In October 1962, Daniel Bédin, then Head of Export Finance Operations in the Paribas Department of Commercial Affairs and Foreign Banking Relations (DACRE), travelled to Abu Dhabi for what was largely an exploratory visit.
In order to understand the changing economic landscape, Bédin met with a number of foreign banks, which had set up there: the British Bank of the Middle East, a subsidiary of Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, which had been in the Emirate since 1959; Eastern Bank, belonging to the Standard Chartered group, which had only recently established an operation; and Ottoman Bank, which had opened the previous spring.
A year later, Bédin paid another trip to the region, this time to Kuwait, where he met with the National Bank of Kuwait (est. 1952) and the Commercial Bank of Kuwait (est. 1960) and government officials.
When he next visited Abu Dhabi, in November 1966, shortly after H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan had become Ruler, he noted a significant uplift in economic activity. Bédin wrote in his report: Since the new Ruler came to power last August, Abu Dhabi has experienced a boom, one might expect given its huge natural resources. The daily flight is full, and people are now coming over on charter flights from Bahrain . Paribas became increasingly interested in how the Bank could support the fast-growing oil industry in the Gulf. The Bank wanted to take incremental steps, firstly helping to channel outward flows of investment capital and carrying out export finance operations, before widening the scope of activity to other forms of financing. In the late 1960s, Paribas sought to press ahead with high-level contacts with authorities and a view to overcoming any obstacles to the Bank setting up permanently in the region.
In January 1968, Philippe Drillet, a manager at DACRE, visited Kuwait to meet with the Commercial Bank of Kuwait, the National Bank of Kuwait and the Kuwait Investment Company (KIC). In his report, he commented that Kuwait was now opening up to countries other than the United Kingdom.
Drillet wrote that Kuwait and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were starting to negotiate loans to finance development projects, observing that there were many development projects12 under way and that, given that French companies were keen to participate, Paribas ought to be considering financing options.
Meanwhile, Paribas was also making high-level contacts in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, through a visit in October 1967, by Mr A. Dralans, Deputy Manager of the Brussels branch. Dralans met with various high level officials.
12. The projects were the extension of the Kuwait Fertilizer Corp. factory; a project to supply fresh water from the Shatt al-Arab tidal river in southern Iraq; delivery of boilers for power stations; port modernisation works; and the construction of a desalination plant.
40 T H E H I S T O R Y O F B N P PA R I B A S I N T H E G U L F S TAT E S