BNP formed a strategic alliance in the insurance field with Union des Assurances de Paris (UAP), which later became part of the AXA group. The Bank became best known, however, for corporate and major project financing. It made its mark in aerospace and also helped to finance two iconic European projects: Eurotunnel in 1986 and Euro Disney (now Disneyland Paris) in 1992. The Bank was run along prudent lines and managed to avoid the global real estate crash of the 1990s.

Meanwhile, Paribas opened a large trading floor in London in 1986, while Compagnie Bancaire continued to innovate. In 1984, it set up Cortal, which was the first 100 percent branchless bank. In 1985, Cortal began to offer interest-bearing accounts, and in 1994 set up a SICAV (unit trust) boutique operation. When government policy changed again, Paribas was re-privatised in 1987, attracting a record number of individual shareholders to its public offer. The Bank began to pursue a business model based on international merchant banking and specialist finance which, in 1997, led it to divest its retail arm, Crédit du Nord.

Five years after Paribas was reprivatised, BNP was to follow suit.

In 1993, Michel Pébereau was appointed to head up BNP with a mandate to reprivatise the Bank through a public share sale. This proved a great success, with BNP becoming the first bank to act as its own advisor on an initial public offering (IPO).

Michel Pébereau then embarked on a truly industrial-scale project. When the Single European Market was launched in 1992, he set about creating a financial institution equipped to flourish in the new competitive landscape. The branch network was modernised and the product range brought up to date. From 1997, the Bank gave customers Internet banking services, and also set up a sophisticated risk control process.

BNP Paribas: Forging a top banking group

Michel Pébereau had a vision of building a competitive European banking force. Accordingly, he made successive overtures to a number of French banks, with a view to forming alliances, but his proposals failed to convince potential partners. In 1999, when plans to merge Société Générale and Paribas were announced, he seized the opportunity to launch a daring takeover bid, which was a first in France and took the Paris Stock Exchange by surprise. Under what it called the SBP Project , BNP made simultaneous unsolicited bids for Société Générale and Paribas based on share-exchange offers. Following a six- month takeover battle, BNP acquired control of Paribas. However, the French Central Bank, the Banque de France, refused to authorise BNP to take a controlling interest in Société Générale.

The subsequent period witnessed the progressive formation of a leader in the European banking sphere. The smooth, even-handed integration of the two constituent banks and their employees ensured a consistent management approach, and the best systems and

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