Paribas and BNP strategies: Early moves in the Gulf region

Humble beginnings A decade of exploration

Paribas was present in the Gulf States in the 1950s, thanks to its minority stake in Ottoman Bank, but as the region s economies began to take off, the Bank started to explore the prospects for more direct activity. Many of the early representations were on a government level, with French officials traveling to the region to talk about the possibility of offering support for outward investment and financing of projects.

The permanent establishment of Paribas in the region came in the 1970s, as many of the Gulf States gained independence. Claude de Kémoularia, advisor on international trade to the Paribas President from 1968 onwards, and Hubert de Saint-Amand, the Bank s Head of Middle East and Africa, were instrumental in opening branches and setting out a long- term strategy for the Bank in the region.

Early visits to Gulf States

Available records indicate that the first official Paribas mission to the Gulf States was most likely a trip to Kuwait undertaken by Henri Camerlynck, Deputy Manager at Paribas in charge of the Middle East region. Very little is known about this visit, apart from the fact that it took place on 9-12 June 1956. At that time Kuwait was still a British Protectorate and, although belonging to the sterling currency zone, used the Indian rupee as its local currency10. The British Bank of the Middle East11 was the only foreign bank that was authorised to do business in Kuwait.

More serious exploration of opportunities came in the early 1960s, partly through the efforts of French government officials.

10. The Kuwaiti dinar became the official currency in Kuwait on 1 April 1961, replacing the Indian rupee. The Kuwaiti dinar is administered by the Kuwait Currency Board. Kuwait abandoned the Indian rupee, which had just been devalued, and fixed the exchange rate for the dinar at par with sterling, i.e. 1 Kuwaiti dinar = £1

11. Subsidiary of Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation

39B N P PA R I B A S I N T H E G U L F S TAT E S A N D I T S C O N T R I B U T I O N T O T H E E C O N O M Y O F T H E R E G I O N