In the meantime, Paribas was also busy on an important project for the emirate of Sharjah the establishment of its first bank. Following close contacts between Paribas senior management and the Ruler of Sharjah, the Bank of Sharjah was established on 21 December 1973, with Paribas taking 19.4 percent stake and agreeing to a request from H.H. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Qasimi, Emir of Sharjah, to manage the bank. In the first public share issue in the Arabian Gulf, 30 percent of the bank was offered to Sharjah residents.

In the 1970s, BNP was also expanding in the Middle East, soon opening a representative office in Abu Dhabi with a view to serving the UAE, particularly in the area of wealth management services for private clients and institutional investors.

At the same time, another precursor to today s BNP Paribas group Société Générale de Banque, was also building business in the Gulf States, particularly in the area of financing trade transactions. The Belgian Bank collaborated closely with the Belgian government, participating in several trade missions and advising clients on establishing commercial ties with the UAE.

Financing in a new economy

By the time BNP and Paribas merged to create BNP Paribas in 2000, the operations of the two banks in the Arabian Gulf were largely complementary.

Jacques Desponts, a former BNP senior executive on the committee charged with integrating the two banks, explained how the Gulf region was perceived at the time: We understood very quickly that the merger represented a major plus for our business in the Gulf. The reality was that Paribas clearly had the upper hand with the length of time it had been in the Gulf and its well-established network there. But, first and foremost, Paribas was a leader in the world when it came to trading oil, while (at BNP) we were the number one in non-oil commodities trading. We were way out in front in raw materials trading, apart from oil, where Paribas dominated the market. This extraordinary complementarity gave us an excellent platform to grow our business in the Gulf.

The successful integration was crowned with BNP Paribas being named by Euromoney as the top international bank in the Arabian Gulf for the year 2001.

As the UAE s economy expanded rapidly and diversified in the 2000s, BNP Paribas stepped up to provide financing support to local companies, while providing an attractive private banking and wealth management offering.

Michael Pereira, manager of the Dubai branch from 2002 to 2005, and then until the early days of 2008, also manager of the Abu Dhabi branch, recalls this period: It was a time of rapid change and growth in the Gulf and the Emirates in particular driven by investing

PARIBAS BRANCH COUNTER, DUBAI BRANCH, 1970s

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