deals are expected to be wrapped up by the end of August next year, the Defense Department said.
The so-called universal service contracts, the seventh series of its kind, cover surface transport, chiefly by sea, though some may include onward ground shipping, said Cynthia Bauer, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. (Editing by Dan Grebler and Mark Potter)