Paribas initiative in the Gulf region
In 1978, Christian Mourot-Bergeon was sent to Oman to set up a credit department at the branch. His assessment of how Paribas perceived the Gulf States is telling. There were several aspects to the reasoning behind Paribas objectives in the Gulf, he wrote. Of course we saw an opportunity to make use of the experience acquired by the Ottoman Bank in the Gulf, but in addition, there was the desire to act as a counterweight to (Banque) Indosuez, which was gaining ground in the Gulf region. And then, we also felt that the majority of the Gulf States, which had just achieved independence, were likely to be well disposed towards a French bank, as this would allow them to counter-balance the British influence that was still very prevalent. Paribas therefore had several reasons for wishing to develop a banking network in the Gulf region, coupled with the fact that the Bank was well aware of the economic and financial potential of the region.
The monitoring of the Paribas branches in the Gulf
Responsibility for steering and monitoring the Paribas branches in the Gulf States was entrusted to Hubert de Saint-Amand, in charge of Paribas Middle East & Africa. Philippe Drillet, who was then working in the region, explained the activities of the Paribas establishments in the Gulf. The Paribas branches of course met the needs of the subsidiaries of French companies working in the region for financing or surety bonds and guarantees, he said. They also worked with German and Belgian companies, liaising with Paribas Germany and Paribas Belgium. Moreover, our branches in the Gulf region were fast on their feet when it comes to creating relationships with local firms, especially with importers and distributors of European goods.
François Dauge, Manager of the Abu Dhabi branch from 1982 to 1985, and later Head of the Near & Middle East Region, confirms this. From the moment they started doing business in the Gulf, our branches, mainly those in Abu Dhabi and Qatar, have been particularly active in contract financing and the issuance of contract performance bonds for companies, not only French but also German, Italian and Asian.
As Eric Bussière22 explains, The Bank saw just at the right time how important the Middle East was. In the 1970s, it became a strategic location, as the resources that had so suddenly been revealed there generated the petrodollars [that] fuelled global financial activity at that time. In order to capture these financial flows, the Bank needed to pursue a policy of being present on the ground, and this was very quickly taken on board and implemented by Claude de Kémoularia and Hubert de Saint-Amand.
The 1974 annual report of Paribas parent company, the Compagnie Financière de Paris et des Pays-Bas, sums up the situation and positioning in the region of Paribas: The creation of a banking network in the Middle East should enable our Group to be a partner in the development of a region, which offers very promising prospects, and to lend its support to French companies who wish to invest there. We have opened two new branches, one last December in Dubai the region s centre for gold trading and a very busy port and one just recently in Muscat, the capital of the Sultanate of Oman. We have also received authorisation to establish a branch in Bahrain, which is a large commercial centre in the Gulf. It only remains to restate the excellent results, achieved since their first years of operation, by the Paribas branches in Doha (Qatar) and Abu Dhabi, and by our subsidiary, the Bank of Sharjah. In addition, the outlook for our Gulf network in 1975 is very promising.
In 1975, the Central Bank of Oman borrowed on the financial markets on behalf of the Sultanate. Paribas was one of the leading banks in the syndicate.
22. In Bussière, Eric, Paribas, Europe and the World 1872-1992, Fonds Mercator, Antwerp, 1992.
BANQUE DE PARIS ET DES PAYS-BAS PREMISES IN ABU DHABI, 1970 S
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