Paribas President de Fouchier saw strong potential across the region. He recalls21 during this period: I was very pleased to receive word from Claude de Kémoularia, assuring us that he would be able to obtain the required authorisation from the local authorities to set up in the Emirates. Despite some delays, and thanks to the efforts of several of our colleagues who had been involved in this venture, I was able to inaugurate our branches in Abu Dhabi and Qatar. This was at the very same time when the first oil shock had just hit, taking the price of a barrel of oil to twice what it had been. Openings in Sharjah, Muscat and Dubai were expected to follow suit, while the door to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in spite of all our efforts and my going there several times in person, remained only just ajar for us.
Apart from Dubai, where the Banque de l Indochine had set up a branch of its Saudi subsidiary, we were the only French bank with a presence in the Emirates. Our investment there rapidly showed very positive results, and although later on the fluctuations in the price of crude caused us some concern, the exceptionally large oil reserves in these countries will no doubt last a very long time and will ensure that our presence there remains profitable.
First contributions to the economy
An internal note from January 1975, reiterates the Paribas strategy: The international strategy of the Paribas Group has always made it our principal aim to contribute to the economic development of the countries in which we establish ourselves. Paribas is well suited to this role because of our wide-ranging activities and relations in the banking, finance and industrial spheres, which place the Bank in a special position. Paribas establishment in the Arabian Gulf follows this same strategic line.
Paribas course of action in the Gulf States has always been carefully considered, and can be outlined as such: Fostering the economic development of these countries by helping to finance local companies; Contributing to the diversification of their economies by helping to introduce new techniques and ideas; Enabling the import of foodstuffs and essential products; Helping French companies enter new markets.
By this time the branch in Doha had gained critical mass and was operating well. Thanks to the rapid and increasing diversification of Qatar s economy, the branch s activities expanded quickly.
21. In Bussière, Eric, Paribas, Europe and the World 1872-1992, Fonds Mercator, Antwerp, 1992.
50 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