EU court backs space agency ESA on excluding OHB in Galileo contract

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BRUSSELS, May 26 (Reuters) - Europe's second-top court on Wednesday rejected a request by OHB System AG (OHBG.DE) to suspend a decision by the European Space Agency to exclude the German satellite company from a Galileo public contract, which went to its rivals Airbus (AIR.PA) and Thales Alenia Space.

The Luxembourg-based General Court also dismissed OHB's application for interim relief.

OHB took its grievance to the Court in January this year after it lost out on the Galileo transition satellite contract, saying that Airbus had recruited one of its executives who had played a decisive role in helping the planemaker prepare its offer.

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The Court, which had issued a preliminary ruling in January suspending ESA's decision, made its final decision on Wednesday after hearing the European Commission's plea.

"The General Court dismisses the application to suspend the operation of the decisions of the European Space Agency, acting in the name and on behalf of the European Commission, providing for the exclusion of the German company OHB System from the public contract for the 'Procurement of Galileo transition satellites," judges said.

They pointed to the importance of the European satellite navigation programmes, which attracted more than 7 billion euros ($8.6 billion) in EU investments in the 2014-2020 period.

($1 = 0.8181 euros)

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Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Louise Heavens

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