From bold venture to regional hub: BNP Paribas in the Gulf States

1967-2015

BNP Paribas Historical Collections


The history of BNP Paribas in the Gulf States highlights the pioneering strategy pursued by Paribas from the late 1960s enabled the Bank to lay the foundations of a commercial network in the Gulf region and set up a regional hub in Bahrain.

•    Paribas in the Gulf: a unique strategy

Paribas began to take a close interest in the Gulf States in the early 1960s. In 1968, at the urging of Claude de Kémoularia, Paribas set out a clear strategy with the aim of establishing a network of branches in the Gulf region.  This was a bold move, given that British influence was still predominant in this region, leaving little apparent prospect for non-UK banks. Other major French banks had opted for a strategy of working through consortium banks with a large number of shareholders.

However, Paribas foresaw the opportunities which would some years later generate vast flows of petrodollars. French and other European corporate clients of Paribas that were able to draw on the latest technology were especially interested in investing in the oil sector and investment gradually began to flow into projects to exploit deposits of natural gas, chemicals and aluminium as well. Moreover, Paribas had the necessary experience to help finance large-scale industrial projects of this kind.

Paribas Dubai branch, circa 1970

Paribas Dubai branch, circa 1970

 

Paribas representatives undertook a large number of trips to the Gulf States and built up useful contacts. Meanwhile the geopolitical tenor of the region was changing as Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar all gained their independence in 1971.

•    Early results

In 1973, Paribas obtained authorisation to open branches in Doha (Qatar), Abu Dhabi and Dubai (UAE). Paribas also helped to found the Bank of Sharjah, taking a 20% stake in the new financial institution. Two years later, a Paribas branch was opened in Bahrain. Then in 1976, BNP opened its first branch in the Gulf, also in Bahrain.

Meeting between Jacques de Fouchier and the Emir of Sharjah in Paris, 1974

Meeting between Jacques de Fouchier and the Emir of Sharjah in Paris, 1974

•    Merger of BNP and Paribas creates opportunities in the Gulf

At the moment when Paribas and BNP merged in 2000, Paribas was certainly the stronger of the two in the Gulf, having been there much longer and boasting a well-established network. Moreover, Paribas was the world’s leading bank for oil trading. However, BNP was the number one bank in non-oil commodities trading and this complementarity between the two mean that BNP Paribas was able to develop trading in the region.

•    Building a regional hub

Soon after the merger went through, the separate BNP and Paribas networks in the Gulf were unified and a regional hub established in Bahrain. The back-offices of the branches were then gradually centralised in Bahrain. During the following years, a large number of BNP Paribas Group businesses were rolled out in the Gulf region.

The regional setup was further enlarged with the opening of a branch in Kuwait in 2005, followed by a branch in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Advertising campaign in the Gulf, February 2005, copyright NASA/Spacephotos.com

Advertising campaign in the Gulf, February 2005, copyright NASA/Spacephotos.com

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The personal data collected from the Site are subject to data processing by BNP Paribas to enable access to and use of the functionalities offered by the Site www.histoire.bnpparibas.
Pursuant to the French Data Protection Law No. 78-17 of 6 January 1978, you are entitled to access the data collected by BNP Paribas and to have it amended, updated or deleted, where such information is incorrect, incomplete or outdated. You can exercise this right by contacting: BNP Paribas – APAC TDC Val de Marne, TSA 30233- 94729 FONTENAY SOUS BOIS Cedex.

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Well of History

Since 1822, history has made us a key player and a witness of transformations taking place in society and economy in Europe and around the world. We invite you to share in our story and explore our archives to learn more about our constantly changing world.
Jean Lemierre Jean Lemierre,
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of BNP Paribas