On the investment banking side, the Ottoman Bank was mainly involved with public utilities and railways, such as the Beirut port company, railway projects in Syria, a financial stake in the Baghdad railway, and the Ereğli coal mining company on the Black Sea.
Outside the Ottoman Empire, the bank, which had helped to set up the Bank of Romania in 1864, also took an active role in Serbian affairs and contributed to the founding of the Banque Franco-Serbe.
The 1914-18 war broke the Ottoman Empire up into several new states and considerably changed the role of the Ottoman Bank. It lost its right to issue notes, and then lost its position as the state bank of Turkey when the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey was set up in 1931. By contrast, in Syria and Lebanon, the bank transferred its branches to a subsidiary, the Bank of Syria and Lebanon, which for a number of years held the monopoly on issuing Syrian and Lebanese currency. In the other states in the region it survived as a commercial bank, opening branches in Iraq, Egypt, and Greece. Before the Second World War, the Ottoman Bank s operations extended to 14 different countries.
In 1920, the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas (Paribas) acquired shares from an Italian corporation representing over eight percent of the capital of the Ottoman Bank. Co-operation between the two banks, which had existed for some time on an informal basis, now became stronger. Over time, Paribas progressively increased its stake in the Ottoman Bank.
In 1933, the Ottoman Bank lost all official status. In 1952, the statutes were adopted which confirmed its shift to a purely private institution.
The bank did however continue to enjoy a situation that was somewhat unique. Not only did it have three headquarters, in London, Paris and Istanbul, and traded on the stock exchanges in all three cities, it also had two boards British and French yet no specific nationality. Its legal status was still based on a specific convention signed with the Ottoman Empire, and subsequently with the Republic of Turkey, which was renewed several times until 1952. The Ottoman Bank operated under this exceptional status until 1993.
The post-Second World War years witnessed the nationalisation of the Banque Franco- Serbe, the Bank of Romania and, in 1956, the Ottoman Bank s branches in Egypt. The bank made up for its losses by successively opening branches in Sudan, Morocco, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and the Gulf. Some of these branches, however, were also nationalised. Additionally, in the international banking community, there was a general movement towards consolidation, which, from 1968 onwards, led the Ottoman Bank to sell off its entire branch network outside Turkey. In 1969, it sold its branches in London, Cyprus, Sudan, Jordan, the Gulf States, and those in East Africa and Rhodesia to the National & Grindlays Bank, which later became Grindlays Bank. It consolidated the branches in France and Switzerland into a separate company called Banque Ottomane (France), which was later also sold off to Grindlays Bank.
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